×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Album Review: 21 Savage’s ‘i am > i was’

It’s surprising, considering his bona fides — not to mention the A-list guests on this album — that 21 Savage is not yet a household name. An East Atlanta rapper-producer with a laconically flat-lining baritone voice and a whispery liquidly flow, he’s spent the last three years since his 2015 mixtape “The Slaughter Tape,” dropping top-tier features with Drake (“Sneakin'”), Post Malone (“Rockstar”) and Metro Boomin (“X,” “Don’t Come Out The House”), not to mention his own detuned, synth-plinking hit, “Bank Account.” His lyrics are smart, thought-provoking and usually humorous.

“i am > i was” should change that, in the same fashion that 2018 saw Travis Scott and Pusha T pushing into platinum status with just a few melodic tweaks to their usual formulas — and along for the ride are Childish Gambino, Post Malone, Offset, J Cole, Schoolboy Q and others.

Unlike his grim, trap-heavy major-label debut, 2017’s “Issa Album,” here 21 Savage finds charm to be as much of a weapon as sullen bleakness or sudden violence. Rather than stick on the trap track, he finds swerving R&B grooves and melodies that are equally durable.

“How many Pradas you got?…. How many lawyers you got?… How many times you got shot?” are among the questions he asks, wryly, on the DJ Dahl-produced “A Lot.” Even though that particular track is generating buzz due to its J. Cole feature (about  the recently incarcerated Tekashi 6ix9ine: “Pray for Tekashi, they want him to rot/ I picture him inside the cell on a cot/ Reflectin’ on how he made it to the top/ Wonderin’ if it was worth it or not”), “A Lot” swims on its own soulful merits and sniper-precise raps when it comes to taking on personal growth tips and picking on troublesome women. He reunites with Metro Boomin’ on “Break Da Law,” in which he nails fellow rappers with a gutsy, guttural challenge: “Don’t you cross the gang dawg, we like barb wire.”

Slowing things down a bit, on “All My Friends,” Savage works a moody melody until Post Malone jumps in with a killer hook and some hard truths about losing friends to “counting bands” and “chasing money.” And the Childish Gambino guest spot on “Monster” is closer to the hard-rapping Glover of his past albums rather than his “This is America”-style smokiness – a cockiness that 21 Savage matches while talking about staying true to his initial values.

But despite all the high-profile guests, it’s actually on the soulfully inventive “Ball w/o You,” “Gun Smoke” and the sensual “Out for the Night” — which all feature 21 Savage on his own — that “i am > i was” is at its best and most dynamic.

 

Album Review: 21 Savage's 'i am > i was'

More Music

  • Spice Girls Open Reunion Tour in

    Spice Girls Open European Reunion Tour With Inclusivity Proclamations, Sound Issues

    Posh Spice chose not to be included, but there was a lot of other inclusivity to go around as the four other Spice Girls opened their reunion tour in Dublin Friday night. “We welcome all ages, all races, all gender identifies, all countries of origin, all sexual orientations, all religions and beliefs, all abilities,” they [...]

  • Moby attends the LA premiere of

    Moby Apologizes to Natalie Portman Over Book Controversy

    Moby has issued an apology of sorts after writing in his recently published memoir “Then It Fell Apart” that he dated Natalie Portman when she was 20 — a claim the actress refuted. “As some time has passed I’ve realized that many of the criticisms leveled at me regarding my inclusion of Natalie in Then [...]

  • Billie Eilish

    Billie Eilish Fans to Receive Perks Due to Chicago Venue Change

    Billie Eilish and her music agents at Paradigm are experiencing what most would call a first class problem. The demand to see the 17-year-old singer live has prompted a change of venue for her June 9 show in Chicago — from the 5,000-capacity Aragon Ballroom to the 20,000-plus-seat United Center arena. The last-minute venue change [...]

  • Moby Natalie Portman

    Moby Accuses Natalie Portman of Lying as the Two Spar Over Dating Claims

    In what’s become a he said/she said spat in multiple mediums, Moby, the elder statesman of electronic music, is now accusing actress Natalie Portman of lying and pleading to those on social media for his safety as “physical threats from complete strangers” emerge. To recap: this month, Moby released a new book, “Then It All [...]

  • Ellen DeGeneres Buys Adam Levine’s Beverly

    Adam Levine Cashes in on Sale of Max Mutchnick’s Former Mansion to Ellen DeGeneres

    Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo have sold a baronial Beverly Hills mansion with an illustrious chain of ownership for a reported $45 million to Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. The mainstream radio rock star, who, it was announced Friday, will not to return as a coach on “The Voice,” and the Namibian-born Victoria’s Secret [...]

  • Kanye West Shares a Memory of

    Kanye West Shares a Touching Memory of His Mother in Letterman Interview

    In a preview of David Letterman’s interview with Kanye West, which begins streaming next Friday, May 31, the musician’s wife Kim Kardashian West, tweeted a clip of him sharing a touching memory of his mother, Donda, who died in 2007 after a surgical procedure. While his wife looks on smiling, West answers Letterman’s question about [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content