Waves (Kanye West song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Song by Kanye West
from the album The Life of Pablo
ReleasedFebruary 14, 2016

"Waves" is a song by American rapper and producer Kanye West from his seventh studio album The Life of Pablo (2016). The song features vocals from American recording artists Chris Brown and Kid Cudi. Music critics positively received the song. West performed the track on multiple occasions during the Saint Pablo Tour. It charted in the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Ireland and Canada in 2016. A music video was recorded for it in April 2016, but West chose to never release it. The song, although not released as a single, was commercially successful, being certified Platinum and Silver in the United States and United Kingdom respectively.


It was revealed by Cudi that West sent an early version of the song to him in December 2015.[1] Co-producer Hudson Mohawke confirmed that the beat was set to be scrapped until a few weeks prior to release.[2] Joey Badass made the claim in December 2016 that his song "Waves" is better than West's of the same title.[3]

On February 18, 2016, West's demo of it leaked online along with demos of a number of other songs by him, including fellow The Life of Pablo tracks "FML", "Fade" and "Highlights".[4] On May 24, around three months after the album had been released, Chance the Rapper shared his demo of "Waves" along with one of fellow album track "Famous" on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 show.[5] His version of "Waves" was previewed with snippets on Snapchat within the same month as the release of the album that features the final version.[6]

Composition and writing[edit]

"Waves" is a hip hop song that incorporates pop elements from West's previous work.[7] The song includes a sample of "Fantastic Freaks at the Dixie" by hip hop group Fantastic Freaks, which is used for the "Turn me up!" ad lib that is repeated throughout it.[8] Cudi contributes humming, which was recorded after the recording of Brown's contributions.[1]

By the time that all of the changes had been made to the album in June 2016, West made sure to re-record the first verse of the song for prevention of it being swallowed by the production.[9]

In a 2016 interview, Theophilus London claimed that he was forced by West to write "Waves" and did do so, but received no credit for it.[10] Despite not being featured, Chance was still given a writing credit because he wrote the demo for the included version on The Life of Pablo.[11][12]


West was planning to title his 2016 album Waves at one point and have the song play the role of title track, until the album's title was changed to The Life of Pablo on February 10, 2016, with the song being removed from the tracklist.[13][14] On one of the proposed tracklists, the album was split into three separate acts and the track was part of the first one.[13] Just one day before the album was officially released, it was revealed by Chance that he'd fought to keep the track as a part of it and that was why it was released later than the scheduled date of February 12, 2016.[15] West tweeted out that Chance was to blame for the delay, due to him really wanting "Waves" on The Life of Pablo and revealed that it was still being worked on by February 13.[16] Cudi revealed on April 23, 2016 that him, Mike Dean and Plain Pat were involved in this too.[1]

When the information was revealed that West had shot a music video for the track, speculation began that it was set to be released as a single, but he never chose to do this.[17]


A remix of "Waves" that was created by it being reversed was shared by a SoundCloud producer in February 2016, which was made available for download as a WAV file.[18] In July of the same year, an unofficial remix blending West and Chance both rapping their versions of the track was shared via Reddit.[19] During the Saint Pablo Tour on October 25, 2016, a medley was performed live by West in Inglewood that consisted of the "Waves" instrumental and Cudi's vocals on "Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1" as a tribute to Cudi in rehab.[20]


Co-writer Fonzworth Bentley explained the reasoning behind Brown being featured as West showing self-awareness somewhat, since according to Bentley, the rapper was one day like: 'Yo, who's the second most hated nigga in America? Chris Brown. I need to do a record with Chris Brown'.[21] The main reasons for hatred towards both of them have come from each one's most infamous incident – West for his VMA interruption of Taylor Swift in 2009 and Brown for his assault on Rihanna within the very same year.[22][23] Hatred was actually directed from Brown towards West via a post on Instagram in May 2018 after West made controversial comments about slavery, and Brown did reference that their collaboration had recently gone Platinum in his post, but did so only to dismiss it.[24]

Critical reception[edit]

Chris Brown in 2012
Chris Brown received praise for his performance on the track.

