in Review

KeiyaA – Forever, Ya Girl

I kept waiting around for a great R&B album to come out this year, and it never really quite happened. Though, it’s not a genre I keep that strict of tabs on, so maybe there was something I missed that I’ll be grooving to in a year or two. But even if that is the case, I’m guessing I’ll probably be looking forward to future releases by KeiyaA in a year or two, since this homespun debut is certainly something striking. I’m not sure if it quite fits the bill of what I was looking for in a great modern R&B album this year, but considering how its unusualness kept me constantly coming back for more, it’s not far off.

I suppose Forever, Ya Girl shares some similarities with an album from last year that had a similar effect on me — Solange’s When I Get Home — but in a way that’s more off the radar of mainstream music. This definitely has the feel of a “bedroom album”, as its scope is very insular, and KeiyaA mostly recorded all of the instruments and vocals herself on her home set-up. None of the songs are particularly long, and typically have a kind of kaleidoscopic sound to them, weaving in different layered vocals and eery keyboard lines over spare pulsating beats. It rides the line between modern soul and more experimental music, but KeiyaA’s ear for melody keeps things from ever feeling too distancing or esoteric.

It’s both a little surprising and kinda makes sense that KeiyaA came from the same Chicago music scene that birthed the likes of Chance The Rapper, Noname, and Jamila Woods. It makes sense because she has the same kind of social consciousness paired with a mixture of optimism and stark reality. But it’s also a little surprising because her songs don’t quite pop the way these artists’ songs do, as she’s clearly more interested in exploring the space between her songs than crafting a piano-driven lowkey anthem. It’s a sound that you have to be in a certain kind of chilled-out mood for, but has so many interesting little things going on that it’s hard to imagine these aren’t the only captivating sounds KeiyaA will be concocting in the near future.

Favorite Tracks: “Rectifiya”, “Do Yourself A Favor”, “Nu World Burdens”