An impassioned widescreen expo leveraged from today’s unnerving realities of black womanhood observed through a nostalgic super 8 aesthetic by an invigorating polymath who connects photography, poetry, and multi-instrumental production to share her stories.
Favorite track: september 13th.
The Things I Can’t Take With Me is the newest release from multidisciplinary artist and singer-songwriter Yaya Bey. The self-produced, six-track EP follows her last album, 2020’s intimate and political Madison Tapes, which received critical praise from Pitchfork (7.7), FADER, Afropunk, Noisey, and more. Following the same spirit of her previous projects, The Things I Can’t Take With Me searches the deeply personal and refreshingly honest truths of Black womanhood and love.
The project’s first single “fxck it then” radiates as an affirmative anthem for rediscovering your shine, reminding everyone that Yaya Bey “ain’t average.” It’s accompanied by new collage work created by Yaya herself, and a music video directed by Morgan B. Powell. “The video was a true labor of love,” Bey said, describing the visuals as “an ode to hood joints.” The nostalgic super 8 film aesthetic features styling by Alexea Brown and glimpses into Bey’s polaroid photography.
On The Things I Can’t Take With Me, Bey works her way through a breakup that triggered the deepest of wounds: the childhood trauma that resurfaces in our relationships. “I never seen my daddy treat a woman good/I don’t know what it’s like to be understood,” Bey sings over a fuzzy riff on the opening track “the root of a thing.” On “you up?,” she grapples with the duality of addictive passion and arguing all day: “This is hell but I’ve been waiting all my life for this/Oh the lips that tell me lies but I can’t wait to kiss.”
The new EP came together unexpectedly when Bey set out to record her next album. After her relationship ended, the direction of the project took a detour. “[The album] is going to be about the journey home to self,” Bey explained. “But on the way, there’s all this shit I gotta let go of, just the things I can’t take with me.” So, she allowed herself to make the music she needed to make, drawing on breakthroughs in therapy to process her grief and move forward.
The Things I Can’t Take With Me feels like a natural progression from last year’s Madison Tapes, both of which were recorded during the pandemic and what Bey describes as a “deep, deep depression.” But unlike the laid-back, collaborative vibe of the album, The Things I Can’t Take With Me flows like a solitary intention. Bey maneuvers effortlessly from heartbroken introspection towards a newfound security, denouncing the wack morals of an industry dude and embracing her own agency as a “bad bitch.” The EP culminates in the enthralling “protection spell,” empowering Bey in the mantra of returning to herself, whole. Her voice floats over watery guitars like a hymn: “No weapon/Formed against me/Not even you baby.”
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Bey considers herself mostly an “East Coast girl” because of the formative years she spent as an adult creating and protesting in the DMV area. It was D.C. producer Chucky Thompson (known for his work with Notorious B.I.G. and Diddy) who encouraged Bey to record her own songs after years of writing for others and performing spoken word poetry. Like her dad, the pioneering rapper Grand Daddy I.U., Bey made the most out of what she had as a self-taught musician with a penchant for storytelling and an ear for sampling.
Yaya Bey’s 2016 debut, The Many Alter-Egos of Trill’eta Brown, was an ambitious project that included a dreamy, largely acoustic mixtape, book, and digital collage inspired by her front-line activism as a street medic in Ferguson. “You spend two years of your life protesting and getting assaulted and arrested—you got a lot of shit to say after that,” Bey said.
Since then, she’s sharpened her sound and honed her focus, using the same D.I.Y. ethos that drove Trill’eta Brown to move from the global struggle of Black liberation towards her own inner healing. Inspired by the warm, smooth soul of Donny Hathaway and the strength of musicians like Alice Smith, Mary J. Blige, and writer Toni Morrison, Bey aims to soundtrack the lives of Black women just like her. With her 404 and pen, she brings an electrifying insight to the seemingly mundane like corporate malaise, heartache, and social media anxieties.
Bey has also developed her skills as a multidisciplinary artist, labeled “a force to be reckoned with in the art world” by Essence Magazine and acclaim from Solange’s Saint Heron agency. To date, she’s shown her collage work in galleries and has had two residencies at Brooklyn’s MoCADA Museum. She also creates her own merch and album artwork, including the visuals for her forthcoming EP.
The Things I Can’t Take With Me is out on April 9th on Big Dada.
supported by 77 fans who also own “The Things I Can't Take With Me”
Like so many others, this came like a bolt out of the blue and, even though it's well before payday, I had to have this astonishing album on vinyl to prove it exists. The feel of the tunes makes me feel like the Impressions do, Curtis Mayfield, the big spaces and instinctive horns and stuff drifting in and out. Great grooves and I can see lots of ghosts nodding along to this with big smiles on their faces. At last! Anthony Cottrell
supported by 49 fans who also own “The Things I Can't Take With Me”
just the sexiest most creative, soulful self-love infused sound. pour the bubble bath & feel yourself. new school badu but fresher. must be something in the water in dallas. always my go-to after party music. Ankle Mix