The evolution of language in the age of the millennial has taken a turn for the ultra-mellow. Is it any surprise, then, that the standard "this is what a millennial looks like" thinkpiece has gotten progressively sour in its analysis of youth vernacular? The once situation-specific phrase "chill out" has been shortened and transformed into a replacement for "good" as an omnibus descriptor of the state of things. "Chill," they urge when you are not; "chill," they affirm when they are. Everything is chill at all times. Yet despite leaning into the chill, everything is "lit," like fire — but at the same time, fire is fire and lit is chill. Language tells the tales of the times. It helps us understand, but it also obfuscates because understanding is contextual.
Kaytranada is the moniker of Montreal-based, Haitian-born DJ and producer Louis Kevin Celestin. As a listener and lover of music, he focuses on what is left unsaid — that essential context that, once sussed out, can be brought to the forefront. This particular millennial came to prominence in 2012 when his Soundcloud remix of Janet Jackson's "If" made quite the impression. The track exemplified Kaytranada's strength as a producer: his ability to take the familiar and coax new magic out of it, in part by waxing nostalgic. He merges the cadences of house, disco and old-school hip-hop to create funky, modern jams where the wistful becomes ecstatically wistful, a celebration of the inebriation of desire.
"Glowed Up" is an ephemerally chill anthem, grounded in a heavy bouncing beat yet as light and airy as the theremin that echoes throughout. The context is illusory and the mood is meditative, yet as Anderson .Paak steps in to soulfully spit some rhymes, the vibe becomes clear: This is a house-party kind of chill. Kaytranada's choice of .Paak is calculated, as only he can provide those effortlessly authentic, California laid-back, mellow-yellow feels. There is a timelessness to .Paak's vocals, a raspy yet sage croon that's equally at home on Dr. Dre's revival record Compton and on this debut album from a younger talent.
The video is as surreal and dreamlike as the song itself, blue light on black bodies in a smoky, possibly underwater ethereal wonderland. For a minute there, it seems to be about Kaytranada luxuriating in his loneliness. But then he opens the freezer and his dark room becomes a lit chillzone, where everyone is glowed up.
99.9% comes out May 6 on XL.
Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.