Known for his work with the producer Woesum, Organ Tapes, and the Bala Club label/crew, Yayoyanoh’s self-titled debut full-length is as worldly and cosmopolitan as it is personal and introspective. Born in Mogadishu and currently residing in London, the vocalist/producer spent part of his youth in Canada and Uganda. In the mid-2000s, he came to the UK, experimenting with beatmaking while absorbing subgenres like grime and UK funky. Today, his own music takes these various cultural touchpoints and melds them with hip-hop, R&B, and Afrobeat to create a dreamy, singular sound.
The album opens with “One 4 Me,” a brief but stunning seductive display. With its relaxed groove and reverb-washed percussion, the production is subtle, while the chants of “You’re the one for me…I need you, I feel you” subvert the music’s restraint in favor of wanton indulgence. “Lonely Bird” treats us to the album’s first 180-degree pivot in tone and energy. A bright and anthemic dance cut, it’s still marked by Yayoyanoh’s low-key vocal delivery, but the production around him is lively and shimmering. “Potion” evolves out of a cloud of hazy synth sounds before dropping into a relentless Afrobeat rhythm that propels his sensual vocal delivery.
With production from Woesum, Whitearmor, Oozini, Gud, Dinamarca, 106mido, Sebastian Ruslan, and Jade Statues, Yayoyanoh is at its heart driven by the relentless, syncopated rhythm of Afrobeat. The fact that this rhythm can take up so much space on the album and still sound fresh when filtered through various producers’s sounds and approaches is a testament to Afrobeat’s mutability and adaptability. The album also offers delightful stylistic curveballs like the atmospheric 2-step of “Sad Summer,” a standout cut that sounds like Vistoso Bosses combined with ‘80s city pop. “Bad Things” is a harrowing and raw account of a relationship that has collapsed. Over a mid-tempo hip-hop groove with a dark, enveloping synth bass, Yayoyanoh snipes at a lover determined to “turn the positive (in)to sad things.”
While much of Yayoyanoh is dark, the album’s moodier songs are contrasted beautifully with breezy tunes like “Ride For U,” the bittersweet soul cut “Pick U Up At Work,” and the Caribbean-flavored “DLG.” Like a lot of the best popular music being made today, Yayoyanoh traverses genres, touching on the sound of multiple locales while conjuring complex and often contradictory moods all at once.