Shaping a song with your voice isn’t difficult if you’ve got the dynamic lead vocal ayoka does, and in her latest single “Weekend,” there’s no question whether or not this singer can do anything she wants with little external assistance. Against a backdrop that starts off meanderingly and quickly becomes ominous with the first verse, ayoka’s pipes get a shot at demonstrating how melodic they can be in relatively aggressive circumstances – and her performance doesn’t disappoint. Adept at rapping as well as singing, this is an instance in which her slick flow rules the spotlight and inevitably our hearts as well. 

The bass here is pretty indulgent, but only in spots where it makes sense to back up the percussion with something fat and texturally lush. There’s an argument to be made that a lot of other singers would have shrunk from the challenge of making such a nocturnal groove into an agreeable, somewhat clubby slow jam, but I’m getting nothing but swagger from ayoka here. Her confidence is infectious and breaks up some of the eeriest moments this melodic fabric produces with points of light strong enough to hold our attention, and even push us a little closer to the edge of our seats. 

I would’ve liked a little less from beat near the outro, but I can also understand the angle ayoka was going with in this single. Rather than releasing all of the tension ahead of the conclusion, she wants to rev up the engine just a little harder before hitting the brakes as hard as she can. It’s provocative and somewhat anti-cathartic, which is a far cry from the rather predictable finish some of the similarly stylized content I’ve been reviewing this summer has offered. This music is moody, and it’s a reflection of the versatility its creator brings to the table. 

This rhythm is swarthier than it ever needed to be, and I think this was necessary only to allow for ayoka’s verses to feel more sensuous than self-conscious. She wants to take her time hashing out the point in this song, and by letting her words flow with a deliberately stripped-down beat, there’s never any question as to who is in charge of the groove. Her rapping is the source of the pressure in this mix, leaving any and all synthetic adornments on the sidelines of the studio where they belonged in the first place. 

Ayoka continues to impress critics and fans with her stylish take on hybrid hip-hop and pop in “Weekend.” Progressive R&B movement has started to take a more surreal bend. Cookie-cutter arrangements and pretentious metaphors aren’t in her weapons wheel; when this player wants to get something out to her audience, she’ll use whatever compositional techniques fit the unique sentiments she’s trying to convey. To me, ayoka is on another level than the majority of her peers are, and this recent output only solidifies my opinion. 

Garth Thomas