It may not be apparent, but Yebba has been around — quietly delivering elegant performances through different genres of music; however, many know her as the female vocalist on “Same Drugs” by Chance the Rapper — when he performed on Saturday Night Live. I’ve gotten to know her work by burrowing through a landscape decorated with a history of appearing in songs in Hip-Hop, Pop, Funk, Soul, Folk, Rock, and more. Having worked with artists like A Tribe Called Quest, Mark Ronson, and Mumford & Sons since 2016 has given her a clearer slate to draw on as she finds her sound and individualizes herself from contemporaries. Her debut, Dawn, speaks to that as Yebba delivers sweet flavorings to the songs, which range in style — most of which are unique to Yebba, except for few moments that get lost when going grandiose.
Unlike some or many, you find yourself coming into Dawn blind. But like many, I’ve been aware of Yebba’s guest appearances and features; however, what comes to light in Dawn is sometimes unlike what we’ve heard before. Whether Yebba is delivering softened background vocals that compliment the lead artist or as a vibrant lead on Mark Ronson’s Late Night Feelings, Yebba finds ways to distinguish herself from others — further asking the light to center on her presence in front of, and behind, the microphone. She makes it apparent on Dawn as she paints her slate with the influence of sounds from the vast array of genres of her past; she hits the nail more often than not.
Yebba heightens her emotions to give each song brevity — this allows the music to stay direct for better playback. She lets the influence guide the pen, letting loose unique themes like emotional growth. In 2017, a week after Yebba released her first single, her mother, unfortunately, passed after struggling with depression. It’s been a driving force behind Yebba’s fearlessness in her vocal performances, but it has been a hindrance as it seems like she is always performing in front of a silhouette of her mother.
Yebba opens Dawn with a plea to herself — how many more years? She is continuously distraught that she hasn’t been able to keep happy memories without leading toward tears of sadness that constantly blinds her future. It could come from some hesitancy that guides any hiccups from grasping your emotions tightly, which shows on each song. But on “How Many More Years,” it is something else. Listening to Yebba’s soft and broken vocals gives us a sense that she grasps her emotions firmly, delivering them in doses to keep us invested. She does so without draining us to our core, though “October Sky” came close.
As one of the most beautifully captivating and tragic songs on Dawn, “October Sky” takes us through a recurring and happy memory she has of her mom. As it is with most of the album, Yebba adopts lingering feelings and notions about her heartbreak, despite knowing this is the start of something great. She embraces her moment and finds ways to show us her vulnerable side.
Yebba lets her voice guide us through her emotions, providing a deep meaning beneath, a sometimes thin, surface. Usually, it starts to be the case on Dawn, as some of the production weaves thin simplicities within the percussion. It initially feels off-putting since Yebba received help from producers like Kaytranada, the Picard Brothers, and Mark Ronson, but the small details make up for it. Despite being known for their electric percussion, it’s one of the weaker components in the album; however, it never gets to a point where it makes the whole production yawn-inducing.
Fortunately, Yebba and her co-producers start world-building on top of the songs, which deliver some glamorous standouts like “Boomerang.” It takes influence from the roots of old-country and folk — breaking apart styles derivative of cowboy-western country dinghies, roots rock, and an effervescently soulful vocal performance, “Boomerang” elevates into it. Similar to “Boomerang,” Yebba brings a similar cadence on “Louie Bag” featuring Smino.
Subtly, “Louie Bag” is like many songs on Dawn, wherein the influence comes from subsections of the musical south, from Hip-Hop to Folk-Country. “Louie Bag” has string and piano key arrangements focusing on Yebba’s verses, while the percussion emboldens a simple hip-hop beat, allowing for a smooth blend in this ode to their youths in their respective cities. It creates a smooth unification of the two, as we hear them performing while in their A-Game. In the song, They burn bridges that have been vandalized on each journey to succeed in their work. Smino’s verse contains more gravitas, as opposed to A$AP Rocky — the other featured rapper. His presence on “Far Away” is from someone standing afar from the living room window.
Fortunately, through captivating performances, Yebba is placing us in her shoes. Most times, you’re taken through the wringer as she lays out what passes her subconscious in these times. And intermittently, with songs like “Louie Bag” and “Far Away,” Yebba distinguishes herself in pop, barely straying from the overall construct of the sound. It’s reflective of Yebba’s trajectory as an artist, with Dawn acting as a stepping stone in showing us her true self. She assimilates into these different types of production that I’m wondering what’s in store as she continues to explore and grow as an artist. If you’re into an enjoyably emotional listen, you’ll leave this album wanting more of Yebba soon.