Best New Music: CKay’s “you” Embodies The Sad Thrill of Toxic Relationships
Best New Music: CKay’s “you” Embodies The Sad Thrill of Toxic Relationships

Best New Music: CKay’s “you” Embodies The Sad Thrill of Toxic Relationships

A fine precursor to his forthcoming debut album, 'Sad Romance'

Last week, just before releasing “you”, CKay sent out a couple of tweets to “get things off [his] chest”. In one of his tweets, he spoke about creating a sound that birthed a new wave of Afrobeats alongside former Chocolate City labelmate Dice Ailes. For an artist who has preferred relative obscurity, that was a momentous statement for CKay who had announced his forthcoming ‘Sad Romance’ album shortly before that day. That placed his contributions in shifting the needle of Afropop under focus, and did so poignantly, and in the contentious language readily dissected by the online music community.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by 𝙗𝙛 💋 (@ckay_yo)

CKay’s fortunes have been ascendant and fast, but what has remained consistent is classifying his music as “emo afrobeats”. In the sea-evoking lulls of “you,” the signature flourishes of that sound (which is technically not a genre, regardless) are present. Produced by the South African Christer Kobedi, the distinct element of Amapiano forms the rocky base of the beat. However, unlike CKay’s previous single, “Watawi”, the new record’s affecting quality rests on other influences. A somber sax and violin runs through the bones of the production, its chill, oriental mood quite audible through the slow, melancholic production.

Going the other direction, CKay’s upbeat delivery skirts with the sort of playfulness often found in his lyrics. The title is apt in referring to the other, a lover whose presence and memories is lovingly recalled by Ckay. Even though he’s intent on basking in the moment, his lyrics shift at crucial points, as though by the wind, to reveal a deeper underlying tension. Early in the first verse he sings, “It’s yours, take it like it’s yours/ But we won’t take pictures, don’t let nobody see us”.

The world of modern relationships is infamously shrouded in secrecy and distrust, which is something CKay has explored since “dtf”—off his debut EP—and other early records. 2021’s ‘Boyfriend’ was however the most incisive of stories centred around toxic relationships, with songs like “Skoin Skoin” and “Mezebu” revealing an admirable grasp on popular culture lingua, as well as CKay’s lithe vocals which was a fitting medium for relaying such narratives. As a producer, it’s expected that CKay would expand his soundscape while circuiting his strongest themes, which is what “you” does perfectly.

The verses’ melancholy is watered in the sultry intent of the hook and chorus, where CKay lets all abandon fly and gets deeper into his feelings. “Baby I’m in love with you ooh/ Fuck you like I miss you, fuck you like I need you, like I’ll never see you again,” he sings on the hook, sounding like he really means every word. He gets back into the storytelling on verse two, flipping the mirror on himself when he sings, “See I’m crazy, you know this/ But you sef you chose this”. It takes two to tango, CKay seems to say, unveiling the layers to his persona’s own toxicity. 

With ‘Sad Romance’ expected sometime next month, CKay has laid down a fine precursor to his current phase. Some musicians tend to talk big and create small, but intentionality has always lied at the heart of everything CKay. His ear for beats, his pristine songwriting, the chilling quality of his vocals, the symmetry of his aesthetic with his sound—everything kind of suggests we’ll be getting an album that will be talked about for a long time. 

Listen to “you” here.