Album Reviews

Yaya Bey – Ten Fold

(Big Dada) UK release date: 10 May 2024

The American singer comes through with laidback grooves and a lingering sense of pathos

Yaya Bey - Ten Fold The world of R&B has fragmented considerably, with muted trap beats, classy silk-shirt throwbacks and experimental neo-soul all piled on top of each other, defined by the same old label. Yaya Bey exists more on the experimental end but her laidback, carefree delivery makes her debut album Ten Fold a breezy listen, a series of relatively brief songs about self-worth, grief and solidarity.

sir princess bad bitch is an early highlight, as a 4×4 beat in the vein of Kaytranada accompanies Bey’s rhythmic flexing (“How favoured am I? / well let’s fuck around and find out / ask me where my haters at / well all them niggas in time out”). Elsewhere eric adams in the club utilises 808 kickdrums, frantic hi-hats and spacey pads for a surreal, hedonistic experience, while the bloopy bass and dusty loop of the evidence is a wonderfully Dilla-esque soundbed for lyrics focussing on adversity and perseverance.

Occasionally sections of Ten Fold feel too effortless, such as the off-beat delivery of carl thomas sliding down the wall, but generally the affect works as a stream-of-consciousness-style insight into Bey’s attitude and thoughts. She sounds much more energised on so fantastic, aided by a syncopated drum pattern and groovy bassline, the effect similar to Missy Elliott’s Whatcha Gon’ Do, and all around los angeles is an impactful, Latin-flavoured bop.

Interspersed throughout Ten Fold are spoken samples of Bey’s father, who died in 2022 – his memory is evoked most concretely on penultimate track yvette’s cooking show, as Bey expresses feelings of confusion and resentment while going through life without him. A descending piano figure is anchored by lo-fi tambourine shakes and sporadic snares, a contemplative and melodious backdrop to match the emotive performance of this very promising up-and-comer.

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Yaya Bey – Ten Fold