Sometimes the deadliest punches can be the swift, light ones that hit you when you least expect them. This applies as much to the boxing ring as it does both Yaya Bey’s latest EP, and the breakup that led to its creation.
Following up last years Madison Tapes comes an accidental project appearing after said breakup and the inducing aches that tag alongside. In its handful of tracks, Bey houses a far-reaching depth much lengthier releases struggle to aim for.
Describing The Things I Can’t Take With Me as a “journey into self”, the key to unlocking this gleaming majesty radiating within doesn't rely upon a degree of forced self-awareness . On its shimmering surface, Bey creates a spacious environment for impact to hit, but to make use of these moments, utilising that emotional breathing room and understanding Bey’s point of view, the want of similar reflection is handy.
Stepping in to play amongst the cool R&B shuffles and delicately layered instrumentation comes that promised reflection of self - a study into how our lives, from the moment we’re born, whilst we grow, and until we die have an impact.
However, in its barest form, Things I Can’t is a collection of vignettes that piece together to service that bigger picture. Each digging deeper, when taking a peek at what they individually represent allows for the reserved vocals, minimum instrumentation and diverging pathways to manifest.
In a sepia-toned flashback, “The Root Of A Thing” finds Bey getting into her early years. Uncovering where childhood entwines with the relationships we form, and ultimately how, or why, they dissipate; “But I got my walls up / I really really wanna love you” she yearns in its chorus, a striking moment there’s no ducking or diving away from.
“September 13th” concerns the date of realisation that the cataclysmic relationship she’d put so much effort and energy into was truly over. As the preceding events unfold, in its minimalist groove, the crowning moment comes in Bey’s confessional “loving you baby been gruesome”, a no-way-back epiphany if ever there was one.
As “We’ll skate soon”, and its soft dripping notes meticulously fall, Bey hits the reasoning stage, or rather, reasoning with herself that, now things are over, the next steps are “just another walk in the park”.
Continuing this trend, “You up?” finds the tides turning, with the engaging carnality that creeps into heartbreak. Either reflecting upon those honeymoon moments or knowing the fought for freedom opens up the gates for life to be lived, which comes more pointedly on “fxck it then”. “Fuck being good / I’m a bad bitch” Bey declares backed by rapturing brass, embracing the highway ahead of empowerment and turning that unwiring of heartbreak and reflection into something forward-focused.
The deal is truly sealed on “industry love / a protection spell”, a two-song step that begins with R&B beats, before devolving into Bey’s closing statement, encouraged onward by a lone sliding guitar, of “not even you baby”. The journey is complete.
The Things I Can’t Take With Me could fall to its heavy burden, but the naturally effortless flow of smooth R&B and jazz tinges creates an atmosphere of befitting palatability. Certainly, a project created through such means as heartbreak and ensuring self-reflection is beholden to what it’s servicing - Bey. Its impact lies in the vastness, as Bey’s ratatat’s float off into the ether amongst the past, present and future breakups and breakdowns, and what’s taken, is in the mind of the beholder.