A producer-helmed full-length is difficult to pull off. In some cases, it’s just disjointed odds and ends strewn together without an ongoing narrative. In other circumstances, the producer is outshined by their features. On Grandtheft’s debut album Wild Ways, neither of these instances occur.
On each of the project’s 15 songs, the Toronto-based producer and DJ, born Aaron Waisglass, masterfully melds moody, gritty hip-hop with high-energy instrumentals. But he elevates the recipe with a subtle infusion of electronic sounds to create a cohesive set of tracks that feel very now.
“Grandtheft is a creative genius whose production taps into all genres and styles,” wrote Haviah Mighty, who we hear on “Shining Light,” an uptempo, post-pandemic party track at the album’s midway point—one of the album’s strongest songs. “He keeps an artist like me on my toes.”
For the 2019 Polaris champ, her track was a departure from her comfort zone. “Where I gravitate towards the heavy, slower-tempo, minor chord progression sounds, he gravitates in the opposite direction: major chords, uplifting synths and fun drums. Challenge accepted,” she declared.
After some time on Diplo’s Mad Decent roster, he joined forces with legendary Montreal DJ/producer/label owner A-Trak for his first drop as a Fool’s Gold signee. “I’ve known Grandtheft for even longer than Fool’s Gold has existed, going back to our Montreal days,” the super-producer said of their longtime bond. “It feels great to find a project of his that fits so well on our label. He represents our ethos: a versatile DJ and producer who creates fun, unique tracks without worrying too much about trends.” Clocking in under 40 minutes, the album eases into itself but never lingers—tracks seldom span over 3 minutes.
The album kicks off with a piano-driven instrumental underscoring a soundbite from Steve Jobs, which basically serves as the album’s thesis, where he waxes poetic about the benefits of good taste. In Grandtheft’s case, this manifests as a good ear for features that defy expectations. Each track sounds well-suited together, but there’s still an experimental edge. For example, one would assume that having Halluci Nation (the collective formerly known as A Tribe Called Red) and the R&B falsetto of Jayd Ink on the same album would be a sonic smorgasbord, but that’s not the case.
The features are the album’s most standout trait. He called in favors from Canadian and cross-border faves to make the album-equivalent of a top-tier posse cut. “This is the product of us collaborating and just jamming out tunes we want to hear, with no industry trends or A&Rs dictating what this sound needed to be,” Grandtheft said in a release.
Jazz Cartier lights up two tracks in the album’s introductory suite, one laden with bars (“B.I.G.”) and one where he flexes his melodic muscles (“Say Something”). According to Cartier, these are a small fraction of many collabs between the two. “‘B.I.G.’ is one of a couple dozen Grandtheft and I worked on over two months.” In their sessions, he says, the chemistry was easy to conjure. “I pushed him out of his comfort zone and he did the same for me,” he wrote.
Though it’s his first foray into full-length territory, Wild Ways was a long time in the making. “In a lot of ways, this album feels like the culmination of all my years making music.”
Listen to Wild Ways below.