21 Savage
i am > i was


2.0
poor

Review

by posevrlord CONTRIBUTOR (92 Reviews)
December 24th, 2018 | 25 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: how many problems you got?

As a rapper, 21 Savage depends quite a bit on his beats. This isn’t a critique as much as it is an observation, as he isn’t the kind of artist that is able to take a beat from good to great. On the other hand, given the right production, his dark, gravely flow and brash confidence can do wonders to express his charisma. This realization came to me very recently when listening to Savage Mode and i am > i was within a short time span. The former shows how 21’s abject and apathetic flow can excel in expressing dark themes when built on minimalistic, moody, and downplayed instrumentals from artists like Metro Boomin, who shares a distinct chemistry with the Atlanta rapper. This sophomore album, though" It’s one of those ultimately disappointing records that makes you wonder if you misjudged the artist’s former works.

The beat work on i am > i was is surprisingly forgettable and inconsistent, with an unfortunate lack of cohesion between instrumentals. The LP features a large slew of production credits, all of which want to either overpresent or heavily borrow trite production techniques from popular trends (light flute melodies, airy piano leads, etc.). In a similar sense, 21’s flow feels way too bland and monotone without the right backing tracks. Of course, I’d be remiss if i didn’t mention his style itself has lost quite a bit of its personal flair. Where his voice was once very downtrodden and distinctively played with the beat, his performances are now consist of a much less deep and interesting triplet flow, shedding a lot of what made his other work so interesting (side note: this isn’t to talk *** about the triplet flow but Savage’s approach is very standard/safe).

When this record does deviate from the norm, it feels extremely bizarre and ill advised. For one thing, the feature choices leave quite a bit to be desired, with substandard verses from Offset, ScHoolboy Q, Yung Miami (one half of City Girls), Childish Gambino, and Gunna as well as expectibly undesirable appearances from the pseudo-intellectual J. Cole and Post “The Culture Vulture” Malone. None of these mesh particularly well and, if anything, often distract from Savage’s verses. In addition, the album contains inadvisable amounts of “eclectic” tracks (for lack of a better term), be it the soulful “a lot,” the memphis-lite “good day,” the somber “ball w/o you,” or the flute based “4L,” “1.5,” and “can’t leave without it.” Many of these contain obnoxious, on-the-nose samples (“monster,” “a lot,” “out for the night”) and/or downright nonsensical style change ups, like the rapsy, annoying singing on “ball w/o you” and the aggravatingly stupid whisper rapping on “asmr.”

But to nitpick all the ridiculous choices/ideas gives the impression that this LP is bad in an interesting way and, while it has these moments, the majority of the full-length is bland and unremarkable. On my first listen, quite a few of the more “out there” moments failed to stick due to being sandwiched in between unadulterated boredom. Much of the small flaws on this record, from the imbalanced mixing to the recycled bars, orbit the main problem - it’s a slog to get through. It commits a deadly sin that rappers like 21 Savage rarely fall into, it’s milquetoast. Unremarkable. Rather than a failure of epic proportions, it’s just boring.



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user ratings (67)
Chart.
3
good
other reviews of this album
Spudjam (3.5)
Young savage you look so old...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Bloon
Contributing Reviewer
December 23rd 2018


2315 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Stream the album here: https://www.stereogum.com/2025302/21-savage-i-am-i-was/music/album-stream/

Thanks again to the lovely granitenotebook for looking at this review with fresh eyes and helping me out.

Happy holidays, guys, hope you all are doing well. :]

Digging: Weezer - The Teal Album

AgentDeathbat
December 23rd 2018


5861 Comments


looks at Bloon's rating, doesn't read review
So this is better than TSATS?

Digging: Deftones - Diamond Eyes

MarsKid
December 23rd 2018


8305 Comments


Well written as per usual my man. Seems like I'll steer clear.

Bloon
Contributing Reviewer
December 23rd 2018


2315 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

@agent yes but what does that have to do with anything

@mars thanks man, just stick to savage mode and without warning (I need to check his early tapes)

AgentDeathbat
December 23rd 2018


5861 Comments


I was expecting to see a lower rating here, lol.

AgentDeathbat
December 23rd 2018


5861 Comments


if this is better than that i should love it by that logic, might try

ArsMoriendi
December 23rd 2018


24730 Comments


This isn't Locust Abortion Technician

Digging: Meat Puppets - Mirage

artiswar
December 23rd 2018


6223 Comments


I couldn't even get through this, he does this thing where he repeats every line in a lower tone of voice on some songs. It sounds so lazy

AgentDeathbat
December 23rd 2018


5861 Comments


jesus christ

Bloon
Contributing Reviewer
December 23rd 2018


2315 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

@ars it's coming, dw

AgentDeathbat
December 23rd 2018


5861 Comments


this is getting better reception than Issa Album (holy hell that title... is it standard practice these days for new age rappers to have horrid album titles?) so MAYBE it'll be alright

Arcade
Staff Reviewer
December 24th 2018


120 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

pretty bad indication of things when J. Cole and Post Malone are the best features on the album

Digging: Weezer - The Teal Album

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
December 24th 2018


24306 Comments


Childish feature was fire tho. Just didn't feel like a 21 song he kinda took over

Bloon
Contributing Reviewer
December 24th 2018


2315 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

The cg part was probably the best part but I wouldn't say it's anywhere near his best song

EyesWideShut
December 24th 2018


4873 Comments


thought this was great and and right with Savage Mode tbh..

No mention of that Project Pat feature.. Man what..

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
December 25th 2018


56280 Comments


21 savage is 21 average at his best

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JeetJeet
December 25th 2018


5912 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This shit is great. Out For The Night >>>

Digging: Toro Y Moi - Outer Peace

Tyler.
December 25th 2018


16024 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

this is so bad lmao

Bloon
Contributing Reviewer
December 26th 2018


2315 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

tbh i wish this whole thing was as funny bad as asmr

AgentDeathbat
December 27th 2018


5861 Comments


don't talk shit about ASMR bloon
lmao



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