Review Summary: The beats are dark, minimal, and brooding. The rapping is unemotional and unflinching, and together, Metro Boomin and 21 Savage come together on a surprisingly consistent album.
One of the biggest and hardest new rappers out of Atlanta, 21 Savage, has gained considerable notoriety in the past year, rising to fame and even becoming part of the 2016 XXL Freshman Class. The trapstar was quick to separate himself from the crowd with flow and cadence reminiscent of Gucci Mane, his instantly recognizable face tattoos (that’s a dagger on his forehead, not a cross), and his video for “Red Opps” ("You know like Black Opps? Well I'm a Blood, so Red Opps" he claimed in an interview) which has racked up nearly 19 million views on YouTube. In his short life Savage, born Shayaa Joseph, dropped out of school in Seventh Grade, has seen his brother and several friends die, survived 6 shots, including a bullet to the neck, and pushed dope for nearly 10 years. This has all clearly left a toll on him and his music, and you can hear the complete lack of empathy in his raspy voice, almost always barely above a whisper.
After a string of promising but inconsistent tapes, Savage teams up with Metro Boomin’, the superstar producer behind "What A Time To Be Alive", to put out one of the most undeniably "street" albums of the year so far.
The album is short, clocking in at 32 minutes, and straight to the point. The album is top heavy, with the best three songs coming at the beginning. The bars are pretty basic, but this album is ALL about establishing an aesthetic. In “No Heart, Savage whispers “Chain Swanging, Diamonds Blanging, Hol’ Up/ Pistol Swanging, Gang Banging, Hol Up” with his signature snare, and while lines like that would normally produce cringing, here it works; you can picture it and respect it, because unlike most rappers nowadays, 21 Savage is a real n***a. Savage's peers have taken notice, and album standout "X" includes the only feature, with fellow Atlantan Future dropping in to trade banter with Savage and metaphorically pass the torch; Future has already arrived, and 21 Savage is officially next to blow up. The song is well placed, and with a vintage-Boomin' beat, is among the year's best trap songs.
In a year full of star studded releases, extravagance, and in most instances a lot of filler, "Savage Mode" leaves its best mark on 2016 by being devoid of emotion, experiment, and filler. The rap game better watch out, because 21 Savage is about to arrive, and you definitely don't want to be in his way.