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Photo by Arturo Torres/Atlantic Records, Art by Avanti Upad

On “While We Wait,” Kehlani Delivers a Heartfelt, Real-life Fantasy

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After recently announcing her pregnancy, R&B artist Kehlani released her third mixtape, “While We Wait,” claiming it as “a gift to her daughter” with her untold thoughts and experiences described throughout. Some of my favorite songs on this project are  “Footsteps,” “Morning Glory,” and “Butterfly.” Her album evidently expresses her experiences in low times and growth as she overcomes heartbreaks, accepts herself, and finds the truth and value within her relationships.

The album opens with “Footsteps” featuring Musiq Soulchild a harmonically rich and ethereal song. Both artists describe the hardships that come with a relationship, specifically both perspectives that occur when two divert from a relationship. While Kehlani shares her perspective having had a partner unable to hold themselves together and have faith in a relationship, she explains how the pressures of the relationship itself were let down, and even its triumphs were “washed away.” Musiq Soulchild conveys the remorse in his own relationships with the lyrics, “I treated you like medicine, but I guess I wasn’t listening/ And you tried to explain that you had hurt and pain too/ But as long as I felt better, then it was all good.”

When she sings, “But here’s to being honest/ Neither of us knew what we wanted/ But all we knew is that we cared/ Still all we painted was a moment,” her vulnerability normalizes the ups and downs of relationships that girls all over the world face even celebrities. My heart nearly melted on the chorus when she sang the ooey-gooey chorus, “And when I walked away, I left footsteps in the mud so you could follow me.”

The 23-year-old singer-songwriter continues to show female vulnerability on my personal favorite “Morning Glory.” The song was the only track in the album produced by Oak Felder of Pop & Oak, who produced most of her previous album “SweetSexySavage.” With its cheerful melodies, it is a poetic piece reminding her listeners of the importance of natural beauty, specifically that girls all over the world don’t need to settle for anything they are not. She describes the routine of unwinding at the end of the day with lines like, “I wanna take my wig off, I wanna lay it on the nightstand/ I wanna take my makeup off, I wanna rip these nails off my hands.” But she also wants to take off the configuration she puts on during the day which is society’s idealization of a female character: long hair, a fresh face of makeup, colorful and manicured nails.

Kehlani continues to embrace natural beauty and sends that message to girls all around the world later in the chorus when she asserts:  

“And if you don’t want me at my goodnight/
Then you can’t have me at my morning glory/
At my morning glory/
And if you don’t want me at my goodnight/
Then it’s gon’ be goodbye”

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She slows things down towards the end of the album with the serene lullaby track, “Butterfly.” Here, she preaches that love is something so sweet that should be embraced, rather than hidden:

“I hope you take from this that it’ll make you no less of a man/
To break your walls and simply grab my hand/
Love shouldn’t be contraband/
It shouldn’t trample on your confidence/
Shouldn’t be seen as less than compliments”

Kehlani’s mixtape conveys a diversity incomparable with her other releases as she shares some good slow bops and some upbeat tunes, each second filled with a stylistic emotional intensity. The lullaby-like theme threaded throughout circles back to the albums’ importance for her and her daughter during this sentimental time in her life.

The mixtape features collaborations with other artists including 6LACK, Dom Kennedy, Musiq Soulchild, and Ty Dolla $ign, but, despite the large male influence in the album, Kehlani preserves her feminine energy, as she shares her personal thoughts on overcoming hardship, getting through tough relationships, and the importance of self-love, giving many teens like myself a positive and uplifting attitude while jamming out.

Most of all, the harmonious and introspective nine songs had me wondering what is in store for the future of Kehlani’s music and if this is only the beginning, “While We Wait” for more.

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