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Last night, the Canadian music industry gathered to celebrate the 10 artists shortlisted for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize. During the time that other short-listers such as Carly Rae Jepsen, US Girls, Andy Shauf, White Lung, Jessy Lanza, Basia Bulat and Black Mountain performed, the 11-person Polaris grand jury duked it out in a private room to decide the night’s winner—or, the artist behind the best Canadian album of the year.
After the three-hour, music-packed extravaganza, 2015 prize winner Buffy Saint-Marie appeared on stage with an envelope containing the winner’s name. Upon announcing that Montreal-based musician, producer and DJ Kaytranada was the winner and recipient of this year’s $50,000 prize, the roars from the gala audience were proof of widespread agreement that the 24 year-old rising star undoubtedly deserved the high honour.
On this year’s selection, Polaris Prize co-founder and Executive Director Steve Jordan said, “There was a bit of talk about how this winner represents the future of music, in a way.”
Here are only a few reasons why we couldn’t agree more.
Ranging from rich soul samples to worldly electronic and lowkey hip hop, Kaytranada (born Louis Kevin Celestin) went all in on his brilliant debut album, 99.9%. Previously a Soundcloud favourite, his studio debut is a colourful, unpredictable mixed bag of genres that illustrates how Kaytranada’s music knowledge and appreciation know no boundaries.
You may have only tuned into Kaytranada’s music with the release of 99.9% this past May, but by no means is he a newcomer to the music scene. Prior to his XL Recordings-released debut, Kay steadily produced and crafted remixes, singles and EPs—totalling 13 projects and 41 remixes that date back to 2010 (or, his late teens).
Read: Everyone wants to work with Kay. The artist’s 15-track debut album is a who’s-who of music’s cool kids and budding industry talent, boasting cameos from Anderson .Paak, River Tiber, Vic Mensa, AlunaGeorge, GoldLink, Craig David, BADBADNOTGOOD and Little Dragon, to name a few. Whether the chugging R&B of the Craig David-assisted “Got It Good” or one of 2016’s best rap tracks, the dark, spacey Anderson .Paak-led hip hop banger “Glowed Up,” 99.9% is a laundry list of evidence that Kay has a beat ready for everyone.
From concert halls to huge outdoor spaces, Kaytranada is no stranger to touring non-stop or selling out shows—which is likely in part to the intimate live experience that concertgoers are treated to no matter the venue. While he remains behind his equipment—part beatmaker, part energetic hype-man—Kay’s crowds become one synchronized, pulsing swarm, absorbing the different rhythms and genres together in what feels like a truly music-appreciative way.
Still occupying a room in his parent’s house in Montreal and coming out as gay in a 2016 interview with The Fader, Kaytranada remains true to himself and his roots in every facet of how he approaches music—which is, of course, a trait that’s hard to come by in successful artists. At last night’s Polaris Prize, Kaytranada had high hopes that the next generation of artists would take just as many risks and also not be afraid to be themselves.”There are no rules in music—it’s all possible. Look at me, I did this all myself,” he said.