“Tombstone,” from the superb new Rod Wave album “SoulFly,” is a startling soul hymn about unshoulderable weight. Wave, 21, is a young singer deploying the cadences of a rapper, and on this track he finds a solution to sing — concerning the burdens of fame and the way they’re merely high-priced replacements for the burdens that got here earlier than fame — with gospel-like invigoration and blues contemplation.
Last week, simply after “SoulFly,” Wave’s third album, debuted atop the Billboard album chart, Wave carried out “Tombstone” on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Singing on a riverside porch, Wave gave off an air each baptismal and funereal:
I preserve my gun in my attracts, ducking the unhappy information
My cellphone say seven missed calls, I do know it’s unhealthy information
This life had left me so scarred, I’m understanding that’s true
Remember instances acquired so exhausting, I acquired it tattooed
One week after the discharge of “SoulFly” got here the second album from the 19-year-old Lil Tjay, “Destined 2 Win,” which simply debuted at No. 5. If Wave is the bluesman of this era of sing-rappers, Tjay is the candy crooner. Both traverse the identical material — more cash, extra issues; untrustworthy companions and the loyal ones who make up for it; skepticism about simply how regular their perches are. But the place Wave extracts most melancholy from these themes, Tjay’s method is thinner and extra brittle, not often touchdown exhausting on a stable feeling.
Wave is maybe the pre-eminent hip-hop emoter of the final couple of years, and he chooses templates that permit his voice to ooze freely: guitar-led preparations that recall schlocky 1980s radio rock, or elemental drum patterns. Many of the songs are quick — a few choruses and a verse, typically simply the verse. And Wave has a specific means of dealing with a few of his line-ending syllables, breaking them into three descending steps, as if giving himself over to gravity.
Mostly, he leans in to lamentation, like on “Gone Till November” and “How the Game Go,” plangent takes on overcoming adversity. On “Don’t Forget,” in between snippets of an outdated aggrieved Pimp C interview, Wave shows at the very least a short glimmer of boast: “Rod crashed the ’Vette, but he came back in a better one/‘Rod fixed the ’Vette?’ Nah dog, this here the second one.”
On paper, Tjay is working comparable emotional territory. “I just rap about my pain ’cause I know others could relate,” he insists on “Slow Down.” And courting again to his earliest singles, like “Brothers,” Tjay has taken a microscope to the circumstances that raised him. On “Nuf Said,” he nails a specific form of intractable unhappiness relating a good friend’s predicament: “Broski on the phone, he just want another chance to live/But he on his own so long in the cell, he say ‘the crib.’”
Tjay’s voice is high-pitched — he’s one in all a handful of present saccharine sing-rappers, together with Lil Mosey — and his method is melodic however not significantly soothing. His supply can really feel staccato, and so can his lyrics, which on songs like “Part of the Plan” have a tendency towards the non sequitur, rhyming syllables tacked onto jumbled ideas.
On “Headshot,” the newest single from this album, he follows his two friends, Polo G and Fivio Foreign, each of whom land tougher than he does. In that means, it remembers “Mood Swings,” Tjay’s collaboration with Pop Smoke from final 12 months, which was successful on TikTok, largely because the soundtrack for comedic sketches about inappropriate older members of the family.
They begin with a starry-eyed child sweetly lip syncing to Tjay concerning the object of their affection: “Shawty a little baddie, she my lil’ boo thang.” Then an older determine echoes them, lip syncing to Pop Smoke: “And shawty got the fatty.” The youthful particular person agrees, lip syncing as Tjay concurs, “Shawty got the fatty,” earlier than breaking character and staring on the flirtatious intruder, aghast.
The interplay in these skits, and within the track, is sort of primal — Pop Smoke, the gruff alpha, out to tame Tjay, and presumably stroll off together with his girl. It’s about energy, but in addition authority. While these round him are staking exhausting claims to feelings and the whole lot else, Tjay remains to be casting about, in search of a agency grip.
“Destined 2 Win”