Rating: 4.5 stars
In her new rhythm and blues mixtape, “While We Wait,” Kehlani depicts events in her life, including her commentary on modern relationships. She attests that relationships require a lot of work and communication and sings about how they have to be nurtured in order to grow, and if they fail, the emotional fallout can last a long time.
This is her first full-length project since she released her first album, “SweetSexySavage,” in 2017. The title, “While We Wait,” and the nine songs on the mixtape can be seen as an ode to the daughter that Kehlani is expecting this month. Her songs are tightly written and feature simplistic production, allowing her vocals to shine.
“While We Wait” features a wide variety of relationships that showcase Kehlani’s emotional intelligence in her analysis of their events. In her opening song, “Footsteps,” she sings “But still, cheers to being honest / neither of us knew what we wanted,” describing a relationship that gradually came to an end after neither side knew themselves enough.
In other relationship-centric songs, including “Feels” and “Too Deep,” she sings about a no-strings-attached relationship that loses its simple nature once feelings are developed. In ”Nunya” featuring DOM KENNEDY, Kehlani sings about an ex-boyfriend that was constantly prying in her personal business.
The upbeat song, “Morning Glory,” offers a take on a different type of relationship: the one that she has with herself. On this track she sings: “If you don’t want me at my goodnight / then you can’t have me at my morning glory,” a lyric inspired by self-confidence. She describes the comfort that she feels in herself with her makeup, wigs and outfits, and notes that she is the same person with or without these material things.
In addition to failed relationships, Kehlani discusses the fear that she felt going into a relationship. In “Butterfly,” she sings about the emotions of two people who are scared of what a carefree connection could become. After pushing past the fear of sparking something new, listeners get to see the relationship progress when she describes how she wants to get to know more about the person that she is involved with in “Love Language.”
The mixtape also features Ty Dolla $ign on “Nights Like This”, and 6lack on “RPG.” Her songs offer a number of different beats and styles that showcase the variety within the R&B style. Her lyrical runs and soulful edge are merged with more up-tempo hip-hop style songs to create variance throughout the project.
She calls on past experiences to provide the basis of the concepts in her songs. The songwriting in “While We Wait” shows undisputed growth in her abilities from her 2017 project. Her songs are raw and unapologetically personal.
From emotional fallout to self-love, Kehlani’s project has messages that almost everyone can relate to. This mixtape is serving as a placeholder until her full-length album is released later this year. The singer, who was first discovered on “America’s Got Talent,” can only look to build on the depth and understanding that she has conveyed to fans in her most recent mixtape.