Yaya Bey - Remember Your North Star
Jun 22, 2022
Remember Your North Star is an opus from Yaya Bey that speaks to the hurt that many of our women carry today.

"Lord, we know who we are Yet we know not what we may be"! This is a quote from Hamlet, a play written by the great William Shakespeare at the turn of the 17th century. The excerpt mentioned is from the 44th line of Act 4, Scene 5, and means that while it’s possible to know who we are in the present moment, that does not necessarily apply to our future. On Remember Your North Star, Yaya Bey echoes this sentiment on a record that ruminates on her trauma. This 35-minute LP is my first introduction to the young Brooklyn singer-songwriter and it sure as hell won’t be my last. It’s a profound opus that speaks to the hurt that many of our women carry today.

Many of the tracks on this record range from topics such as Black femininity, Relationships, and Generational trauma. However, I think what makes Remember Your North Star even better is it’s blend of R&B, soul, reggae, and jazz. This richness of sound helps to keep the album moving at a pace that does not bore its listeners. Throughout my listens, Yaya’s leaves me reminded of older jazz vocalist through her phrasing and inflections. It’s vocals like this that make her emotions standout vigorously on tracks like “Keisha” a song about her realizing that no matter how much love she has to offer sometimes the other party isn’t willing to buy into it. This idea is displayed as she passionately sings “The pussy so, so good and you still don’t love me,” on the chorus. “Alright” is a match made in heaven as the beat highlights her vocals even more. Described as "a visual representation of me coming through an existential crisis.", this track makes for a definite standout and shows Yaya’s awareness in battling her emotions but offering affirmations for what is to come.

Subtle hints of inspiration show up on “Big Daddy Ya” as we get a Missy Elliot vibe from Yaya. “I could do this cool shit here all day” is just one of many braggadocios’ lines mentioned throughout. Here we are given what appears to be her in a state of feeling herself which could be one of many emotions experienced after a breakup. Another emotional state shows up on “Nobody Knows” in which the line “Nobody knows my troubles but me” tackles a heavy topic of how we mask our grief. As an African-American this practice is used a lot which in turn becomes a detriment because we become burdened by a past that lingers on our psyche.

As we transition along, I do want to expand on the topic of Blackness just a bit more and how it relates to the overall theme. After doing some more research on the record and the artist herself it is worth noting that the catalyst that might’ve sparked the inception of Remember Your North Star came from a tweet Bey saw. In an era where the social media ecosphere is part of our everyday lives, I guess sometimes it can positively impact us. For those wanting to know, the tweeted stated “Black women have never seen healthy love or have been loved in a healthy way,’”. Depending on the reader the reaction can be very mixed, but to the intended audience and its cultural counterparts (Black Men) the questions of why begin to linger. “But I ain't never seen a woman make a nigga do right, And I ain't never seen a woman who ain't put up a fight” are lines referenced on my favorite song “Reprise”. This track presents itself as the album’s manifesto, because it tackles all of the topics mentioned throughout while also being one of the first time we get a look into Yaya’s backstory. The slow jazzy beat and passionately sung chorus offer an ever so lovely yet woeful tone.

Other standout moments like “Pour up” highlight some of the vibrant sounds throughout. This time we get an erotic afro-house where Yaya’s raunchy tone matches the vibe. “Meet me in Brooklyn”, sounds rich as can be in its reggae inspired production. If I had any negatives throughout the tracklisting I would say that the little interludes throughout don’t do much to expand upon the narrative. Many of them just sound like extensions of the tracks that came before them.

For all the traumas and issues that Yaya mentions throughout, the third act sees her truly living up to my broad and comprehensive Shakespeare comparison earlier. Yaya chants “Don’t Cry for Me” on “Mama Loves Her Son” which sets the tone that she may no longer yearn for her mother’s love, but senses that she would one day experience it. The final track “Blessings” preaches the same notion as Yaya knows that she has no control over her personal state yet looks forward to blessings in the unknown future. While this assertion can feel hopeless on the surface, it sets a principle for Black women that their worth isn’t measured by how much they can endure. Instead, like she mentioned in her interview with Pitchfork, “There’s a lot of grief in that. But if anything, it helps me want more for Black women”.

Black people in general should feel at ease when conversing their problems. From loved ones, friends, or even therapist, there’s vital outlooks to gain help from. Sometimes for artist music can be their main domain. However, when you take that route, you must move your listeners and on Remember Your North Star, Yaya Bey does just that mostly throughout apart from a few misses. This opus of hers is a tale that dares to let its present make the future look predictable.

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