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Yaya Bey: The Things I Can't Take With Me review – smooth, candid soul

Kadish Morris
·1-min read

Yaya Bey’s music is rooted in something far gutsier than just smoky vocals. The Queens-born singer takes inspiration from black feminist theory, with her last album, The Many Alter-Egos of Trill’eta Brown, drawing on the writings of Audre Lorde. She often blends the personal (bad breakups) and the political (black liberation) with poetic wordplay.

The Things I Can’t Take With Me is a smooth soul record boasting a conversational delivery reminiscent of Jill Scott and Noname. On The Root of a Thing, Bey is candid about her parents: “I never seen my daddy treat a woman good.” She’s at her best when she’s being transparent: while her vocal range isn’t mind-blowing, her storytelling is absorbing. Industry Love/A Protection Spell, about a man with a collapsed moral compass working in music, could be the plot line of a short film.

This EP came together unexpectedly during the making of a forthcoming studio album, and it sometimes shows. You Up? and We’ll Skate Soon feel like unfinished drafts in comparison with the bold and brass-heavy Fxck It Then and September 13th – a song that knows exactly what it wants to be: a heartbreak classic. “Loving you baby been gruesome,” Bey sings, with the hindsight of an old wounded soul.