Kehlani’s “While We Wait” mixtape is a concise, calming body of work that stands as an improvement from her disappointing debut album “SweetSexySavage.”
Kehlani has been hyped as the next big thing among R&B circles ever since her “You Should Be Here” mixtape reached critical acclaim in 2015. The release of her first studio album in 2017 was a bit of a letdown after two strong mixtapes and a series of good features. The disappointment of “SweetSexySavage” lessened the overall anticipation for “While We Wait,” which might have ended up helping this flowery album about self-love and worth.
The relaxing vibe of the album is made known immediately from the sounds of waves washing over a beach on the opening track “Footsteps.” This song’s message is something that almost everyone can relate to as Kehlani and Musiq Soulchild speak on a relationship that never fully came to a peak or true end. These themes bleed over into “Too Deep,” a song featuring Kehlani singing about the issues with growing emotionally attached in a friends-with-benefits relationship. Kehlani is truly a modern poet with her ability to use her romantic past to uplift and inspire her listeners.
“Nunya” featuring Dom Kennedy is a song that speaks to anyone who values privacy in this age of daily Insta stories. Dom’s verse acts as a back-and-forth with Kehlani as he replies to her saying that her new relationship is none of his business. Their voices meld incredibly well with Hit-Boy’s production in a way that lyrically tells a dynamic story.
Kehlani keeps up these themes of valuing oneself and not changing for a man on “Morning Glory.” This is a cute and upbeat track featuring a rap verse by Kehlani that speaks to those who have felt anxious when revealing the less glam version of themselves to their partner. Kehlani uplifts and tells the listener that if that man cannot handle taking off the nails and hair, they do not deserve them.
The song “Feels” is, as one might expect from the title, about the feelings one gains in a relationship whether or not they asked for them. This song is maintaining the theme and sound of the album, but no ground is broken.
“Nights Like This” is one of the best songs from Kehlani’s growing discography and a true standout on this mixtape. This bisexual anthem has Kehlani singing about the regret she feels after allowing herself to get crushed by the girl who she gave her heart. This is complimented nicely with Ty Dolla $ign’s verse where he is also speaking on the hurt left behind from a dishonest lover.
Role playing game, or “RPG,” is a crisp, chill track featuring a fitting verse from 6lack. This is a track that shows Kehlani’s emotional maturity as it has her begging her lover to not just say they love her but show it. The theme of feeling insecure in a relationship and not receiving the affection one desires is an incredibly real emotion portrayed quite effectively in this track.
“Butterfly” is the oddest track on “While We Wait” and stands out for Kehlani as a small step in a different sonic direction. The production vibe is maintained on this track as she sings ethereally about the beauty of starting a relationship and comparing it to a butterfly. Listening to this track is an event with stems that will go unnoticed until around the twelfth listen.
SuperDuperBrick’s production on “Love Language” is truly the star of the show. Kehlani sings playfully over the catchy beat about wanting to better understand the love language of her partner. “Love Language” is the song on “While We Wait” that best embodies the word “bop.”
“While We Wait” is a celebration of oneself, and that is closed perfectly with “Love Language.” Kehlani’s main issue on “SweetSexySavage” was length, and that is solved with this 31-minute mixtape of zero filler. “While We Wait” is a musical reminder that Kehlani is a young artist who is growing and continuing to learn about herself and the world around her.
photo courtesy Pitchfork