Rod Wave is an outspoken romantic, with a voice that combines airy pop melodies, emo yelps, and gruff country rap idioms.
The 22-year-old St. Petersburg, Florida vocalist gushes about love in a way that sounds unusual for someone so closely linked with rap on his fourth album, Beautiful Mind. On "Leave Me Alone," he begs, "I don't want to be alone...don't leave me alone."
He is a complex individual who oscillates between macho anger, heartbroken tenderness, and career desire. And even though he takes great effort to prevent having suicidal thoughts, he is conscious of how brief life is.
He sings on "Sweet Little Lies" that the idea of living happily ever after is a myth: "They say I'm crazy, I'm bipolar, I need some damn help/Why say forever if we gon' die by our own selves."
Rod Wave's major label work has provided emotional catharsis for a growing audience, and it's not uncommon to see online comments about people crying along with his music as they listen to it.
His tough-yet-sensitive persona feels genuine rather than merely a generic, Post Malone-like anomie. (However, Rod Wave's "Rockstar Heart" mirrors Posty's "Rockstar," even though the former challenges the lifestyle of drugs and thrills rather than embracing it.)
His performances and the various musical allusions he and his producers use both convey a sense of profoundly informed passion. "Pt. II," a radio interlude during a calm storm, uses a sample of "Just for Your Love" by K-Ci & Jo-Jo.
Rod Wave's arrest last May on a felony charge of domestic abuse by strangulation, the consequence of an alleged incident with his on-again, off-again fiancée and the mother of his two children, hangs over Beautiful Mind.
(He appears to have paid tribute to her in a number of songs, including his 2021 smash "Street Runner.") Days later, the case was withdrawn, with his lawyer saying that it was due to a "misunderstanding."