K.K. Slider's Evolution into Electronic Music, from Totakeke to DJ K.K.
It's Saturday, shortly after 8 p.m., and a white, floppy-eared dog sits on a wooden stool in the middle of town square. He sports huge black eyebrows and strums a guitar. K.K. Slider is warming up for his weekly acoustic set, playing tracks from his eclectic catalog upon request. The musician, also known as Totakeke or DJ K.K., remembers "dreaming of finding a magical place where cool cats like you would come together to see a stray like me."
It's just him and the audience as everything else fades to black and credits roll. The seasons change from cherry blossoms to red leaves and snowfall, while the world revolves around K.K. for a few minutes. He bestows a free copy of his music to listen to on repeat at home. He's got a song from every genre you can name, down to the perfect album artwork.
On November 4, the Animal Crossing: New Horizons 2.0 update dropped a day early. It came with 12 new tracks to K.K.'s setlist, many of which lean on various electronic subgenres and production techniques.
When DJ K.K. emerged behind the decks on Animal Crossing: New Leaf, he already had a pawful of tracks with EDM influences. He hit the scene on Mainstreet with a residency at Club LOL, wearing headphones and hipster glasses, and molded his sounds to fit the part further. "K.K. House," "K.K. D&B," and "K.K. Synth" felt like futuristic blasts of serotonin through Nintendo 3DS speakers. His music was no longer just for every player to feel at home, but it appealed to more expansive crowds who learned about new genres through him and loved to dance to video game soundtracks, in-game, and IRL.
Since his humble beginnings on a crate busking outside the train station, K.K.'s music greeted players and transported them to a new world. He was the very first face players saw under a spotlight when they booted up Doubutsu No Mori, the series' first release on Nintendo 64. Later editions, including Animal Crossing, were a hit on Gamecube. Once upon a time, "DJ K.K." was just a name for his Eurodance-infused track.
Kazumi Totaka is the sound designer and composer for Animal Crossing and namesake behind this beloved musical icon. The early 8-bit, simple chiptune bop "K.K. Song" indicates a core inspiration of the character and real composer's repertoire. Video game music influenced electronic music production and modern sampling techniques, and with the rise of EDM's popularity, it makes sense for K.K. to adapt these styles and show other DJs and producers how it's done.
K.K.'s expansive, genre-hopping library of tunes made him into the famous musician worth watching every weekend. His name is attached to rave-worthy bangers like "K.K. Technopop" and "K.K. Fusion." Looking back on K.K. Slider's library, he has effortlessly hopped on new styles that emerged during his career. K.K.'s songs let players personalize their paradise in gameplay otherwise built around the outdoors and calming natural sounds.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons sold over 31 million units for the Nintendo Switch last year, and fans clamored for many reasons to revisit this hugely acclaimed game. Along with new music, DJ K.K. makes appearances at Brewster's café with the Switch 2.0 update. Plus, you can craft music boxes of favorite K.K. melodies and add gyroid accompaniment.
DJ K.K. is back and making epic moves. He spins a set from a floating stage offshore at his latest concert after players hit Superstar Designer rank in the DLC, Animal Crossing New Horizons Happy Home Paradise. On this trajectory of superstardom, the musical legend is bound to lead more festivals and continue exploring every nook and cranny of EDM. Though he only exists in the gaming universe and hearts of players, K.K. has established himself as a genius across electronic subgenres.
Here's an overview of five new electronic tracks that K.K. dropped with the ACNH 2.0 update:
"K.K. Robot Synth" is the most hyped of the new releases. For years people have compared K.K. to vocaloids and virtual idols like Kaito and Hatsune Miku. Before we even heard it, we saw that the cover art reads "K.K. Loid," which solidified that connection. Sleek vocal processing and saccharine melodies take center stage. When K.K. plays this shiny new banger live, villagers bop their giant heads and dance with light sticks.
K.K. lends himself to EDM production and internet remixes with the versatility that only comes from being a fictional artist. Fan-made covers using a K.K. SoundFont / sampler have reached millions of views. In true idolic fashion, a hologram of K.K. opened the Nintendo Day 2019 concert. Though he began as the nomadic musical outlet for Totaka, fans claim K.K. as their own, establishing him as a transformative cultural figure.
"K.K. Chillwave" rides the trends of vaporwave and traditional downtempo electronica. It features a bassy kick drum, synthy strings, and dreamy keys. Animal Crossing OSTs have found further popularity through remixes, lo-fi beats playlists, K.K. cover memes, and TikToks. "K.K. Bubblegum" was a viral hit. The game's high replay value is thanks in part to the addictive soundtrack. The internet loves to dissect the artists and influences that remind them of K.K.'s tracks, one of many reasons he belongs on any well-curated playlist.
"K.K. Hop" is a downtempo trip-hop track that features K.K.'s iconic mellow whistle and ad-libs. Reddit hip hop heads compared it to Kid Koala's sample use and DJ Premier's scratching style. K.K. is ready to bust a move to this beat infused with early 90s hip hop elements. As user favpetgoat puts it: "My man's out here with number one records in every single genre. Untouchable, truly the GOAT."
"K.K. Break" brings the funk. It was only a matter of time before DJ K.K. delved into more club-friendly genres, and he's known to fuse existing sounds with new production. "Break" is based on jazz, disco, and early R&B samples, with percussive rhythmic breaks between smooth key solos and bass grooves. Just like K.K.'s best throwback records, this feels soulful and far-out.
"K.K. Bashment" is a party fueled by smooth electric keys, percussive movement, and soft shakers. It's simply meant for dancing. The dancehall and house vibes are evident, and fans have stated that it's reminiscent of "Passionfruit" by Drake (or maybe the actual fruit, too, considering this IS Animal Crossing). The game's island themes call out for tropical house instrumentals. Let this be your go-to for aerobics, collecting seashells, and keeping the energy up during those late-night play sessions.
Check out all of K.K. Slider's new tracks Animal Crossing: New Horizons 2.0 here.