Lupe Fiasco “WAV Files” Track Review
When it comes to the format in which I listen to music, I generally prefer the album experience. I guess this is due to my tendency to look for patterns in the world around me. I like to see things in context, not as isolated events. For this reason, I don’t really like to listen to songs outside of their albums. Nearly every time I listen to a promotional single or a deep cut, I struggle to really understand it. I often find the song somewhat inaccessible.
For me, to connect to a song of its own accord, it often has to have the internal structure and focus one associates with an album. This isn’t always true—I love the new Anderson Paak singles “Bubblin” and “Tints.” They’re just awesome! This sort of song needs to have, more than anything, a very clear sense of what it is—in other words, self-confidence. Lupe Fiasco’s WAV Files is, I think, exactly that kind of song.
Lupe’s latest album, Drogas Wave, was released on September 21, and it has created a bit of a stir in the hip-hop community. It’s a longer album, clocking in at 1 hour and 38 minutes. Many fans are even saying it’s his best album in years. I had not yet listened to it; the length made the album seem daunting. However, I had read about WAV Files somewhere online, and I decided to give it a go.
First thing to mention about this song is the beat. Oh man, it’s gorgeous! It’s essentially a mournful piano piece over a trap beat, coupled with synth vocals fading in and out in the background. It has a sort of flat yet bouncy rhythm, something like a determined march. And it works perfectly with the lyrical content.
The theme revolves around the transatlantic slave trade that started in the 17th century. The lyrics take the narrative in a sort of tragedy-fantasy direction, featuring the souls of the kidnapped Africans who had jumped off the slave ships making their way back to Africa, or fighting back against the colonial powers by sinking the slave ships. The latter tale plays out in the deeply affecting third verse, where Lupe lists eighty slave ships by name in a half-sung, half-rapped style that works extremely well with the piano-inflected beat. The moment when he mentions The Surf and the way the word echoes in time with the beat is particularly effective.
Lupe connects this unspeakable event to the present with cryptic references that draw parallels between the slave trade and his relationship with his former record label, Atlantic Records: “wade with us/Baptize and convert to the waves with us/I tuned in to what the future holds/I could never be a slave, n****s/They gon’ have to pay me, Navy /Downloaded by the tidals like Jay-Z.” Also note the song’s title, connecting the waves of the Atlantic Ocean with the music files under the control of powerful record companies. I really appreciated this aspect of the song, because it takes it from being just an abstract, historical musing to being a powerful expression of the artist himself.
There are other amazing details to be found in WAV Files, but the treasures the song holds are best discovered by spending time with it firsthand. It has the ability to draw listeners in seamlessly, and even if there’s a lot to take in, listening to it is certainly no chore. WAV Files succeeds because it shows such a clear sense of itself through an absolutely defined and immaculate execution. I have been absolutely hooked from my first listen, and it’s been on repeat for the last week or so. This is definitely one of the best songs I’ve heard this year. Check it out!