Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

Rod Wave – Tombstone

Epitaphs, to two decimal places…


Al Varela: The success of Rod Wave has officially launched the rise of trap’s Mo Money Mo Problems era, but it’s a bit different this time around. This time it’s less about the emptiness of fame and more about trying to navigate one’s own personal demons, especially when it comes to death. “Tombstone” in particular is a bleak song with a hint of optimism. He describes his struggle to keep food on the table after the pandemic cut a lot of his earnings he’d get from touring and contemplates returning to the streets, even if it means his life is cut short. Still, he seems oddly at peace with that and proud of what he’s accomplished and willing to take the bullet for those he loves. The gospel choir and gentle guitar melody behind him provide a song that feels almost final as if Rod Wave was making a potential swan song in case he doesn’t make it. Again, bleak, but there’s a lot to admire to the security Rod Wave has in his legacy, even if it’s purely personal.

Samson Savill de Jong: The lyrics are utterly incongruous with the soft gospel type music, and maybe this is my own flaw, but I don’t buy Rod Wave trying to sound hard whilst singing like this. But I genuinely like the sound of it, and I like Rod’s voice, so as long as I don’t listen to what he’s saying, it’s alright.

Alfred Soto: Inevitabilities like trap gospel don’t happen overnight, and Rod Wave took a while to get here. I can hear it in his voice: though young, he has seen more bad shit than most people. Unlike Kanye, he doesn’t cede control so much as immerse in human sound. 

Andrew Karpan: Rod Wave is looking for peace. This is the news from the very first track on his major label debut, 2019’s Ghetto Gospel, and on “Tombstone,” the Florida rapper comes closest to committing the image to tape. The sound is that of his voice — brash, reedy, wounded — ascending to the tune of a gospel choir, which feels here funereal and, thus, timeless. Wave brings a kind of rough interiority to his tunes and this is part and parcel of his appeal; he can sell feeling and faith in ways that, say, Chance the Rapper has blown a career only dreaming of.

Thomas Inskeep: The current wave of singer/rappers, of which Rod Wave is yet another, is a sad reminder that Drake is not just the biggest, but the most influential guy in hip-hop over the past decade. Combine Wave’s sing-song delivery with the now-common trope of using an acoustic guitar as a backing track and, well, this is pretty much everything I hate about contemporary hip-hop.

Nortey Dowuona: The bluesy curves of the guitar and lilting humming lift Rod’s warm, gentle voice as he begins to prepare his grave, the send off choir rises behind him, the bouncy bass drums and shifting percussion and cracking snares rustles around his headstone as he is laid down, his burdens gone.

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