Review: 21 Savage & Metro Boomin, ‘Savage Mode II’

Trap’s tailored duo spin the block for a sequel that is another blueprint of meticulous unity by the genre’s most coveted collaborators.

When a rapper blows up under the wing of Metro Boomin, the principle of quality over quantity always rubs off on them. 21 Savage rounded off 2018 with his solo sophomore album, I Am > I Was. It presented an evolved Savage, shedding the skin of your average trapper to blossom as a virtuous artist. The Metro Boomin collaborations date back as far as 2015, coming to full fruition on 2016’s Savage Mode; a wicked and soulless tropera that brought a new energy (or lack-thereof) to the trap genre. Together, the duo have developed this slasher sound that never fails to impress.

Whether it has outdone the original is debatable, but Savage Mode II finely recaptures the dark aura and furthers the status of Savage and Boomin’s as two of the best artists in trap.

Savage Mode II is yet another example of Metro Boomin curating not just an album but a motion picture-esque soundtrack. This is manifested by the narration by Morgan Freeman, slotting his iconic voice between song transitions, intros and outros that adds both to the cinematic and the dark spirit of the album. And just like Without Warning and Not All Heroes Wear Capes, Metro Boomin is the movie director and 21 Savage is the lead actor.

Boomin’s beats form the mise-en-scène for flustered songs that rival the best of Savage Mode. “Glock in My Lap” hones dark keys and sinister strings straight out of a horror film, laying the perfect backdrop for 21 Savage to unleash his murder mantas. “Runnin” mirrors this combination but throws in a fitting sample that fits the theme of savagery with ease. “Many Men” leans on the classic 50 Cent song of the same name, on where 21 Savage fully exhibits his killer tenor. Songs like these are essential to duplicate the tone of Savage Mode.

To the public, 21 Savage remains undervalued as a pure rapper. However he continues to prove how much he has improved as a lyricist. On Savage Mode II, there is a clear effort to dish out admirable wordplay (“Kel-Tec .223, like D-Wade, I love my heat”, he says on “Snitches & Rats”). Some of the content can vary from the savage talk to show 21’s softer side. It further separates Savage Mode II from your average trap album.

It is most interesting to see how Metro and Savage manage the unexpected expansion from 9 tracks to fifteen. This thought makes one consider what are the ‘essentials’ and what are the ‘non-essentials’. Songs like “Slidin” and “No Opp Left Behind” appear to be generously added to the tracklist in the album’s effort to be a bit more grander than the EP. When the listener is accustomed to the bitesized projects like Savage Mode and Without Warning, additional material ultimately feels surplus to requirement.

Savage Mode II is dark, but it does feel less grey than its precessor. Savage Mode II is fierce, however Savage Mode was pure brutal. A handful of moments take away from the album’s cutthroat nature. Tracks like “Mr. Right Now” and “Rich N***a Shit”, while not poor songs, aim to add versatility to the project that’s frankly unwelcome.

On other tracks, potential highlights are stalled by basic hooks. Opportunities to add extra melody is missed on a handful of songs that would make them that extra bit memorable. The melodies are carried by Metro Boomin’s beats, which at times are not enough to result in a culturally iconic song (not to mention the ‘pussy’ adlib is profusely overused).

Savage Mode II continues to boldly present 21 Savage and Metro Boomin as trap assassins. This time round it also shows a sweeter side now that the duo have expanded their star power. Even through the light and dark, Savage Mode II is another blueprint of fine wine trap music by the genre’s most coveted collaborators.

Rating: 8 / 10

Best tracks: “Glock in My Lap”, “Many Men”, “Brand New Draco”, “Runnin”, “Said N Done”