"Waves" was subject to widespread acclaim from music critics. Alexis Petridis of The Guardian had great feelings towards the song, describing it as "simultaneously euphoric and elegiac".[25] Pitchfork's Jayson Greene felt positively towards the track, describing it as sounding "momentarily benevolent" and voicing the comparison that it has a "similar energy" to that of fellow album track "Famous".[26] It was written by Sheldon Pearce of SPIN that "Waves" is what "serves as the anchor for a discombobulated but altogether splendid group of sonic marvels crafted by a production superteam".[27] Jake Indiana of Highsnobiety branded it as "a blinding moment of triumph and joy" and what "sounds like ascending to heaven with a choir of angels at your back", as well as citing Brown's feature as one of the album's greatest performances.[28] The song was listed by Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic as being among the bright spots of The Life of Pablo and he described it as having a "glorious, pulsating sound".[29] Jamieson Cox of The Verge branded the track as what "might be the most beautiful song [West has] ever made".[30] In August 2016, West's wife Kim Kardashian listed the track among her top 28 favourite songs by her husband.[31]

Live performances[edit]

On multiple occasions during the Saint Pablo Tour, the track was performed live by West. On April 9, 2016, West performed the song live for the first time, alongside fellow The Life of Pablo tracks "Pt. 2" and "Famous" in the Philippines on the Saint Pablo Tour, shortly before he traveled to Scotland for filming of the music video for it.[32][17] A medley was performed live by West that consisted of the instrumental from "Waves" and Cudi's vocals from "Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1" on October 25, 2016 during a show on the Saint Pablo Tour in Inglewood, which served as a tribute to Cudi who was in rehab at the time and a video was shared by HipHopDX of the performance on Instagram.[20] West danced to his own song when performing it live in Inglewood as part of the Saint Pablo Tour on October 27.[33] On November 20, 2016, as part of the very same tour, he was joined on stage by Cudi in Sacramento to perform the track live, in what was a rather emotional performance – this was at exactly the same concert that West controversially ranted against Jay-Z, Hillary Clinton and more.[34][35]

Chance gave a live performance of his demo on April 24, 2017, alongside covers of fellow The Life of Pablo tracks "Ultralight Beam", which he has a verse on, and "Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1" in San Diego during the Be Encouraged Tour and the cover of "Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1" turned out to be more of a group singalong.[36] When performing live at the 2017 Governors Ball Music Festival, cover versions of "Waves", "Ultralight Beam" and "Father Stretch My Hands, Pt.1" were performed by Chance.[37]

Music video[edit]

On April 13, 2016, the information was revealed that a music video had been shot for "Waves" by West in Scotland's Isle of Skye, which began speculation of it being released as a single.[17] He traveled there shortly after a live performance in the Philippines on April 9, where the song was part of the set list.[38][32] Shooting the Hype Williams directed video took several days and West brought 60 crew members with him during his stay on the island, along with several helicopters.[39] After West had finished his stay there at Skeabost Hotel, one of its owners told Daily Record that he: "was the perfect guest — charming, courteous and polite" and a spokesperson for the hotel revealed that photos were banned during the rapper's stay and that his wife didn't accompany him.[38]

By the time West had marked his first solo release of material since The Life of Pablo with single "Lift Yourself" in 2018, the music video hadn't been released, meaning that it's most likely never going to become available.[40] During West's 2017 issues with Jay-Z and Tidal, West's team made the claim that he was owed money by the service for marketing efforts and video production was among them, so this could be the reason why the videos for "Waves" and fellow album track "Highlights" never saw the light of day.[41][42]

Commercial performance[edit]

Despite West never releasing it as a single like speculation had it that he would, "Waves" still managed to chart in a total of five countries worldwide and had similar commercial performance to that of fellow album track "Ultralight Beam".[17] The track debuted at number 71 on the US Billboard Hot 100 upon the release of The Life of Pablo.[43] On the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, "Waves" peaked at number 24 that same week.[44] The following week, it fell down eight places to number 30.[45] In its third and final week on the chart, the song declined a further seven places to number 37.[46][44] "Waves" performed similarly upon the album's release in the UK to how it did in the US, debuting and peaking at number 77 on the UK Singles Chart.[47] The following week, the song fell down 14 places to number 91 and then never charted again after two weeks on the UK Singles Chart.[48][47] The song also debuted at its peak on the Canadian Hot 100, reaching number 86 on the chart and spending a total of two weeks on the chart.[49] This made it both the highest charting non-single release from The Life of Pablo in Canada and one of only three non-single releases from it to chart in the country, standing alongside "Ultralight Beam" and "FML".[50] On the week of the album's release, the song reached number 80 on the Singles Top 100 in Sweden.[51] "Waves" barely managed to scratch the Irish Singles Chart, debuting at number 95 one week after The Life of Pablo's release and this placed the track alongside "Ultralight Beam" as the only non-single releases from the album that managed to reach the charts in Ireland.[52]

It was certified Platinum in the US on April 19, 2018, over two years after having been made available to legally stream or download.[53] This made "Waves" join "Ultralight Beam" as one of only two non-single releases from The Life of Pablo to achieve this certification in the US.[54] As well as this, the track was certified Silver in the UK on September 7, 2018.[55] It stands along with "Ultralight Beam" as the only non-single releases from The Life of Pablo to be certified in the UK.[56]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from West's official website.[57]

