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Kaytranada

Hip hop producer Kaytranada on fans with phones and his love for London

The hot topic beat-maker and musician speaks out about why audiences should be dancing not tweeting

By Tristan Parker
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'Skype is trippin’,’ says Kaytranada, AKA Kevin Celestin. The connection then fizzles out for the umpteenth time during our transatlantic interview. If only the super-savvy producer could utilise his tech-wizardry to win over a malevolent Skype connection.

Even without such otherworldly powers, Kaytranada has risen from an underground name beloved of beat geeks to a white-hot, buzzy artist. He’s now on the fringe of mainstream success. It’s all due to his silky smooth blending of hazy R&B and experimental hip hop: think D’Angelo meets Flying Lotus – about as on-point as it gets right now.

For someone on the bleeding edge of music, Kaytranada certainly doesn’t come across as arrogant. He’s softly spoken in his responses, yet naturally charming and quietly cool. Despite being measured, he’s making all the right noises. His sound has tickled a ton of people, reportedly including Janet Jackson. She’s one star to get Kay’s remix treatment, when he reworked her song ‘If’ in 2012. ‘When I dropped the remix her people told me that she really liked it,’ says the producer.

And why the heck wouldn’t she? The sexy electronic grooves massaged into the song are infectious. Though it was this remix and another sublime rework (for R&B singer Teedra Moses) that nudged Kaytranada towards the spotlight, his own productions are just as irresistible. Check the hip hop-driven ‘Drive Me Crazy’, featuring Chicago rapper and Kanye pal Vic Mensa, for a taste of his killer skills.

Kaytranada is currently holed-up in his native Montreal. He’s putting the finishing touches to his debut album, due for release later this year on the white-hot XL Recordings label. However, he is venturing out to play the occasional show, including a performance at Brixton Academy on Friday.

‘I love the London vibe,’ Kaytranada assures us. ‘I get so much love from London that I never had from other places. It’s crazy. The people there understand music so much more.’ He must have spent some time here, then? ‘Yeah, I was there for a week before a show. I pretty much hung out eating Nando’s and record-digging.’ No feasting on wagyu beef at Chiltern Firehouse for this guy – Kaytranada is a man of the people. ‘Nando’s: boom! That’s what I’m thinking of whenever I’m in London. I go there every time. There are only a few of them in the US.’

Back to the show: Brixton Academy is ‘probably the biggest place I’ve played’, he reckons, before checking something: ‘Is it bigger than KOKO?’ It is. ‘Oh yeah? You just taught me something right there! I never thought it would be that big.’

Frankly, with his kind of talent, Kaytranada had better get used to playing vast venues. A word of warning, though, for anyone heading to the show: spend your time dancing rather than fiddling with your iPhone. This is the man who once told a crowd: ‘Y’all motherfuckers better dance and shit, instead of staying on your goddamn phones.’

Strong words, though they were welcomed by many people, both artists and audiences alike. ‘I don’t want awkward shows with people looking at their phones or tweeting,’ confirms Kaytranada. ‘That’s something you should do at home. People should be going to shows to have fun and express themselves –  just enjoy it!’ So in short, if you’re catching Kaytranada this weekend, prepare for a sea of hands in the air – hopefully without any iPhones in them.

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