One of the brightest spirits in today’s R&B scene has returned with yet another project, showcasing her emotionally aware lyricism and quality production.
Coming off of 2017’s debut full-length release “SweetSexySavage,” Kehlani chose to put out a mixtape with only nine songs in anticipation of her long-awaited second album, which has yet to acquire an official release date. As a proud mom-to-be, the title of this latest release–”While We Wait”–coincides perfectly to this monumental time in her life. The title seemingly serves as an allude to not only her upcoming second album, but her pregnancy as well.
If “SweetSexySavage” serves as a hard-hitting and attitude-serving body of work, “While We Wait” could be perceived as a more calming and communicative version of the songstress. More than any other collection of songs she’s dropped in her ever-growing career, “While We Wait” demonstrates her prowess as a songwriter.
Kehlani joins forces with producer heavyweights Boi-1da, Hit-Boy and The Rascals to list a few. Having many distinguished and hitmaking producers is one thing, but the aspect of this mixtape that radiates most is her unapologetic way of conveying her own truths. Kehlani’s attitude throughout her career has always been the same — it is all about the music and the message behind it.
“Footsteps” represents a full circle moment in Kehlani’s journey as an artist. After referring to and sampling Musiq Soulchild in her first two mixtapes, Kehlani is now singing alongside one of her biggest inspirations in this opening track. The emotions revolving around having to leave a relationship even when you don’t want to are evident in the lyrics, “And when I walked away/I left footsteps in the mud so you can follow me.” The soothing, neo-soul sound complements both of their voices effortlessly and proves itself as a standout collaboration.
Despite the fact that “Nights Like This”, featuring Ty Dolla $ign, has the production of a modern R&B record, it is the most pop-sounding track on this heavily R&B project. The layered vocals and the infectious hook repeated throughout the track are very catchy and enjoyable to listen to. As a vocalist, this serves as one of her most standout performances and exhibits her beautiful range in the best light. It was a smart call to make for the first single.
Every body of work an artist puts out almost always involves of a tell-off song. Whether it’s toward previous relationships or critics, these types of songs resonate with everyone at some point in their life. “Nunya”, featuring Dom Kennedy, chronicles the common situation of an insecure ex who finds it difficult to let the past go. The message of the song is for these people to step aside and mind their own business. The uneventful feature wasn’t needed, but the song is definitely single-worthy as it is catchy and very playful.
Throughout Kehlani’s discography, the 90’s R&B style has been embedded in a lot of her music. The self-assured “Morning Glory” pays homage to one of music’s biggest selling girl groups — TLC. Lyrics like “I know I’m fine, I don’t need an outer confirmation from a man” are reminiscent of the female empowerment T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli always expressed. Even the instrumental that kicks off the song is very similar to the music behind the classic anthem, “Waterfalls.” More notably, Kehlani honors Left Eye toward the ending rap section through her recognizable cadence and energy, which always calls for a great moment.
In the current musical landscape of streaming and single-driven markets, it is not as common for artists these days to strive for cohesive bodies of work. However, there are artists like Kehlani who continue to spread the importance of taking listeners through the journey of sincere, autobiographical compositions.
“While We Wait” validates how Kehlani displays immense growth as an artist. It’s refreshing to see an artist who not only honors legends that burst onto the stage before her, but creates her own lane and has their authenticity at the forefront. We can’t wait for what she has in store for us in her next musical installment.Rylee Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @Nevada_Sagebrush.