December 2, 2023

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Rod Wave: Beautiful Mind Album Review

On the afternoon of June 13, Rod Wave declared that his latest project Beautiful Mind would be his last “sad ass album.” Calling the Florida rapper’s music “sad” is an understatement—his songs plumb the depths of physical, financial, and emotional pain so intensely it can feel like he’s perpetually stuck underneath a rain cloud. Since at least 2017’s “Mike Tyson,” the triumphant boom of his voice has separated him from the legions of other rap crooners leaving their hearts in their Notes apps. Across three studio albums, Rod Wave has perfected his brand of rain cloud rap, in the mold of mentor Kevin Gates if his ears were stuck on the blues hymns of the Mississippi Delta. Much of Beautiful Mind follows this blueprint, but there are more specks of joy and optimism than before, a yearning to move beyond the hurdles and embrace new life experiences. If he’s as ready to “live happy travel [and] get dis money” as he claims, then Beautiful Mind makes a case as his most hopeful album to date.

That hope relies on a formula he’s polished before. Rod Wave songs tend to span a handful of subjects—bad memories, getting money, navigating haters, reminiscing on lost love, or any combination of the four. But it didn’t matter how many times you’d heard him sing about waiting at bus stops with headphones in; he sells these tried and true stories with conviction. Beautiful Mind adds a few more stories to his narrative vision board, giving Wave more chances to look forward. “Stone Rolling” starts with family problems but ends with a journey that stretches across the United States, from smoking sessions with Sauce Walka in Houston to a fantasy of settling down in the Carolina countryside with his children. His spirited performance on standout “Yungen” matches his dumbfounded lyrics about amassing a fanbase paralleled by sampled news footage of a crowded Miami concert where some ticket buyers were forced to listen from outside the venue. You can’t say that he isn’t at least counting his blessings more.

The variety is welcome, but it’s not varied enough to prevent many of the two dozen tracks from bleeding together. For every plea of hopeless romance like “Married Next Year” or “Never Find Us,” there are several bids for Wave to brood about picking up women in hotel rooms across the country like “Never Get Over Me” or “Pieces.” Sometimes, like the moment he remembers “Eviction letters traumatized me even though it was sunny” on “Better,” his writing is detailed and intimate. Other times, like on “Rockstar Heart,” Wave sounds more like the loudest kid in class reading a rushed What I Did This Summer essay.

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