  • Production – Kanye West & Charlie Heat for Very Good Beats, Inc.
  • Co-production – Hudson Mohawke, Metro Boomin & Mike Dean #MWA for Dean's List Productions
  • Additional production – Anthony Kilhoffer
  • Engineering – Noah Goldstein, Andrew Dawson, Anthony Kilhoffer, Mike Dean & Tom Kahre
  • Mix – Manny Marroquin at Larrabee Studios, North Hollywood, CA
  • Mix assisted – Chris Galland, Ike Schultz & Jeff Jackson
  • Vocals – Chris Brown & Kid Cudi


Chart (2016) Peak
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[58] 86
Ireland (IRMA)[59] 95
New Zealand Heatseekers (RMNZ)[60] 9
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[61] 89
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[62] 77
UK R&B (Official Charts Company)[63] 20
US Billboard Hot 100[64] 71
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[65] 24


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[66] Silver 200,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[67] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger

double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ a b c Credited as co-producer
  2. ^ Credited as additional producer


  1. ^ a b c Reiff, Corbin (April 23, 2016). "Kid Cudi Talks About Working With Kanye West Again and Reveals Why 'Man on the Moon III' Isn't Happening". Complex. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  2. ^ Lockett, Dee (May 31, 2016). "A Guide to Understanding Kanye West's The Life of Pablo". Vulture. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  3. ^ Walker, Angus (December 2, 2016). "Joey Badass Tells J. Cole & Kanye West That He Still Has The Best "Waves" Ever". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  4. ^ Harrison, Scoop (February 18, 2016). "An album's worth of unreleased Kanye West music has just leaked online". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  5. ^ Gordon, Jeremy (May 24, 2016). "Listen to Chance the Rapper's Demos for Kanye's "Waves" and "Famous"". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  6. ^ Weinstein, Max (February 17, 2016). "Chance The Rapper Shares Alternate Version of "Waves" on Snapchat". XXL. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  7. ^ Osborne, Jordan (April 15, 2016). "Waves is the Order in Kanye's Disordered Masterpiece". Vendor. Archived from the original on November 16, 2018. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  8. ^ Mertens, Max (February 22, 2016). "The A-Z Guide to Every Song Sampled on Kanye West's 'The Life Of Pablo'". VICE. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  9. ^ C.M., Emmanuel (June 17, 2016). "Every Change Kanye West Made to 'The Life of Pablo'". XXL. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  10. ^ "#82: Theophilus London by A Was". Free Listening on SoundCloud. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  11. ^ "The Life of Pablo – Credits". www.kanyewest.com. Kanye West. February 17, 2016. Archived from the original on February 20, 2016. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  12. ^ Moore, Sam (April 26, 2017). "Watch Chance The Rapper perform his version of Kanye West's 'Waves'". NME. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  13. ^ a b Diep, Eric (February 1, 2016). "Kanye West Debuts Several 'Waves' Tracklists". Billboard. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  14. ^ "Kanye West reveals fourth title for his new album: The Life of Pablo | Music". The Guardian. February 11, 2016. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  15. ^ Augustin, Camille (February 13, 2016). "Chance The Rapper Says He Fought To Keep "Waves" On Kanye West's Album". Vibe. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  16. ^ Kreps, Daniel (February 13, 2016). "'Blame Chance': Kanye West Explains 'Life of Pablo' Album Delay". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  17. ^ a b c d Lilah, Rose (April 13, 2016). "Kanye West Reportedly Shot Music Video For "Waves" In Scotland". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  18. ^ Weeks, Jabbari (February 23, 2016). "Somebody Reversed Kanye West's "Waves" and It Sounds Like a Radio Broadcast from Heaven". Noisey. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  19. ^ Montes, Patrick (July 11, 2016). "New Rework Mashes Up Chance the Rapper's "Waves" With Kanye West's Original "Waves"". Hypebeast. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  20. ^ a b Dionne, Zach (October 26, 2016). "Kanye West's Live Tribute to Kid Cudi Is a Tear-Jerker: Watch". Fuse. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  21. ^ "Fonzworth Bentley Talks Helping Kanye West Create "Waves" Featuring Chris Brown". AllHipHop. December 14, 2016. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  22. ^ Lang, Cady (July 29, 2016). "Taylor Swift Kanye West Feud: From the VMAs to Famous". Time. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  23. ^ Vulpo, Mike (August 16, 2017). "How Chris Brown and Rihanna's Careers Changed After His Assault". E! News UK. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  24. ^ "Chris Brown Calls Kanye West "A Clown" On The Path To Destruction". Capital XTRA. May 3, 2018. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  25. ^ Petridis, Alexis (February 14, 2016). "Kanye West: The Life of Pablo review – 'You can see why his immodesty rubs people up the wrong way'". The Guardian. Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  26. ^ Greene, Jayson (February 15, 2016). "Kanye West: The Life of Pablo Album Review". Pitchfork. