Boomkat Product Review:
NYC's Yaya Bey relaunches Big Dada with a convincingly emotional set of narrative-led R&B hybrids that should appeal to fans of Erykah Badu, Dawn Richard and Jamila Woods.
There's an unflinching honesty to Yaya Bey's music - you can hear it in her vocals as they crack with a rare humanity that's a far cry from the Autotuned polish of the established mainstream. "Remember Your North Star" is the Brooklyn-based New Yorker's second album, after 2020's excellent "Madison Tapes", and finds the vocalist reflecting on a life lived thru the unpacking of trauma and wading thru doomed romantic encounters. She wrote the entire record herself, producing the majority of it with assistance from DJ Nativesun and Phony Ppl's Aja Grant - and this is the key to its warmth. Handling her vocals herself, Bey is able to emphasize the qualities in her voice that she knows root her narratives, and as a keen jazz listener, she realizes that's her voice's human elements.
So although the standout tracks 'keisha' and 'alright' are tightly woven jazzy nu-soul groovers, it's Bey's elastic vocal acrobatics that keep you coming back for more. There's an elaborate and purposeful un-polish that keeps Bey sounding contemporary while harmonizing with classic neo soul material like Erykah Badu's "Baduizm" and Jill Scott's "Who is Jill Scott?". Her vocal cracks might be influenced by Bey's idol Billie Holiday, but it gives the music a contemporary freshness that feels in line with the chaotic messiness of 2020s life.