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Photo Source: edm.com
Kaytranada (Louis Celestin) is a Haitian-Canadian record producer and DJ. He is a highly acclaimed electronic artist, having earned two Grammys and countless other awards for his work.
Kaytranada has a grasp on a wide variety of genres, which adds to his appeal. His style is unique, blending hip-hop, R&B, house, and funk into a nostalgic yet futuristic sound. Heavy basslines, intricate drum patterns, and soulful chord progressions characterize his work. He collaborates well with a variety of different artists, with a-list vocalists often accompanying his beats. Names like Anderson .Paak, The Weeknd, Kali Ulchis, Pharell Williams, and many others have been featured in his music.
There is no doubt that Kaytranada is a standout in today’s music world, but what does he do to craft his unique sound?
Louis grew up surrounded by music, and in his early teens, he began experimenting with music production. He made beats with DJ software, figuring things out as his brother (Lou Phelps) was starting a rapping career. His cousin then introduced him to Virtual DJ, and from there Kaytranada moved to teach himself FL Studios. As his brother puts it: “from then, he didn’t stop”. He found a community of beat-makers in Montreal and got his practice performing with them. He then broke out into the club scene.
Louis started touring as Kaytranada in 2013 after his remix of Janet Jackson’s “If” went viral.
He signed with XL records in 2014, but before that, he already had a huge following online from posting his original music, remixes, and beats to SoundCloud. Kaytranada’s early work (including his first album) was all produced in the basement of his family home in suburban Montreal.
While his remixes are what initially led to his rise, his own discography is electronic perfection. He has two studio albums (99.9% & BUBBA - both are critically revered), and countless EPs and mixtapes under his belt.
Kaytranada has shared insights into his process in interviews and on social media before, which has led to fans generating lists of what he uses. For software, he primarily uses a mixture of FL Studios, Ableton Live, and Logic Pro to produce his beats, with a variety of peripherals like hardware synths and drum machines.
His Technique & Sound
When he samples, he usually samples from jazz, old funk, and R&B, which adds a vintage and groovy feel to his work. Whether he samples or starts from scratch, Kaytranada is known for a syncopated drum pattern, with layered drum sounds to create a complex rhythm. His deep basslines move with the drums; combined with edgy kicks, claps, and shakers, making his songs intriguing and danceable. His sound can vary by project but is always recognizable - it only takes a second or two of a track to know it's his work.
He is known to prefer producing at home in comfortable environments, rather than in a studio. In-depth analyses of his individual tracks and production techniques are plentiful, but for him, producing is his purpose. When asked in a Complex interview about how he keeps his music fresh but on-brand, Louis responded with: “I don’t think about doing new, I just do it”.
Takeaways from Kaytranada’s Story
Kaytranada has grown to be one of the most exciting and innovative producers of our generation. He is entirely self-made, and his success is attributable both to his talent and his strong drive. Learning by doing has allowed him to perfect his craft, and as a result he is bound to inspire producers for generations to come.
Resources on Kaytranada’s Process
If you would like to learn more about Kaytranada’s career history and creative process, please see the following resources:
Kaytranada Interview With Red Bull Music Academy
How Kaytranada Produced “Glowed Up” - a deep dive into the process of remaking a hit song from his 2016 album “99.9%”
How to KAYTRANADA in 1 Minute - a quick YouTube short about the basics behind Kaytranada’s beats