Joey LaBeija - Tears In My Hennessy

  • A personal breakup story told over slamming experimental club beats.
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  • "I'm as New York as it gets," Joey LaBeija declared in a recent interview with The Fader. As a regular DJ in New York's queer scene and a member of one of its most revered voguing houses, LaBeija, the Bronx native feels inseparable from the city he calls home. Like his breakneck sets, his new album, Tears In My Hennessy, rattles through an array of styles but keeps the mood somber, chronicling a difficult breakup with newly prominent vocals and lyrics. LaBeija lays himself bare across the LP's nine tracks. "Dial Up Affection" details the difficulties of maintaining a relationship over the internet. "All I hear is static / We can't find a good connection," he sings in a robotic, pitched-up voice. "Internal server error / Baby what's with all the tension?" The album's title track opens with a mantra-like repetition of, "I don't wanna cry, no more tears in my Hennessy," the sound of LaBeija trying to shake himself out of heartbreak but ultimately being unable to do so. The vocal effects feel like a suit of armour, another barrier between the rawness of the situation and himself. LaBeija has said that the album is partly inspired by the "sad dance music" of Robyn and Róisín Murphy. He channels their pop sensibilities, if not their sleek sophistication. Each track is constructed around singalong hooks—some of which land better than others—and a traditional verse-chorus structure, contrasting with the sprawling soundscapes of his earlier work. The most successful pop moment comes when LaBeija steps away from the mic, deferring to fellow Puerto Rican-Americans Nina Sky (the duo behind the 2004 mega-hit "Move Ya Body"). Pairing an elegant, floaty instrumental with their immaculate vocals, the track wanders into pristine alt-R&B. These accessible pop compositions, and LaBeija's emotional vulnerability, are set against tough-as-nails production. Whether deploying the propulsive syncopated kicks of ballroom or rat-a-tat triplet trap hi-hats, each percussive element resonates with coldness. LaBeija's sonic palette is varied yet focused, the jungle-esque breaks of "Charity" landing heavily without feeling lumpen, each snare snapping with purpose. LaBeija treats his own voice as both a textural element and focal point, placing it amidst icy synthesizers for the album's darkest moment: "The way you fuck me feels like charity," he intones. LaBeija might be spilling his guts out, but he's doing so over battle-hardened beats.
  • Tracklist
      01. Ride 02. Dial Up Affection 03. Simulated Love 04. Tears In My Hennessy 05. Charity 06. Gaze Of Vacancy 07. Wait 08. Dry Your Eyes 09. Animosity