Review: ‘Without Warning’

21, Offset and Metro prove to be a formidable trio in this half–hour trap thriller.

The abrupt announcement of a collaborative album between 21 Savage and Offset was perhaps one of the most unpredictable releases of the year. Alongside the expertise of Metro Boomin, the undisputed wizard behind the 808 boards, curiosity was its peak to see how the two rappers matched up with each other, especially in the midst of the newly-released SUPER SLIMEY.

Within a concise 10-track, 33-minute timespan, 21 Savage, Offset and Metro Boomin follow a thematic sound to supply the most sinister and ominous trap offerings of the year, accurately pairing up with its Halloween release. Stylistically, Without Warning fits right into 21’s lane, ultimately sounding like an improved sequel to his and Metro’s collab EP Savage Mode – and sequels are rarely better than the original. Right off the bat, the trio impress with “Ghostface Killers”, led by the twinkling sitar melody, the memorable hook by Offset and an impressive guest verse by Travis Scott (“Watch your fingers ’cause the Cactus dangerous / Broke, you ain’t us, we don’t speak that language”), letting you know that Without Warning will be a display of trap song-making, not loosely-crafted leftovers.

Unlike on SUPER SLIMEY where Future and Young Thug failed to solidify a sense of chemistry, 21 Savage and Offset manage to on every track. Offset’s ad-libbing and use of flows is a pleasant contrast to 21’s lifeless yet appropriate delivery. In previous work, 21’s ‘bored’ delivery sent me to sleep, but interpreting it from the perspective of an emotionless shooter makes the bars more effective. That pairs up well with the horns on “My Choppa Hate N*ggas” where the hook uses enjoyable wordplay (“I call it KKK, cause my chopper hate n*ggas”) and constant references to shooting opps and general gang shit (“Wear a hoodie man, I’m the boogie man / We on that bullshit man, walkin’ around with Uzis man”).

21’s one-dimensional flow does become increasingly noticeable, practically crying out for a switch-up on some of the more forgettable cuts (“Mad Stalkers”, “Still Serving”). It’s moments like these where Offset is given a chance to shine, taking his chance on his solo tracks that do not come across as filler, i.e. the bouncy “Ric Flair Drip”. The same can be said for Savage’s solo tracks, which also provide obnoxious but undeniably enjoyable brag bars (“Gucci jacket, oh yeah / Saint Laurent, oh yeah”).

However, the real star of the album is Metro Boomin. His touch on the production is what drives the dark mood and enjoyability. Interestingly, he was absent on SUPER SLIMEY. Without Warning is an appropriate display of what the end-product can be when Metro is executive-producing. Every beat ensures there are two key melodic portions to maintain your attention. Tracks like “Rap Saved Me” is a fine example of Metro switching between two layers, starting off with a hypnotising tune that matches 21 Savage and then introducing a jerky guitar melody which compliments Offset’s performance. Quavo’s auto-tuned ooo’ing that precedes his verse is incredibly annoying, but redeems himself with a worthy guest verse – not failing to compare his Patek Philippe to water for the one millionth time.

While it is thoroughly enjoyable to a casual trap ear, the patterns become noticeable on closer examination where the beats are focused around ascending and descending percussion. The tedious twinkling is what lets down a few tracks, but not enough to deem them as skippable.

Aside a few tracks missing some invention, Without Warning is a surprising showcase of stellar beat-making mixed with two convincing trap rappers at their best. 21 Savage, Offset and Metro Boomin all put in what’s necessary, not leaving you wanting more.

Rating: 8.5 / 10

Favourite tracks:  “Ghostface Killers”, “Rap Saved Me”, “My Choppa Hates N*ggas”, “Disrespectful”, “Darth Vader”

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