The New Respects Celebrate Themselves with ‘YBA’

The trio explores what it means to affirm the past, present, and future of the Black American diaspora with their latest single.

The New Respects Celebrate Themselves with ‘YBA’ (The New Respects | Mary Caroline Russell)

Nashville’s very own The New Respects ain’t goin’ nowhere anytime soon — and their latest single “YBA” has only emphasized that truth. 

The band, consisting of three 90s kids — siblings Darius Fitzgerald and Zandy Mowry, along with their cousin Jasmine Mullen — told a specific story of belonging on their 2018 debut album “Before The Sun Goes Down.” 

Starting a band is a way of life for Nashville locals enamored by the city’s stimulating art atmosphere, and this is a piece of The New Respects’ legacy. The group formed in high school initially with four members — the trio plus Mowry’s sister Lexi Hill — and made music beyond their grade school days through a college dropout era before they were signed to a label. Now independent, they are composing their narrative. 

The New Respects have a repertoire of grooves about light, hope, and joy (“Hands Up,” “Freedom,” “Something To Believe In”). However, “YBA” is a direct emergence of the band’s commitment to “write songs only they can write,” giving them the unparalleled opportunity to center the assortment of experiences they own as Black people. It was this essential shift that would become most important in their storytelling. 

“YBA” paints a gorgeous portrait of a specific culture — the culture of The New Respects — over a three-minute sonic canvas, welcoming listeners into the notion of Black pride that resides at the root of Black joy. The song is a refreshing force capable of channeling the diversity of the young Black American diaspora.

“Young is a subjective term in the context of eternity,” Mowry said. “We’re calling ourselves young Black Americans age-wise, but it’s really an affirmation. We’re all young at heart, we all have this joy, we all look young since Black don’t crack, but more importantly, there is this resilience Black people carry that keeps us young.”

Mullen kicked off the “YBA” production process by recording the song’s hook via voice memo and sending it to her bandmates, who were immediately compelled to begin writing a love letter to their inner child, relatives, and for Mowry, to her one-year-old son. 

“We felt like we were outside of the stereotypical Black experience story,” Fitzgerald said. “Sonically, I was trying to reach the kids who grew up liking rock and stuff outside of what people label as ‘Black music,’ even though we know all music is Black music.”

As the single took shape with stacked vocals and bouncy percussion elements, the trio focused on infusing triumph into the song and speaks directly to, as Mullen put it, “not just the people we love, but the person we are” via plots of encouragement and excellence. 

“It would be easy to make it sound like a fight song, but I didn’t want it to feel like a fight song,” Fitzgerald said. “I wanted it to encapsulate the joy and levity we have with each other and within our community.”

Stripped of poetic prose and likened to James Brown’s 1968 “I’m Black and I’m Proud,” “YBA” was intended to be comfortably put into the mouths of young Black Americans.

“What we say and sing are the things we align to,” Mullen said. “The song has made me think about how the words I put in my mouth are really important and it’s been a beautiful thing to sing over my own self.” 

Last month, The New Respects released the acoustic version of the single “so the words would really sink in,” as Mullen remarked on Instagram. They recognize the rawness that oozes out of acoustic renditions, and were particularly mindful of listeners’ different musical interests in offering varying textures to engage with the essence of “YBA.”

With the double release of “YBA,” the band allows the song to breathe. Exchanging pumped-up energy for a morning tea brew breeze, the acoustic version is like a warm hug — especially when each member vocally slow dances across the record with intimacy — making it personal to the listener.

“We believe in what we’re saying so much that we’re willing to give people different opportunities to encounter the message,” Mowry said.

“YBA” reminds young Black Americans to embrace their culture and history by any means necessary. It also marks a special chapter for The New Respects as they continue exploring this theme within their craft.

“Our music has always been for everybody, but now we’re doing something we’ve never done before as a band in talking to a specific group of people,” Fitzgerald said. “‘YBA’ is currently where we are, but we’re tightening up our net to communicate with people in telling the story of how we got here.”

Trinity Alicia (she/her/hers) is a Boston-based journalist. Follow her on X: @trinityaliciaa.

Edited by Nykeya Woods

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