A SNL performance of “No Drugs” alongside Chance the Rapper and John Legend in 2016 was the first match struck for YEBBA after which Sam Smith snatched her up for a feature on his 2017 album The Thrill Of It.
Cut to 2020 and she’s scooped a Grammy for her PJ Morton collab on “How Deep Is Your Love, penned a song alongside Ed Sheeran, and performed a sunset slot beside Mark Ronson at Glastonbury Festival.
But despite the deluge of collaborations which have catapulted her into the roller-coaster industry, it’s her solo stuff which is the real game changer here.
YEBBA is Abbey Smith, whose reflective moniker was a nickname from her late mother. She’s what you might call a neo-gospel queen. Arkansas-born, Brooklyn-hailing, she’s a small-town girl with a big, big voice and it’s taking her places. Fast.
From the mesmerising percussive-bass ambience of her debut single “Evergreen”, which went inappropriately unheeded at the time of its release, to the shiveringly soulful “My Mind” – she strikes hard with raw, authentic performance and fragile lyricism.
Her range nimbly moves from liquid honey lows through to roaring choral breaks, her Gospel roots unveiling themselves loud and proud. Her latest is “Distance” – the first track off her imminent debut album, and a languid jazzy offering which tracks the conclusion of a relationship with unparalleled grace and silky dexterity. It’s as striking as it is touching.
Now we’re waiting on the album, YEBBA.