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Feb 17, 2020
Originally published on February 17, 2020 7:28 pm

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Electronic dance music today is dominated by white European producers. Daft Punk, Tiesto and David Guetta are among the most successful acts in the game. But it was black American DJs who were among the first to pave the way in the '70s and '80s. DJs like Frankie Knuckles laid the groundwork for subgenres like house music and techno. A new wave of DJs, like Haitian-born Canadian producer Kaytranada, is keeping that spirit alive. Reviewer Miguel Perez says his new album "BUBBA" is a welcome nod to the roots of dance music. Here's his review from last month.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

MIGUEL PEREZ: Kaytranada's latest record sounds like the hazy, dreamlike moments before last call.

(SOUNDBITE OF KAYTRANADA SONG, "10%")

PEREZ: The club is packed, and everyone is transfixed in this sort of effortless, collective rhythm. "BUBBA" isn't concerned with the climax. That part of the night has come and gone. This album instead is all about riding out the high. Tracks like "10%," with its fat bass line, are crafted to keep you in the groove.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "10%")

KALI UCHIS: (Singing) I'm a psycho, all the animal. Run my money to me. Don't act like you didn't know.

PEREZ: Singer Kali Uchis glides through the beat with a breathy refrain before the track dissolves and "BUBBA" slithers on to the next offering. Those break-less segues between tracks are a classic component of dance music. In the '80s, club DJs in cities like Chicago, Detroit and New York were busy feeding an insatiable post-disco hunger from clubgoers. And their innovations in mixing and sampling are still the building blocks of dance music today. Take, for example, the booming four-on-the-floor sound and spacious synths on "What You Need."

(SOUNDBITE OF KAYTRANADA SONG, "WHAT YOU NEED")

PEREZ: It's that thump-thump-thumping heartbeat again, and it flows throughout "BUBBA." Add some passionate harmonies from vocalist Charlotte Day Wilson, and you have a pulsating, glittering house smasher.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT YOU NEED")

CHARLOTTE DAY WILSON: (Singing) That it's what you need.

PEREZ: But Kaytranada's sound avoids strict categorization. He borrows from funk, house, disco, R&B and hip-hop. And that synthesis is on full display on songs like "Vex Oh," which delivers its smooth Afrobeat production in slow and steady doses.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VEX OH (FEAT. EIGHT9FLY)")

ARI PENSMITH: (Singing) Bad belle wey (ph) she get. You gon' (ph) try, try so you no forget. No, no forgiveness.

PEREZ: "BUBBA" transports you to a very specific space, and in that way, Kaytranada captures dance music's central tenet. You have to feel it in your bones, your belly and in your whole body. Every production element is meant to build a physical experience that compels you to the dance floor.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FREEFALL")

DURAND BERNARR: (Singing) Taking my time, trying something different. The choice is mine, and I choose to let you in.

PEREZ: And despite all the machines involved in making it, dance music is deeply human. Those DJs chopping up tracks in the '80s weren't playing to huge festival crowds. They were making music for black queer kids in underground clubs, for people seeking comfort in community. That's what Kaytranada is doing on his sophomore album - bringing the bass and bringing the soul.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TASTE")

VANJESS: (Singing) If you want a taste, what you bring to the plate?

CORNISH: The latest from Kaytranada is called "BUBBA." Our reviewer Miguel Perez is a producer for KERA in Dallas.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TASTE")

VANJESS: (Singing) What you bring to the plate? If you want a taste, bring something to the plate. Yeah. You saying something, whole lot of nothing. Do more than texting - no, how your day been? Don't want to give in. This s*** ain't worth it. And I'm a blessing. You should be thankful. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.