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On Ten Fold, Yaya Bey Channels Grief Into Reflective, Versatile Soul

Songwriter’s fifth album proves that creativity is a life-affirming superpower
Yaya Bey (Photo credit: Nikita Freyermuth)

Yaya Bey – Ten Fold
Big Dada

Personal success and fulfillment are only reprieves from life’s heaviness. That moment where everything seems to be going right can be the most vulnerable; survival, mortality, and grief feel like the debt collectors that come knocking to remind us life has its own sense of balance. This painful reality is the crux of Ten Fold, the fifth LP from versatile soul/pop artist Yaya Bey.

The project follows her 2022 breakout, Remember Your North Star—and, crucially, the death of her father, musician Ayub Bey, who rapped under the name Grand Daddy I.U. as part of the ‘80s collective Juice Crew. Though she made Ten Fold in part to “flee [her] sadness,” the music feels buoyant, spotlighting the transformation that happens underneath life’s unbearable weight.   

The Brooklyn artist combats her sorrow by incorporating recordings of her father’s voice (“East Coast Mami” and “Yvette’s Cooking Show”)—she invokes his presence even though he can’t be here to witness her continued achievements. The album’s penultimate track, “Yvette’s Cooking Show,” is a tender reflection on love amid loss. Bey meditates on how she’ll always be his, despite his misgivings or how life dealt him a hard hand: “I hope you get to rest / You somewhere chillin’, laid back, knowing you did your best,” she says softly, breaking from her deep, satiny vocals. Yaya moves through her grief with grace, blessed to live and pass on the lesson of her elders. 

This album documents Bey’s life through a creative process, rather than a project rooted in a thesis. By Ten Fold’s end, it’s clear that creativity is a life-affirming superpower. Bey uses it to meet suffering, wrestle with her own self-doubts, and laugh in spite of the increasing difficulty to live in this world. On “Eric Adams in the Club,” she muses to “shake something while you motherfuckin’ can” over a wafer-thin house beat that calls to mind The X-Files theme song

Throughout the record, Yaya Bey’s nourishing voice thrives, swimming among the production from Butcher Brown’s Corey Fonville, Karriem Riggins, Jay Daniel, Exaktly, and Boston Chery. “I’ve been changing under all this pressure,” she sings on “The Evidence,” over breathy synths and a squatty bass. “Into something that shines,” she adds, her voice like ribbons. “Into something that’s mine.” 

The following track, “Chrysanthemums,” further highlights adversity as a catalyst for growth. “Rain clouds are here,” she sings, her voice soft yet ebullient. But this isn’t a gloomy metaphor but a reminder that “water is the source of life for everything, like you and I.” Her voice takes to its psychedelic funk background; her coos grow and stretch like fresh buds breaking through soil. “Can you feel it in your heart, babe? The promise of you.” 

In a recent interview, Bey remembered the healing capacity of music from her childhood, like Mary J. Blige. “[A]s a kid, that was probably the first artist that made me realize, ‘Oh, her music is serving a purpose,’” she said. That’s the exact feeling of Ten Fold—an album that calls to move forward in spite of everything that might insist otherwise. – GRADE: A

You can check out Ten Fold on Bandcamp and elsewhere.

Big Dada