21 “Savage Mode II” by Savage and Metro Boomin: album review


In Caspar David Friedrich’s 1810 painting “Abbey in the Oakwood”, a group of monks carry a coffin through the snow in the crumbling ruins of a Gothic abbey. Beyond the abbey, a grove of bald, gnarled oaks bask in the dim sunlight. Death lingers, but not its fresh stench, only the sense of its infinity. I still think about that beautiful sorry painting every time I listen 21 Wild and Metro Bouminfrom 2016 wild mode, arguably the biggest rapper-producer collaborative project of the past decade. Metro’s output – austere, surreal and often serene – had ghoulish orchestral sensibilities, with quivering flutes and synths designed to sound like cursed woodwinds. These beats gave new context to 21’s rare croak, slasher villain’s nihilism and dark personal history. Before he abruptly took his “retirement” in 2018, Metro had risen to the pinnacle of his profession by doing away with Lex Luger’s maximalism and using the Atlanta trap as a laboratory for his texture studies. Despite all his triumphs, he has never released anything so visionary and audaciously atmospheric as wild mode.

With Wild Mode II, 21 and Metro have crafted a near-perfect sequel that revisits the moods of its predecessor while simultaneously carving out its own distinctive identity as a tribute to the music they grew up on. Morgan Freeman’s over-the-top cinematic storytelling is not a one-time gimmick, but the connective tissue of the project. Although the 21-year-old takes time to celebrate his rise after long trips on MARTA to the Rolls-Royce starting point, and his refusal to wear a watch that costs less than $100,000, Wild Mode II is rooted in the same dark source material as SM1. On “My Dawg”, he recalls a failed pawnshop robbery that killed his close friend Larry. On “RIP Luv,” he explores romantic fallout and his desire for partnership that he exhibited on “Feel It.” Similarly, Metro takes many ideas from SM1 this stemmed from his strong sense of negative space; on “Slidin” it almost seems to crank up the semi-iconic detuned loop of “No Heart,” and “Many Men” echoes the slow, bright, arpeggiated synths that shaped SM1 songs like “Savage Mode” and “X”.

wild mode and Without warning21, and Metro’s 2017 Halloween-themed mixtape with Offset, could be seen as modern, high-definition updates on the unwavering mix of horrorcore and gangsta rap that Three 6 Mafia and Geto Boys launched there. At 25 years. Wild Mode II hosts a much more open conversation with rap and R&B made before 21 and Metro came of age.

The album’s biggest benefit wasn’t getting Morgan Freeman, but rather getting the cover art from Houston-based graphic design firm Pen & Pixel, famous for developing the garish visual aesthetic of Cash Money and No Limit. On the album’s sunniest tracks, 21 flows on shimmering electric keyboard à la Whitney Houston and uses Sade and TLC to paint sexual metaphors. “Many Men,” interpolates 50 Cent’s 2003 song of the same name, and “Rich Nigga Shit” floats amid a sluggish, indebted beat from DJ Screw, seemingly drenched in codeine. On the fearless throwback “Steppin On Niggas,” 21 does a solid Eazy-E impersonation, and Metro reuses 1988’s “Everlasting Bass” by Rodney O and Joe Cooley — a song Three 6 has sampled multiple times.

The most manifest tribute of Wild Mode IIhowever, is Metro’s outfit in the music video “Running”, in which he wears a Three 6 shirt and a hat that reads “Make DJ Paul and Juicy J Three 6 Mafia Again”. This gesture sums up the difference between the two slices of wild mode, which now seems destined to become one of rap’s all-time classic series. Whereas SM1 was ineffable and mystical, Wild Mode II lays out his influences and his place in the canon of Southern rap.

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