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  27. ^ "Kanye West's 'The Life of Pablo': SPIN's Impulsive Reviews". SPIN. February 14, 2016. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  28. ^ Indiana, Jake (February 15, 2018). "Kanye West's 'The Life of Pablo': Every Song Ranked Worst to Best". Highsnobiety. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  29. ^ Kornhaber, Spencer (February 18, 2016). "Review: Is Kanye West's 'Life of Pablo' Album a Freak-Out About Monogamy?". The Atlantic. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  30. ^ Cox, Jamieson (February 16, 2016). "The Life of Pablo review: Kanye West's radical act of creative transparency". The Verge. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  31. ^ Britton, Luke Morgan (August 30, 2016). "Stream Kim Kardashian's playlist of her favourite Kanye West tracks". NME. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  32. ^ a b Levine, Nick (April 9, 2016). "Watch Kanye West perform 'The Life Of Pablo' songs live for first time". NME. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  33. ^ "Top moments from Kanye West's Saint Pablo Tour". Twitter. November 16, 2016. Retrieved November 23, 2018.
  34. ^ Minsker, Evan (November 20, 2016). "Watch Kanye West and Kid Cudi Hug, Perform "Waves"". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  35. ^ Richardson, Nikita (November 20, 2016). "Here's A Full Transcript Of Kanye West's Sacramento Concert Speech". The FADER. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  36. ^ Stegemoeller, Kristen (April 25, 2017). "Watch Chance The Rapper Perform An Original Version Of Kanye West's "Waves"". PAPER. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  37. ^ Jacobs, Harrison (June 5, 2017). "Chance the Rapper nods to Kanye West with Waves, Ultralight Beam, Father Stretch My Hands covers". Business Insider. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  38. ^ a b "Kanye West Shoots 'Waves' Video in Scotland". Rap-Up. April 13, 2016. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  39. ^ Miller, Phil; Braiden, Gerry (April 13, 2016). "Kanye West in Scotland shooting scenes for new music video". HeraldScotland. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  40. ^ Carra, Mallory (April 28, 2018). "Kanye West's New Song "Lift Yourself" Is Here & Fans Have So Many Emotions". Bustle. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  41. ^ Halperin, Shirley (July 5, 2017). "Kanye West Takes Jay-Z's Tidal to Task Over Money Owed". Variety. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  42. ^ Walker, Angus (July 10, 2016). "Kanye West Reportedly Filmed "Highlights" Video In Iceland". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved September 23, 2018.
  43. ^ Mendizabal, Amaya (April 12, 2016). "12 of Kanye West's 'The Life of Pablo' Tracks Are on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart". Billboard. Retrieved November 10, 2018.
  44. ^ a b "Kanye West – Waves – Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  45. ^ "Top Hip-Hop Songs / R&B Songs Chart – April 30, 2016". Billboard. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  46. ^ "Top Hip-Hop Songs / R&B Songs Chart – May 7, 2016". Billboard. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  47. ^ a b "Waves | Full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  48. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  49. ^ "Kanye West – Waves – Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  50. ^ "Kanye West Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  51. ^ "Kanye West feat. Chris Brown – Waves". Swedishcharts.com. Singles Top 100. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  52. ^ "GFK Chart-Track – 14 April 2016". GFK Chart-Track. Retrieved September 23, 2018.
  53. ^ "Gold & Platinum – Kanye West – Waves". RIAA. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  54. ^ "Gold & Platinum – Kanye West". RIAA. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  55. ^ "Award – Kanye West – Waves". bpi. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  56. ^ "BRIT Certified" (To access, enter the search parameter "Kanye West" and select "Search by Keyword"). bpi. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  57. ^ davidbaker.tv, builtbylane.com ×. "The Life of Pablo". The Life of Pablo – Kanye West. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  58. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  59. ^ "Chart Track: Week 15, 2016". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  60. ^ "NZ Heatseeker Singles Chart". Recorded Music NZ. April 18, 2016. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  61. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Kanye West feat. Chris Brown – Waves". Singles Top 100. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  62. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  63. ^ "Official R&B Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  64. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  65. ^ "Kanye West Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  66. ^ "British single certifications – Kanye West – Waves". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved September 7, 2018. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Waves in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  67. ^ "American single certifications – Kanye West – Waves". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved June 17, 2018. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 

External links[edit]