Rset in tandem with TV’s messy millennial women — from Fleabag to Insecure to All I Know About Love — has been a similar strand of R&B, where artists such as SZA and Summer Walker proudly sing and funny about their flaws, but always with a lot of self-esteem and a contemptuous look at men.
Continuing this style with abundant charisma is Washington DC singer Yaya Bey, though she uses much more than R&B to express it. Meet Me in Brooklyn is a soft and naive reggae, which cuts directly into Pour Up, a deep and erotic afro-house track. Rolling Stoner goes from Billie Holiday’s jazz song to beatless trap atmospheres in less than two minutes, while Erykah Badu’s stoner, psychedelic soul wisdom is a touchstone everywhere.
With natural, happy melodies, Bey combines meandering narratives with stoic achievement, evoking a life that isn’t bad but is also a work in progress. The fun skits and genre-hopping feel breezy, but it feels like Bey deflects with humor because when the existential moments hit, they hit hard. “You are born alone and you will die the same,” she sings, and her mother, she understands now, was “a heavy thing / too broken to be a girl / too wild to be a lover”.
The best song – one of the best of the year by anyone, in fact – is Keisha, with its big chorus: “And the pussy so, so good / and you still don’t love me”. The mixture of pride, bewilderment and genuine hurt contained in these lines, with its disappointed and feminine intonation, is hilarious and moving. It’s also a microcosm of Bey’s broad talent: stand-up, storyteller, singer-songwriter.