"While We Wait" explores the theme of love from a new angle. (Illustration by Erik Ojo, Northeastern University)

Kehlani’s New Mixtape, ‘While We Wait,’ Is a Dramatized Exposé of Relationships

The project addresses romantic partners, children and friends, all relationships characterized by different kinds of love.

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The project addresses romantic partners, children and friends, all relationships characterized by different kinds of love.

On Friday, Feb. 22, Kehlani released her newest project following her debut album in 2017. “While We Wait” is a nine-song mixtape, the first of two albums that the R&B singer plans to release in 2019. Its title alludes to not only the anticipation of the next big album, but also the birth of Kehlani’s daughter in March.

In “While We Wait,” the 23-year-old singer covers self-love, relationships, breakups and exes in a smooth, velvety style. The singer revealed in 2018 that she is queer, which is why most of her love songs in this mixtape do not have gender designations. She labels herself as queer rather than gay or bisexual because specific titles “always insisted there was still a line drawn as to which ‘label’ of human I was attracted to.”

Each song seems to flow into the next, and listening to the album feels like Kehlani is walking you through her personal love life.

1. “Nights Like This”

“Nights Like This” was the first track to come out. It might be one of the darkest songs on the album despite its relatively upbeat, melodic vibe. The music video features Ty Dolla $ign, displaying a creative sci-fi theme not seen in any of Kehlani’s previous music videos.

With lines like “Should have never gave you my heart on consignment” and “Feel like it’s too hard to fall in love again,” Kehlani muses about a relationship so toxic that it leaves emotional trauma in its wake. Later, Ty Dolla $ign raps, “sometimes I reminisce… when I’m bingin,’” alluding to binge drinking after a major heartbreak.

2. “Footsteps”

Perhaps the most soulful song on the tracklist, “Footsteps” starts off the album with a relaxing yet emotional ode to the ups and downs of a relationship.

Kehlani also featured Musiq Soulchild, whose verse seemed like a personal but necessary tangent that enhanced the story in the song. The theme of “Footsteps” is vulnerability and trust (or lack thereof) in a romantic relationship.

3. “Butterfly”

Kehlani recently released a music video for one of her previous singles called “Butterfly.” With a soft, ballad-like tone and stunning visuals, “Butterfly” compares the act of opening up to a partner with a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. It reflects the sentiment of a new relationship that is slowly strengthening. Kehlani also alluded to zodiac signs when she mentioned a Virgo moon, who, in Western astrology, tends to be more restrained and self-doubting.

In the outro, Kehlani whisper-raps a heartfelt verse about letting one’s guard down. She says, “It’ll make you no less of a man, To break your walls and simply grab my hand.” In general, this particular song encourages a romantic partner to reveal their secrets and insecurities to the one they love.

4. “Nunya”

“Nunya” is the anthem of any girl who hates her nosy, clingy ex. In a music video filmed in the snowy weather of Big Bear, Kehlani tells her ex-partners that her personal life is “none of your bees.”

The song features Dom Kennedy, a rapper from Los Angeles, and radiates confidence with lines like “You lost a girl who got it on her own.”

5. “Morning Glory”

Continuing the self-acceptance theme, “Morning Glory” is another track that is both assertive and gentle at the same time. Kehlani expects her lover to accept her at her most authentic self.  She sings in the chorus, “If you don’t want me at my goodnight, then you can’t have me at my morning glory,” meaning her partner needs to love her for who she is, rather than for what she appears to be on the outside.

The track also criticizes people who only care about her looks. “I know I’m fine, don’t need outer confirmation from a man who uses 2-in-1 and thinks he’s a sensation,” Kehlani sings in the third verse, calling out the hypocrisy in men who judge women by their physical attractiveness.

While Kehlani’s debut album, “SweetSexySavage,” worked out her turbulent childhood and how it affected her adult life, “While We Wait” navigates through her complex love life and serves as an artistic portrayal of modern relationships. “While We Wait” is a testimony to the fact that all relationships take effort to maintain, and that the ups and downs are a part of any love story.

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