For the past four years, Kehlani has consistently been featured as an “Artist to Watch” by Rolling Stone and Complex. But with her new mixtape, While We Wait, Kehlani solidifies her position as one of R&B's current stars. This highly anticipated mixtape has attracted social media buzz from artists like Khalid, Wale, Janelle Monae, and DJ Khaled. It’s no surprise that the album is gaining so much attention, as Kehlani’s artistry has been continuously evolving and improving. Keeping a relatively low profile in 2018, choosing to be featured on just a select few tracks—KYLE’s “Playinwitme”, Charlie Puth’s “Done for Me,” Cardi B’s “Ring”— Kehlani blossoms on this new mixtape, ready to make 2019 hers.
Currently nine months pregnant, Kehlani told that this album is “one of the most serious projects that [she has] worked on” and that it is a gift to her daughter. Kehlani’s aesthetic and perspective has matured since SweetSexySavage, her 2017 certified–gold debut album. She told Beats 1 Radio that the stories she’s telling on this album are “my parent’s stories articulated into my own, articulated into a gift for my daughter, so she knows where she comes from.” Kehlani is telling her story of motherhood, a narrative that we don’t hear often enough in music, especially in R&B.
In the first track of the album “Footsteps” featuring Musiq Soulchild, Kehlani soulfully sings about learning to be patient in a relationship. Musiq Soulchild’s smooth vocals are the perfect match with Kehlani’s on this opening track. From the beginning, the album carries a different vibe than SweetSexySavage. It’s slower and more sincere, finding strength in her femininity rather than savagery. The next two tracks, “Too Deep” and “Nunya" featuring Dom Kennedy, bring up the tempo and draw on the common themes of self–assurance and not caring about what others think. Dom Kennedy puts forth a commendable effort on his track, but it lacks the emotional capacity to keep up with the passion in the rest of Kehlani’s material.
In “Morning Glory,” Kehlani shows off the duality of her talent as both rapper and vocalist. Although not released as a single, this track sounds like a potential pop hit as she sings about the expectations she has for her lover. “Feels,” one of the strongest songs off the album, compiles all the pain and growth present in her other tracks into one smooth piece. The song is full of 2000s R&B–influence, but it's still uniquely Kehlani. “Nights Like This,” and “RPG,” featuring Ty Dollar $ign and 6LACK, respectively, are clearly the crowd–pleasers of the album.
Overall, the features help shape the tracks to sound like the popular R&B hits we’ve been hearing on the radio lately, but the last two tracks—“Butterfly” and “Love Language"—solidify that Kehlani’s solo singles are her best. In “Butterfly,” the fact that the mixtape is dedicated to her daughter shines through, as she sings about awaiting transformation in her relationship—perhaps as she and her partner become parents. Instrumentally, “Love Language,” is the best track off of the album. The beats are catchy and experiment with synthetic sounds. The listener will finish the album swaying along until the very end.
Kehlani is at the height of her artistry, narrating the emotional tribulations she’s endured with honesty and originality. More than just a featured artist, Kehlani has found her stride as a soloist this year. We can only wait and see what the rest of 2019 has in store for Kehlani—but we're excited for it.