Brooklyn-based singer Yaya Bey is creating intricate R&B that speaks to her healing journey. Bey speaks with us about the core of ‘Remember Your North Star’, her confessional and emotionally honest album.
Yaya Bey’s newest R&B album is a healing balm she created for herself as she navigated the past few years of the pandemic. Aptly titled Remember Your North Star, Bey said that the 18-track project is a product of her trying to find her own sound after years of creating music under the strict vision of men (specifically her ex-husband and her ex-boyfriend) she was involved with. The end result is a full-length produced by Bey, Phony Ppl’s Aja Grant, and DJ Nativesun, that fuses R&B, jazz, soul, and hip-hop to soundtrack Bey’s love letter to herself and Black women like her.
On Remember Your North Star, Bey is lyrically thoughtful, sprinkling each track with soliloquies about a former lover or sharing her thoughts on double standards. She utilizes her alto voice on this album alongside funky, rhythmic beats to get her thoughts across in a distinct manner, evoking Erykah Badu’s intricate debut Baduizm, but with a modern touch.
The vulnerability she offers up on this record stems from the time she’s been spending in therapy. She credited her therapist as a source that has allowed her to understand the road she’s been on to “repair herself,” and shared that, as a Black woman, hyper-masculinity and misogyny are the core of what she believes her music career and life were led by up until two years ago — whether it was the misogyny of family figures like her father or romantic interests. This pivotal choice to disengage from these sources of power shifted things for her.
“I got divorced and then had a breakup after the divorce and [began] realizing I had a lot to unpack,” she said. “Even now I think I’m still unpacking it. I think in the album process I was in the muck of it.” Bey adds, “[Creating music] is sort of raw, but I do it because music is what I’m good at. It’s not always fun but I’m grateful for it.”
Beginning in September 2020, the Queens native toyed with creating an album as she navigated what it was like being divorced in her early thirties. A lot of the feelings she was grappling with ended up on The Things I Can’t Take With Me, an EP that she released last year. Completed in January this year in New Jersey, Remember Your North Star was created during a time when she was balancing making music while paying her bills.
“I work really hard, work a day job, and then my music is a full-time job,” Yaya said. “By the time I get home I’m dead tired.”
She added that COVID-19 eviscerated sources of income she’d previously relied on (like touring and playing local shows), saying: “Money is in the shows, and not having that [was] rough.”
Still, Bey managed to create an album that reflects the major transformation she’s experienced both musically and personally.
“Everything I make is about my life,” she said. “I was in a seven-year partnership, and then I got married and I got divorced. My ex-husband was the producer behind a lot of my older stuff…I think I sound like me now.”