‘Waves’ almost didn’t make the cut. It only made the final draft through the insistence of Chance the Rapper, causing the delay of the release of The Life of Pablo. ‘Waves’ is certainly an amalgamation of Kanye’s life as an artist and all of his masterpieces.
The guttural refrain of ‘Turn me up’, sampled from ‘Fantastic Freaks at the Dixie’, recalls Otis Redding’s revival on the Jay-Z collaboration ‘Otis’ as does the reassuring hum of a certain Kid Cudi near the track’s close. The vocoder inflection on Chris Brown’s vocals is a wonderful throwback to the groundbreaking conceptuality of 808s & Heartbreak, the circularity of influence having a lasting effect on hip-hop, RnB and pop in the present, a mainstay in Kanye’s musical style of the 2010’s.
‘The elegiac synthesisers and the rattle of snare drums are one of the few instances of continuity in a fragmented album- which makes it a standout track.’
Whereas the majority of the samples from TLOP disjoint and separate the album, the perpetual motion of the elegiac synthesisers and the rattle of snare drums are one of the few instances of continuity in a fragmented album- which makes it a standout track.
Urban music’s malevolent choirboy Chris Brown, a regular collaborator of West’s, perhaps provides the most altruistic lyricism across TLOP‘s West-centric universe. For a moment, his angelic tone almost seems to dispel the controversy that has plagued him over the last five years. Almost. ‘Let me crash here for the moment,’ sings Brown, ‘I don’t need to own it’. Brown rounds out the track’s killer chorus with ‘Waves don’t die, baby’. The track is about West’s relationships, past and present and the wave’s everlasting flux, washing in and out, represents the similarity of the moment and it’s recollection in memory. West alludes to this in the second verse: ‘Even when somebody go away/The feelings don’t really go away’.
‘”Waves” makes a strong claim for the pop song of the year’
West as an artist and as a person is defined by his work and the people that have shaped him, even if he consistently claims to have created the godly existence that radiates strongly from him like a foul stench. ‘Waves’ makes a strong claim for the pop song of the year, mixing together all of West’s previous works to transcend the standard definition of sampling and recycling music, to make something simultaneously modern, yet retrospective. Here, West doesn’t lose sight of the wave and what it means to him. The sight of it resonates strongly within, as it does with the listener.