Tuesday evening, Kanye West revealed yet another name change to his upcoming album, previously titled So Help Me God, then SWISH and now, according to a tweet from the Chicago rapper, WAVES. The change has already ruffled feathers, notably those of rapper Wiz Khalifa, who initiated a multi-tweet tirade against the new album title. “Please don’t take the wave,” wrote Khalifa shortly after West’s announcement. He followed this with another tweet, “Max B is the wavy one. He created the wave. There is no wave without him.”
Most know about the twitter beef that exploded afterward, topics of which included Kim Kardashian and Khalifa’s choice of pants. But another question still looms: Who is Max B, and what is “wavy” music?
Max B, also known as “Biggavelli,” or his given name, Charly Wingate, is a Harlem-born rapper known for his prolific series of mixtapes, many of which were released on fellow rap artist Jim Jones’s ByrdGang Records in the early 2000s. Though he is currently serving a 75-year sentence for a slew of convictions including robbery, manslaughter and possession of a weapon, his stylistic contributions to the hip-hop world know no bounds.
Simply put, “wavy” music is hip-hop in which the artist sings in addition to (or while) rapping. In his tweet-based assault, Wiz Khalifa supplemented his shots at Kanye with a helpful definition. “He’s the reason I sing on all my songs,” Khalifa tweeted. “That’s the wave. If theres nothing wit that sound ITS NOT WAVY.” Khalifa also tweeted links to three Max B tracks, “Lip Sang” (2008), “Porno Muzik” (2009) and “I Never Wanna Go Back” (2009) as prime references for the wavy sound. Their cohesive elements are obvious: Max B sings in melodic hooks and staccato, upper register bars over smooth and syrupy R&B- and funk-influenced production. “He’s not scared to try new things, like singing, harmonies, just enjoying himself,” rapper French Montana told Complex magazine in 2013. Max B told the same magazine that he probably developed his style from listening to his older brother’s cassette tapes when he was growing up. “They used to put all the old music together, all the Frankie Beverly and Maze, and Luther Vandross — all the great artists, they used to mix them up and blend beats and put ‘em together,” said the rapper.
Giving credit where credit’s due is a decades-old hip-hop tradition. But with albums and mixtapes dropping every other day, such courtesies can fall through the cracks without anyone noticing. So when you’re hip-hop royalty, like Wiz, you want to maintain a clear family history. In Kanye’s defense, he seems to understand this. He later tweeted: “All respect to Andre Harrell and Max B, #Waves.”