There aren't too many musicians left like Kaytranada, not in the big leagues, anyway. His sound is hard to classify as anything more than head-knockin', and he loves to break the rules. He makes headlines for his noiseless drops, like the Whatever project, when he just dumped a file of 19 tracks onto the internet with hardly a word.
"Free music rules the world," he says. "You don't get a lot of checks from albums anyway, only if you're a pop star. If you're an indie artist, I think you should still drop music for free and then get your money from the shows and other shit you're doing."
But even his roots-first style can't be free all the time. His headlining set Saturday at III Points is preceded by the release of "Leave Me Alone," lead single off upcoming EP So Bad on XL Records. He's stoked, but the transition has been a struggle.
"I have already finished the EP for quite a while now, but I'm still waiting for the release date," he says. "I'm used to being independent, so I just drop stuff when I want to. But it's a blessing to be on XL. I'm not really complaining. It's definitely worth it."
"Leave Me Alone" features vocals from old-time friend Shay Lia and captures the laid-back, groovy side of Kaytranada's many sounds. So Bad offers a broad look at his many facets, which of course will probably lead to all kinds of confusing media on its release. That kind of forced labeling is something Kaytranada knows all too well.
"When I make music, I don't really think about [genres], but the press, sometimes they get it wrong," he says. "They write about you, and they say a bunch of things that is not really true. 'Oh, he's a dance music producer. Oh, he's an EDM producer.' You just heard one dance song. You didn't really check the whole catalog. There's hip-hop in there too. There's R&B. There's soul."
The only constant in Kay's world is boss drum work. That much you can bet on.
"You can just call us music producers, because I don't really think about the genre when I make music," he continues. "Or actually, I come from hip-hop, so whenever I start anything, I do a hip-hop beat and go with it. All this house, dancy stuff I'm doing, it's always been hip-hop to me. It's just faster."
With So Bad, it was important for the artist to make a statement. It's not his usual finish and drop. This is a real production with press and organized release dates, fancy artwork, PR handlers. It's got to be something that speaks to his body of work, pushing his voice while keeping in the vein of what his fans have come to know and love.
"It's more like electronic dance hip-hop, you know how I do," he says. "Because it's a big release, I wanted to drop what I like and what people really want, but at the same time, it's more like dance. I have the vibe of doing more dance music, so this is the direction it's going to. There's a couple tracks like hip-hop more down, two hip-hop tracks, and the rest is all dance music."
The project includes a few features, like the aforementioned Shay Lia and Vic Mensa. He had more tricks up his sleeve, but of course, labels have deadlines, so some things are saved for a future project. At least fans at III Points can look forward to possible sneak peeks from his Saturday-night set.
"Usually Miami is always rowdy," he says. "I've been hearing about the III Points festival in my Twitter mentions. I've gotten a lot of word about it from the beginning of the year when they announced it. I don't think I have a big, big following in Florida, but I think I've got a lot of love. I think there's a lot of people digging what I do."
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Kaytranada. As part of III Points Festival 2014. Friday to Sunday, October 10 to 12. Soho Studios, 136 NW First Ave., Miami, and various other locations. Three-day general-admission tickets cost $99 to $120 plus fees. Single-day passes cost $55 to $66 plus fees. Visit iiipoints.com.
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Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.