21 Savage – “SAVAGE MODE II” Review

Story posted October 6, 2020 in Arts & Entertainment by Joe Eckstein.

The tumultuous career of Atlanta based rapper 21 Savage has been filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

After turning to hip-hop following several gunshot wounds, the man originally known as Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph left his life on the streets to become one of the trap genre’s most prolific artists.

In 2016, the rapper collaborated with Metro Boomin for “Savage Mode,” a run of the mill trap project that saw 21 seemingly be carried by the dark instrumentals. His flow was that of a cloud-rap artist, sounding dreary and out of it.

Despite hits like “X” and “No Heart,” this album felt like a letdown after seeing the notoriety 21 had gained in a short span of time.

Now in 2020, the duo has grown in their own rights and have returned to the sequel for their first collaboration.

The announcement of “SAVAGE MODE II” came thanks in part to the voice of Morgan Freeman. In fact, Freeman is a huge part of the project, serving as the intro to the album and voicing many skits.

Despite its boldness, it’s impossible to deny how entertaining it is hearing the star of “The Shawshank Redemption” talk about the differences between snitches and rats.

What’s bolder is 21’s efforts on the project. Opening track “Runnin” shows an artist hungrier than ever, having a sense of swagger that was lacking in years past. Metro’s sampling of British singer Pam Sawyer’s angelic vocals act as the perfect contrast over the grimy piano based instrumental and serves as a strong statement for what’s to come.

The duo is able to keep their chemistry going on “Glock in My Lap,” where Metro brings in fellow trap producers Honorable C N.O.T.E. and Southside to craft a harrowing-violin sampled beat that matches the sinister tone of what “SAVAGE MODE II” is.

What makes 21 Savage such a standout in a genre littered with similar sounding artists is this evilness surrounding him. The former two tracks represent a hip-hop supervillain.

So, hearing the Drake featured pop track “Mr. Right Now” takes the album's ominous feeling down a notch as it’s hard hearing 21’s auto-tuned vocals as a part of a cash-grab of a song.

While Drake did his thing as usual over an instrumental that felt right in his wheelhouse, the questionable lyric, “I used to date SZA back in ’08,” raises some eyebrows as SZA was still 17-years-old for the majority of 2008.

“Mr. Right Now” is arguably the album’s low point, but 21 and Metro are able to return their typical style instantaneously. “Many Men” brings back the album’s sinister tone with 21’s chorus of “Many men wanna kill me, dawg, I feel like 50,” which serves as the perfect homage to the 50 Cent track of the same title.

On 21’s last project “i am˃i was,” fans began to see a more vulnerable side of the artist. He continues this trend with “My Dawg,” where he pays his respects to the late Nipsey Hussle and even breaks his silence on his connection with the U.K. Metro’s somber piano plays perfectly with the solemness of 21’s lyrics.

While tracks like “Brand New Draco” and “No Opp Left Behind” felt like moments of filler, it’s “RIP Luv” that continues the emotional deep dive within 21 that listeners saw on “My Dawg.”

21 raps about the end of relationship and the start of distrust toward the feeling of love. He returns to his cloud-rap style of the past, only this time it suits the mellow production of Metro.

The concluding track “Said N Done” acts as 21’s retrospective looks back into the life he left behind and those he lost along the way. No matter the success, he still remembers his roots and the pain endured while on the come up.

Metro once again is able to craft a melancholy sound that goes out of his comfort zone from the typical hard-hitting trap sounds he’s used to.

“SAVAGE MODE II” serves as the perfect reminder that 21 Savage is in the upper echelon of trap for a reason.

Compared to its predecessor where it seemed as if Metro Boomin had to carry the weight of the project with his production, “SAVAGE MODE II” sees 21 stepping up his game to form trap’s very own Shaq-and-Kobe duo where both parties push themselves to styles yet to be seen.

Rating: 7/10

Reviewer’s Favorite Songs: “Runnin,” “Glock in My Lap” and “Many Men”

Reviewer’s Least Favorite Song: “Mr. Right Now”

 

Joe Eckstein is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at jojoeck62@gmail.com.