In March 2019, Tay Iwar’s debut album, Gemini, arrived and it felt like a huge moment for him and anyone remotely interested in his music. After years of being underground, polishing his craft and growing as the years went on, he finally delivered a masterpiece, making good on the immense promise that he showed. While there were no glaring standouts on the album, cuts like “SATISFIED”, “SPACE”, “MONICA” caught on, perfectly displaying Tay’s delicate take on R&B.
Before Gemini’s arrival, Tay was steadily improving his craft, biding time before his big moment came. In 2014, he released his debut project, Passport, a collection of slightly crude R&B numbers mainly composedly by his lonesome and conveyed in juvenile writing. In Tay’s defence, he was only 16 at the time of release and regardless of the tape’s unrefined nature, it was glaring the only way for Tay was up. When his sophomore tape arrived in 2016, Tay sounded different – mature and confident. Aptly titled Renascentia (which translates to Rebirth in Latin), the project was Tay’s re-introduction. After his promising attempt on Passport, Renascentia unfurled a reborn artist, firmly placing him as a virtuoso solely playing by his own rules.
The syrupy opener, “Optimum Esse”, which contextually translates to “Be the best you can be”, sonically lays down the marker for the entire project. It’s awash in slinky 808s and a dark piano loop. Thematically, Tay glosses over several topics, delivering discursive and somewhat introspective lyrics. On the opening lines, he confidently renders vatic lyrics: “You should let me know by now / Are you with it or are you down? / I’m headed to for the very top / I’m trying to make it pop right now whether you like it or not / Bantu to the MoMA, one, two, three years that’s my countdown,” which unsurprisingly came into fruition. He then goes on to deliver verses that depict an artist who possesses immense confidence and self-awareness.
Over Tay’s career, he has never been hesitant to address his amatory desires, carefully weaving sultry verses in his usual gossamer R&B style. On his first tape, tracks like “Lust or Love” and “Spiritual” explore these desires. “Fores” on Renascentia further these explorations as he mingles the exquisite with the sensual. He lustfully yearns for another as he uses his silken falsetto to sing lines like “I wanna love you behind closed doors / It’s tonight, get it right / and I won’t stop until we’re satisfied”. The love-making-ode “Equestrian Love”, built on familiar drum patterns and shakers, doubles down on these explorations. Here, he unabashedly seeks intense sex, one that’s devoid of shame or inhibition.
The Abuja-native is not just passionate about coital intimacy. He also seeks other forms of intimacy on tracks like “Nsomnia” and “Ennnd (Deepconnection)”. On the latter, he sings about the mundane: “Obviously I want to be the one in all your fantasies / Said it feels like a deep connection / Three-hour conversations / I never felt like this I want to be the one in all your fantasies,” clearly showing that Tay also seeks gentle, blissful love. While he might quip on and on about “his junk being extraterrestrial”, singing about all the sexual things he’ll like to do with his object of affection, he also wants to do the seemingly banal things.
On the project’s centerpiece, “Elysium”, Tay sings about a burning hollow he can’t seem to fill. His opening lines, “The pit in my soul, gets deeper with every passing second / The tears all fall, simultaneously / Increasing the depths of my pain”, paint a vivid picture of his state of mind. There’s a sense that Tay’s constant search for love and intimacy is a result of “the pit in his soul”. He looks to fill this hollow with whatever with the hopes that it’ll ease his pain. Suté Iwar, Tay’s brother and fellow Bantu collective member, makes the project’s only guest appearance here, delivering a compelling and perfectly complementing verse.
Renascentia is Tay’s renaissance of sorts. The project strips away some of the clumsy instrumentation that burdened his debut, leaving ample room for Tay’s soothing, shiny vocals to breathe. Also, while he maintains most of the themes from his earlier work, his stark songwriting and compositional tenacity convey his messages in a much cleaner and enjoyable way, highlighting just how much he grew in the period between both releases. With this project, the then 18-year-old singer showed just how limitless his potential was, displaying incredible musicianship and maturity.