Why Yebba is the voice you need to know right now

Why Yebba is the voice you need to know right now

Words by Tammy Walters

“Hey Memphis, Yebba and Project Pat are on CLB” a billboard displayed high over the Memphis cityscape cryptically announced. 

It didn’t take Drake fans long to decode this; CLB being the abbreviation to the highly anticipated sixth studio album, Certified Lover Boy, for the Canadian rapper which dropped Friday 3 September. The excitement, therein, laid in the feature artist announcements.

While Project Pat is a known name in the Memphis ring, Yebba is a name that needs to be on the lips of listeners across the globe as an acclaimed musician, master collaborator, and RnB revivalist. 

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The 26 year old from West Memphis, Abigail Elizabeth Smith, better known by stage name, Yebba, first became known for providing backing vocals on the now revered Chance the Rapper SNL performance of ‘Same Drugs’ in 2016.

It was a quick trajectory for Yebba, releasing her debut single ‘Evergreen’ the following year to great praise as shoulder rubbing, and vocal sharing, with big industry names became a regular occurrence. Lending her soulful soaring sound to A Tribe Called Quest, Sam Smith, Stormzy, Robert Glasper, Ed Sheeran and Lucky Daye as album features, and bringing her pipes to the stage with Mumford and Sons, Jess Glynne and Michael Kiwanuka, Yebba has become a collaborative connoisseur.

These musical partnerships have rightfully made Yebba a Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter, receiving the Recording Academy acknowledgement for Best Traditional RnB Performance in 2018 for the PJ Morton cover of Bee Gees classic, ‘How Deep Is Your Love’. In 2020, she followed on with a nomination in the same category for her own single, ‘Distance’. 

The alliance arm of Yebba has even rolled into the credits, with the artist given songwriting nods on Basstracks’ 2018 number ‘Improv #2 (Intro)’ and Rudimental’s hit ‘Leave It For Tomorrow’.

If that’s not enough to make the sale, perhaps one of the greatest producers of the 2000s will. A Producer of the Year Grammy winner who has worked with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Adele, and Lady Gaga, and the man responsible for ‘Uptown Funk’, ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’ and ‘Late Night Feelings’, Mark Ronson is in tight cahoots with the West Memphis juggernaut. Yebba’s name was scattered across Ronson’s 2019 album, Late Night Feelings, and now the two are back together for Yebba’s debut album, DAWN.

With singles ‘Boomerang’, ‘Louie Bag (feat. Smino), ‘October Sky’ and the aforementioned ‘Distance’ already whipping through the sonic-sky, the first full-length album is due for release this week. 

It’s an exciting time for the powerhouse, but DAWN has a much more tragic connection, forged from the grief of losing her mother to suicide in 2016. Leaning into the derived context of her first original song ‘My Mind’, which touched on mental health, DAWN is a documentation of the artist’s grieving period and the associated snowballing trauma in the most intimate and raw form. Entrusting Ronson to capture this deep-seated narrative, the two convey loss through delicate colours created within the walls of New York’s Electric Lady Studios. 

Bringing her tale full circle, the album is a concoction of collaboration, with the songstress recruiting Andrew Wyatt (Miike Snow) to assist with the production portion, and Questlove, the Roots, A$AP Rocky, Kaytrananda, Pino Palladino, Smino, James Francies, Smokey Hormel and many more in the musical chairs.

Yebba’s compelling story, DAWN is out Friday 10 September via RCA Records.