INEZ’s Voicemails and Conversations

She’s A Fire Shorty

And fire is exactly what she brings us on Voicemails and Conversations (V&C). The debut album from INEZ is a collection of her thoughts and experiences during the formative years of learning and loving while Black. She approaches full grown womanhood with the swagger of an 8 foot tall center stepping into a streetball pick up. INEZ is confident and steady. She owns her vulnerabilities and talents with grace.

Get It Off Your Chest is a head knocking warm-up of passes and dribbles that announce INEZ’s arrival in the game. The strike comes in her line “Ima love hard as shit even if that means I gotta love alone.” Dizzied by the shifting motifs of basketball and weather? Good. You’ll need to bring more than one attention channel to this album. Use my back and forth to help you prepare. 

Just when Celebrate and Clouds have convinced you that INEZ is indeed the shot-blocking rebounder you know a great center should be, the hilarious and sister tight friendship between her and the iconic Clara Kent propels you back to space and reminds you that the thunder is coming. You prepare yourself. You know this album is about to Lisa-Leslie-dunk and bring through a new era of women in R&B. You wait for it as you listen to something about a teddy bear in the delightful outtake that punctuates Clouds and then INEZ elegantly slides back court and takes point guard stance with Show Me. I’ll help you process here. Just hit me up, we can listen together.

Her gorgeously produced snaps serve as question marks opening this track with every love’s most pertinent inquiries: “Can you be consistent? Can you be a real one for me?” It is easy to get lost in the passes back and forth between a power vocal track and a celestial harmonizing one. The song pulls all these strands together in a bow that sounds like a didgeridoo and a funk bass joined a soprano choir for a jam session. She carries us through the song with her grill clipped ice chipped “uh” vocal to let us know this is still her and drops us off somewhere along the Brazilian coast for a salute to the diaspora that birthed her. Pardon Me welcomes us with a pulsating samba jazz that rolls up on us and you understand her thunder as you find yourself humming dun dun – dun dun da da da da da da. While this song has us enjoying a spicy sweet aluá waiting for a storm to pass on a beach somewhere in Salvador, we can’t forget that the point guard and center in her are still just getting started and that dunk is coming. 

But for now we enjoy our cocktails and wind our way through a lovely array of musings on love and, not so love. We see that lightning spark in a spellbinding flute solo by Shanyse “MajikStrick” Strickland on Hide and Seek and the raw portraiture of Please as it closes INEZ’s voice around us completely free of any layering.  You keeping up, right? You good with the storm…and the basketball…and the Salvador, Bahia…? Ok cool. I’m glad we got on the same page. So we sip, consider Insecurity and we wait and listen thinking “is she actually giggling” when she proclaims “I know I’m a FireShorty” and then boom

INEZ teleports us back to her court and we are just in time for not one, not two, but three gravity defying dunks in her songs Queen, IDNY, and Stay With Me… Across these three songs she explains the most important Black love and womanhood lessons we have:

A-Love the reflection of yourself you see when you shine on other women. Featuring QueTheGuitarist, Queen is the song you want to hear right now. Bye-bye-see you when you get back.
Mmmhmm. You’re welcome.
B-Love yourself for your future self by dismissing anyone who would steal your joy – Simone Davis and Clara Kent join her for this anthem and its declaration:
Get the hell up out my way.
I’m moving on to better days.”
And C-Feel free to fall in love with the one who loves you, stays when you ask, and gives you honesty no matter how difficult, no matter how many walls, no matter how long it takes – take your time.

Our tour of V&C has now joined us to the INEZ superbolt that comes through the heavens down through cumulus and cirrus clouds across oceans of pain and survival and history and here and now. When she dunks it is the meeting of lightning and thunder. We hear her and we know this is actually the court of a queen whose throne sits alongside legions of others.

Somewhere in knowing this young woman through her album, I learned about her light, her sound, her virtuoso ability to do everything on her album herself which is surpassed only by her love for the talented people in her life. That love forces them into the light with her and lets us know that being able to do something all yourself is only possible because of what others do for and with you. It is a paradox. It is a mystery. It is a blessing. And it is surely what we needed to usher in the #YearOfTheShorties. Keep listening. Mary’s girl is pulling up.

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