Kaytranada’s ‘BUBBA’ is right to be considered an album of the year



RCA Records · December 13, 2019

Canadian house DJ and producer Kaytranada brings groovy heat and puts himself in the running for album of the year with BUBBA. BUBBA comes three years after the release of his debut LP 99.9%, which was heralded as one of the best albums of 2016. While producing a plethora of different vibes and styles that displayed his masterful production, the album suffered from an identity crisis, better suited as a compilation album rather than a full LP. BUBBA takes a different approach, nailing Kaytranada’s gritty, funky dance sound for the full 51-minute runtime. 

The playthrough of BUBBA feels more similar to vibing out at one of Kaytranada’s Boiler Room sets than listening to a portfolio of sounds. The DNA found at the core of all Kaytranada projects is still there but even better. You still hear his signature synths, punchy drums, and echo-y effects. Most of all, his love of collaboration is still center stage. BUBBA features verses by a wide range of acts from Charlotte Day Wilson to Pharrell, Mick Jenkins and SiR to Estelle. Neo-jazz collective BADBADNOTGOOD also contributes percussive elements on “Vex Oh” and “Puff Lah.” The opening track “DO IT” is a sample heavy, lo-fi banger that gives the listener a taste of the sound that is to come. Following are the dance and club hits that are “2 The Music” and “Go DJ.” The latter revives the early club, slightly crunky sound of Akon and T-Pain from the early noughties. It shares the same sound as some of the older Pharrell/NERD/Neptunes projects, which is fitting for the later feature. “10%,” “Oh No,” and “What You Need” are gritty, funky masterpieces in their own rights, featuring powerful vocals from Kali Uchis, Estelle, and Charlotte Day Wilson, respectively. Each features Kaytranada’s signature, powerful synths, a sound that hits its peak with the vibe-meets-cry-for-help “The Worst In Me” featuring Tinashe. The DJ’s lo-fi punchy drums mix with waning synths and her R&B vocals to form a stunning listen. 

Even the instrumental tracks on BUBBA are remarkable. “Puff Lah” and “Scared to Death” lack vocals but shine with their masterful production. The latter is a rollercoaster of a track that sounds like a direct recording of a DJ set with its muffled parts and incredible mixing. Another key moment in the album is the R&B ballad that is “Freefall” featuring Duran Bernarr. His vocals are layered over another amazing instrumental creating a powerful, modern R&B tune. Kaytranada also plays with international flavors in “Vex Oh” and “Midsection.” The latter, featuring Pharrell, is an expert showcase of production skills, modernizing reggae and 70s soul town sound. This track features the most pure instrumentals, using more analog sounding drums, bass, and a distinctly Parliament/Funkadelic-sounding guitar. 

Overall, BUBBA is an extremely enjoyable listen for anyone who wants a collection of summer jams to clear up some seasonal depression or to piece apart Kaytranada’s prodigious production skills. Despite being released right before the year closes, this album has found a rightful place among the previously-considered albums of the year. 


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