Album Review: Yebba Graces Us with Debut Album Dawn

Yebba © Ricky Alvarez
Yebba © Ricky Alvarez

Yebba releases her debut record five years after she became a Youtube sensation, and ‘Dawn’ exceeds every expectation. 

Listen: Dawn – Yebba

Yebba did it all backwards. A viral video, a Grammy win, and a coveted collaboration were tucked under her belt in only a few years. Her debut album comes this year. Dawn is named after Yebba’s mother. The record chronicles the last five years of Yebba’s life. But this is not a grief album. This record is purely Yebba, and in that way it is untouchable.

It’s clear that Yebba is a world class vocalist, though her power lies in her gift of communication. She pours her soul into each word, each run, each belt.

Take “October Sky,” for instance. She blends her alto whisper with a soprano serenade that pays tribute to childhood memories and adulthood grief. She desperately sings in the folk song, “But I’m missing my mama so I stand on the street and get high.” A new side of Yebba emerges on the R&B/rap track, “Louie Bag.” The song deals with the industry hounds that pressured Yebba after her mother’s death. She tells us, “Fuck the interviews to enterprise, I’d rather look into my mother’s eyes.”

Watch: “Louie Bag” – Yebba ft. Smino

We switch subject matter with the nostalgic plea that is “Distance.” The song is vocally flawless and arranged to perfection. Yebba weaves her web with an ease in communication most artists can only dream of.  The record is clean, well put together. Every song is wonderfully different, but they share one thing: they’re undeniably and distinctly Yebba.

I want to end with the album’s opener. I am a strict observer of order and album sequencing, but “How Many Years” is my exception to the rule. As she tells us in her NPR Tiny Desk Concert, “This is probably, I think, the only song lyrically that I feel fully encompasses my experience with grief… like the holding onto my mom, embodying what was lost and then kind of returning to my own perspective.” Her perspective is a special one. Her voice shimmers as she sings, “These are the moments that I’m with you. Under the pressure I’ll see it through.” Yebba faces grief head-on, with steady hands and a heavy heart. She promises to “live out the wonder way past the borderline.” As she shows us with this record, Yebba pays no attention to “borderlines.” Dawn is the product of time and a feat of strength.

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