For anyone who hasn’t heard of R-Kay, I want to make something very clear – he’s one of the best musicians of this country. I’ve been a fan of his for a few years now through his expansive, soulful and textured sound, as well as his active contributions with some of the most talented and exciting artists from the UK. On the one hand, we can talk about his incredible production, the beats he’s able to create, to his incredibly emotive and stunning piano melodies that land like honey on toast. This is the R-Kay I became familiar with, and oh my… his debut album Ivory has shattered all my expectations with a masterful, soulful, intricate and beautiful body of work that evokes both a sense of nostalgia and an excitement for the future. Things feel like they are in a better place, and R-Kay’s ability to transcend that in his music is genuinely moving.
It’s the almost poetic sound on tracks like “Peace of Mind” with subdued yet poignant vocals from Liz Lubega and the classy, sophisticated charm of “Clockwork” featuring the amazing Suelily are examples of his genius. As I’m writing this, I’m reliving that beat and melody switch. The groove of “Can’t Let Go” featuring the enigmatic and always inspiring Scott Xylo and the mystical vocal aura of Dani Sofiya, is quite simply flawless. The bass on the beats, coupled with the mystical synths and the poignant piano melody, this track is the definition of perfect to me. The smooth R&B on “Grey Area” featuring Boadi is incredible too, while the darker and more urgent “Not Afraid” is one of the more dynamic moments on the album. “Preacher Man” featuring Moses Day, Ste Sinclair, Petra Luke and Angel Silvera is spiritual in its tone and message, with the subtle yet groove breakdown of that track being so great. The track that surprised me the most however, is the unique and colourful “Reunion” featuring Mills. Dynamic jazz rhythms start the track off, with horns and wind instruments kicking it off, before it takes a turn into ethereal electronic music. That transition, with the drums and subtle horns kicking in sounds crazy to me, with the subtle guitar-leads giving this track a subtle yet gorgeous groove. The synth leads create an atmospheric tone, with string melodies playing over the phenomenal beats and grooves. “The Escape” featuring GeeFree, Ayeisha Raquel and Lex Amor is potent and absolutely stunning, while “Nostalgia” featuring Ephemeral is a dynamic yet peaceful way to close this album out. There’s obviously more I can talk about, but I think you get the idea about how I feel about this album.
R-Kay’s Ivory is black excellence personified. Classy, sophisticated and effortlessly soulful, he has released a timeless body of work that showcases his talents effortlessly over 14 stunning tracks. Ivory might go down as one of the best releases of this year, and one that will be relevant for years to come. So go support and show love!