On “Savage Mode 2,” 21 Savage and Metro Boomin produce their best work yet
21 Savage and Metro Boomin deliver with another Atlanta street anthem
Album: “Savage Mode 2”
Artists: 21 Savage and Metro Boomin
Release Date: October 2
Over the past four years, Atlanta MC 21 Savage and St. Louis beatmaker Metro Boomin have built quite the rapport. The duo first worked together on the 2016 collaborative mixtape “Savage Mode” which featured hits “X” and “No Heart.” In 2017, Metro Boomin produced the majority of 21’s major label debut “Issa Album” which featured smash hit “Bank Account.” The duo also released a collaboration album with Offset in 2017 titled “Without Warning” and collaborated on two tracks of 21’s critically acclaimed sophomore album “I Am > I Was.” The two have been nothing but a trap-influenced hit factory, and their highly-anticipated 2020 collaboration continues their historic run.
“Savage Mode 2” is the sequel to the 2016 mixtape of the same name, a project lauded as a modern-trap landmark for its superb production and the emergence of 21’s haunting deadpan delivery. The successes of its predecessor also appear on the sequel, with Metro’s dark trap beats perfectly fitting 21’s haunting vocals. 21 tells tales of violence and gang affiliation with a twisted edge, painting vivid pictures.
The album’s cover is a nod to the “Pen & Pixel era” of the late 90s, with Houston-based graphic design firm Pen & Pixel actually coming out of retirement to design the cover for “Savage Mode 2.” The cover features 21’s signature dagger surrounded by a big mansion and high-priced cars with 21 and Metro overseeing it all.
“Savage Mode 2” picks up right where the former left off, with the album dominated by Metro’s dark trap beats. 21’s rhyme schemes haven’t gotten more complex, but they don’t have to: he’s a straight-forward MC who says how he sees it.
“Glock in My Lap” finds the duo in their textbook form: 21 rapping over a dark Metro
beat, addressing his affiliations and the realities of the life he lives. He manages to tell tales of violence and drug distribution while incorporating sharp punch-lines: “21, your b---h know I been the man / Playin’ with the rock like I’m Jigga man / Gotta look a n---a in the eyes when you kill a man.”
“Many Men” pays homage to 50 Cent’s 2003 hit of the same name and also carries the album’s dark aesthetic. 21 addresses the implications of his dangerous lifestyle but embraces the feeling it gives him: “Many men wanna kill me, dawg, I feel like 50.”
Intro track “Runnin’” is one of the album's highlights. Metro samples Diana Ross’ “I Thought It Took a Little Time” and creates a dark atmosphere with the feeling that chaos is about to ensue. 21 attacks the beat by addressing the fear he instills in his enemies and brings the listener back to where it all began: “Called the first one ‘Savage Mode,’ my mood, that's what it was / 2016, we was ridin' around, beatin' n---as up in the club.” 21 lives a lawless life, and he doesn’t know which of his enemies he’s going to fire at next.
The album features guest appearances from Drake, Young Thug, Young Nudy and even Morgan Freeman. Freeman opens the album with a narration of what makes a great man and the power of Metro and 21 combining their forces. It gives the album a cinematic ambience and helps establish a theme throughout the project.
Freeman appears again on “Snitches & Rats (Interlude)” and finds himself detailing the difference between the two: “At least a snitch is human, but a rat is a f--king rat, period.” Freeman’s inclusion on the album isn’t just to get people talking, his narrations enhance the listeners experience and tie together the themes of the album while providing seamless segues to the next track.
The Drake-assisted “Mr. Right Now” and Young Thug-featured “Rich N---a S--t” both give the listener a break from the dark and often intense feel of the project, while providing the album two more pop friendly radio cuts. But even when 21 tries to take a break from the street life, it always seems to find him: “She want me to f--k her to some Keith Sweat, but she stay in apartments I got beef at,” he raps on “Mr. Right Now.”
Metro’s drum patterns do get slightly repetitive throughout the project, but that comes with a modern trap album in 2020. Similar trends are found in Future’s “High off Life” and Gunna’s “Wunna.” While the two dominate their lane with their modern-trap sound and don’t stray from what they know works, Metro experiments with new sounds and 21 switches up his subject matter on multiple tracks.
“Steppin on N---as” highlights Metro Boomin’s versatility on the boards, with him challenging 21 to rap over a ‘90s-inspired West Coast beat. The beat takes the listener from the trenches of Atlanta to the streets of Compton, and sounds like a loosie off N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton.”
21 raps about the trauma and emptiness romance has left him on “RIP Luv.” He addresses his inability to find true love and that it’s a lost cause for him. His attempts in finding love have left him an emotional wreck resulting in him putting a smile on even when he’s hurting: “Rest in peace to love, I gave up a long time ago / Hard times, everybody left, I'm the one you counted on / My shoulder took a lot of tears, woulda swore it was a fountain on / I be cryin’ on the inside and smilin’ when the cameras on.”
Album closer “Said N Done” finds 21 reflecting on his life and the friends he’s made. He raps about taking pride in his role in his community and missing his friends currently locked up in prison. It’s as introspective as we’ve seen 21 and highlights his steady growth as an artist.
“Can’t wait 'til they free Turk, Mr. Push-Your-S--t-Back / Rest in peacе to Larry, Johnny B, and Tay, man / Swear I had a rough past, feel like I grew up fast / Go to war about my dawgs / Yeah, the ones who pick me up whenever I fall / All the pain I endured just to ball / I’d give this s--t away to be with y’all / Standin’ with you, throwin’ gang signs, do it matter?”
“Savage Mode 2” makes the most of its moving parts. 21 builds on his past albums, delivering his best lyrical performance yet. Drum patterns featured throughout the project grow slightly repetitive and 21’s monotone voice leaves certain tracks feeling slightly empty, but the majority of the project finds the two capitalizing on their strengths. Morgan Freeman’s narrations perfectly lead one song to the next and tie together the key themes of the album.
Despite being bonafide superstars in the rap game, 21 Savage and Metro Boomin sound like they have something to prove on “Savage Mode 2.” The duo dive deeper into their creative bags. The album contains radio-friendly singles, introspective reflections of self, and of course hard-hitting, dark sounding trap music that can make you want to rob a Walmart. While Metro Boomin's dark, loud production complements 21’s menacing voice and delivery, he challenges 21 on multiple songs. 21 Savage and Metro Boomin deliver once again with their most inspired effort yet.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @DeCicco42.