Hiatus Kaiyote is a name you may not immediately recognize, but the Australian four-piece has a sound you’ve heard.
In the two years since its release, the neo-soul outfit’s sophomore album Choose Your Weapon has been sampled all over hip-hop’s most critically and commercially successful projects. With a complex, GRAMMY-nominated album, a Q-Tip co-sign, and placements on More Life and DAMN., the group has quietly snuck its way into the music libraries of hip-hop fans everywhere.
Effortlessly blending neo-soul and progressive jazz, Choose Your Weapon is a dense record, redeemed by moments of unbelievable beauty. Hiatus Kaiyote makes music in the same vein as other neo-soul greats, but with the ideas and energy of a four-piece band. Their most recent album is 70 minutes long, and each song can inhabit three different soundscapes across varying tempos and directions.
Choose Your Weapon is filled to the brim, almost cluttered, with ideas. “Molasses,” the album’s most exciting track, lulls you in with a gentle tempo before launching into several very different directions, culminating in a wild, Flying Lotus-esque outro. “Shaolin Funk Motherfunk,” the first taste of the rest of the album, is similarly insane.
After an invigorating, ethereal intro and a soft introduction to Nai Palm’s vocals, the song kicks into a soulful groove. The track bends and warps with seemingly no direction, but every different melody and key change is as captivating as the last. The groove in these tracks is perpetual, but more than anything, “Molasses” and “Shaolin Funk Motherfunk” are inspiring.
Choose Your Weapon is a massive project, but it has moments of true brilliance. These moments have offered producers a treasure trove of samples to chop, and they’ve since pieced together an offering of the group’s versatility throughout popular hip-hop music.
Drake fans were introduced to the group when Boi-1da sampled a pitched-up version of “Build Your Ladder” on “Free Smoke,” the opening track on More Life. After the project playlist was released, video of Drake singing along to Nai Palm’s gorgeous verse in the back of his limo was posted to the artist's Instagram—quite the co-sign.
Anderson .Paak fans came across the group when 9th Wonder built “Without You,” the Rapsody-assisted track on Malibu, with a flip of “Molasses.” But the band’s exposure to hip-hop fans hit a fever pitch when 9th (clearly a big fan) sampled them on “DUCKWORTH.,” the potent final track on DAMN.
Hiatus Kaiyote is a sampling producer’s dream. They’re versatile, groovy, and unpredictable, and they make the type of neo-soul that inspires both awe and creativity. Hip-hop’s ability to absorb other sounds is part of what has always made the genre so captivating.
The art of sampling exposes us to all kinds of new music, and it reflects the inspiration of our favorite artists. Sampling allows us to get in a producer’s headspace, and Hiatus Kaiyote is a group influencing that. Which is to say, you’ve probably heard them already.