The rise of Kaytranada is not just about the making of a superstar
- although of course it is that too. It is about how music styles constantly regenerate and make themselves vital again through recombination. RAY-BAN x BOILER ROOM 006: SXSW is the perfect demonstration of how hip hop and dance culture are no longer distant poles in the music world, but have brought out the best in each other. Just as Kaytranada's music finds the highest common factors in rap, house, R&B, jazz and more, so the stellar lineup he's selected is more than the sum of its parts: it's a rebirth of cool.
At only 22 years old, Haitian-born, Montreal raised Louis Kevin Celestin – Kaytranada – has the world at his feet. Not only has he had a dizzying rise to fame, remixing the likes of Erykah Badu and Janet Jackson when he was still in his teens, but he has shaken the music world around him. Kaytra defines a generation for whom hip hop, R&B and house music are all flavours to mix up your own recipe from, and he has successfully crushed every genre boundary around him as he cleared a space where he could simply be himself.
Ask anybody with an interest in the most creative fringes of hip hop and there are just two names they will mention as the godfathers of beat experimentation in the 21st century: the late J Dilla, and California's Madlib. A friend and collaborator of Dilla, 'Lib came to fame first with his band Lootpack then as a lynchpin of the foundational Stones Throw label. Now he is universally revered as the foremost inspiration and mentor for Flying Lotus and his whole generation of psychedelic beat explorers – not to mention a still-vital producer and DJ in his own right.
Photo by Mathew Scott
The master storyteller of the Wu Tang Clan, Ghostface Killah – aka Pretty Toney, Tony Starks, Ghostdini, Wally Champ, Starky Love or Black Jesus – is one of rap's greatest survivors. While of his generation have fallen off or got comfortable, he has never stopped turning in fascinating collaborations and innovations, and never stopped performing dynamite shows. Straddling the mainstream and underground like it's nothing, Ghostface always delivers.
It's the ultimate modern music fairytale. A trio of kids studying jazz at college in Toronto meet and bond over a love of hip hop, start covering their favourite rap tracks, and before they know it are collaborating with Tyler, The Creator, Frank Ocean, and Ghostface Killah. Now three albums down, they are a vital fixture of the interzone between hip hop, jazz and electronics and have a full-length album with Ghostface on the cards to boot.
Whether playing Boiler Room, international festival stages or local Montréal street dance competitions, young producer Sash'U has been leaving a trail of stunned and happy music lovers in his wake. With the keen patronage of the world-conquering Fools Gold label out of L.A., the world looks like its his oyster right now. They call him “Afrofuturist b-boy, remix alchemist, legit funk phenomenon... truly one of a kind”, and when you hear him, you'll find it hard to argue with that.
There's a whole generation of young European electronic musicians for whom American R&B been a goldmine of samples and inspiration – but few who have repurposed it and expanded on its soulfulness so convincingly as Parisian producer STWO. Whether reworking the likes of Brandy, Jennifer Hudson and Janet Jackson, or creating his own sensual tracks from the ground up, he brings both bold experimentalism and sheer class to play in his unique sound.
How could we not be happy to have the number one rap duo in the world right now? The young Mississippi duo Rae Sremmud – brothers Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi – have had the charts, the clubs and the streets on lock with their Mike Will Made It-produced “No Type” and “No Flex Zones” since May last year... but crucially, their Sremm Life album has showed that they've got enough talent to ride out the hype. It looks like 2015 belongs to them too.
Photo by Diwang Valdez