Yaya Bey is one of R&B’s most exciting storytellers. Using a combination of ancestral forces and her own self-actualization, the singer/songwriter seamlessly navigates life’s hardships and joyful moments through music. Bey’s new album, ‘Remember Your North Star’ (out June 17), captures this emotional rollercoaster with a fusion of soul, jazz, reggae, afrobeat and hip-hop that feeds the soul. The artist’s knack for storytelling is best displayed in the album’s lead single, “keisha”. It’s an anthemic embodiment of fed-up women everywhere who have given their all in a relationship, yet their physical body nor spiritual mind could never be enough.
Bey’s ability to tap into the emotionally kaleidoscopic nature of women, specifically Black women, is the essence of the entire album. With themes of misogynoir, unpacking generational trauma, carefree romance, parental relationships, women empowerment and self-love, ‘Remember Your North Star’ proves that the road to healing isn’t a linear one – there are many lessons to gather along the journey.
“I saw a tweet that said, ‘Black women have never seen healthy love or have been loved in a healthy way.’ That’s a deep wound for us. Then I started to think about our responses to that as Black women,” Bey says of ‘Remember Your North Star’s title inspiration, an entirely self-written project featuring key production from Bey herself, with assists from Phony Ppl’s Aja Grant and DJ Nativesun. “So this album is kind of my thesis. Even though we need to be all these different types of women, ultimately we do want love: love of self and love from our community. The album is a reminder of that goal.”
The artist’s raw, unfiltered approach threads ‘Remember Your North Star’. “big daddy ya” finds the artist tapping into her inner rapper, channeling the too-cool and confident factor that artists like Megan Thee Stallion and City Girls are well-known for. “reprise” captures women’s exhaustion everywhere, with its lyrical tug-of-war of bettering oneself while trying to cut yourself off from toxic relationships. There’s also “alright” (co-produced by Aja Grant), a soothing, jazz-inspired ditty that showcases Bey’s love for the genre’s icons like Billie Holiday, while the carefree “pour up” highlights the artist’s friendship with DJ Nativesun (the song’s producer) and will immediately rush hips to the dancefloor.
There is no fakeness when it comes to Bey’s music, and her authenticity can be partly attributed to her upbringing in Jamaica, Queens. Early childhood memories included watching her father (pioneering ‘90s rapper Grand Daddy I.U) record in his studio – which also doubled as Bey’s bedroom – and listening to records by soul legends Donny Hathaway and Ohio Players around the house. Beginning at age nine, the artist’s father would leave space for her to write hooks to his beats, using her favorite artists like Mary J. Blige and JAY-Z as inspirations.
Bey quickly grew out of New York City and moved to D.C. at age 18. Calling it her second home, the city further ignited the artist’s creativity as she worked at museums and libraries, as well as tapping into poetry and attending protests. Her first release ‘The Many Alter – Egos of Trill’eta Brown’ in 2016 that incorporated a digital collage and a book, was praised by FADER, Essence, and many more. Bey followed up with fellow critically acclaimed projects like 2020’s ‘Madison Tapes’ album and 2021’s ‘The Things I Can’t Take With Me’ EP – the first release on Big Dada’s relaunch as a label run by Black, POC and minority ethnic people for Black, POC and minority ethnic artists – that received support from Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, NPR, Harper’s Bazaar, FADER, HotNewHipHop, Dazed, Clash, FACT, Crack Magazine, The Line of Best Fit and Mixmag.
In 2021, Bey was also profiled by Rolling Stone for their print magazine, contributed to the publication’s The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list, and curated a playlist for Document Journal. The artist’s “september 13th (DJ Nativesun Remix)” and “made this on the spot” singles received strong radio support from BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC 1 Xtra’s Jamz Supernova. Last May, Bey was interviewed on BBC 1Xtra and performed three tracks for Jamz Supernova’s “Festival Jamz” including The Things I Can’t Take With Me’s “fxck it then” and “september 13th” that December.
Bey is also a critically acclaimed multidisciplinary artist and art curator, creating the artwork for her music through collages of intimate photos and self-portraits. In 2019, her work was featured in the District of Columbia Arts Center’s “Reparations Realized” exhibit and Brooklyn’s Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA)’s “Let the Circle Be Unbroken” exhibit. She also completed multiple fine art residencies with MoCADA, curating programs that reflect the same theme that drives her music: the Black woman’s experience.
‘Remember Your North Star’ continues Bey’s personal and artistic evolution as she strives to be a soundboard for Black women everywhere. “I feel empowered in music because I can transform anything that happens to me into something that is valuable. Music helps me to see the value in what’s going on in my life,” she explains. “There’s a spirit in music. It’s a culture and I’m in that community, contributing my story which keeps us connected.”