So, I gave this one some thought. When 21 first dropped, I hated. Over time, however, Savage tracks grew on me. His debut had its flaws, though I left that project with hope. This Atlanta native brings more name than game in the booth. Yet his monotone approach is effective and distinct. On i am > i was, 21 Savage hands in his best work to date. An improvement such as this between albums denotes a clear dedication to his craft. Here he made me value his place in hip-hop. 21 is well on his way to becoming a generational talent. Quite frankly, it usually takes street rappers at least three or four albums to generate one with creative intent. He adds much more lyrical substance on this follow-up. Standouts like “letter 2 my momma,” “pad lock,” and “a lot” featuring J. Cole chip away at his frigid persona.
That, to me, was awesome. We needed to hear 21 Savage open up a little bit. As a certified gangster, we should never expect too much personal detail from Savage. Nevertheless, if one wishes to be known as an artist, one must do as an artist does. Renting out a motel and assigning each track its own recording room serves as a rite of passage. He cared about this album, and it shows. 21 switches up his signature delivery enough to keep things interesting. He grabbed guests who complement his style. However, some did phone in their performances. I will only shame one, though. Young Nudy ruined this album’s closer. His goofy (to be polite) verse derails the tidal energy 21 brought to the track. Thankfully, he starts and finishes the song. But Nudy did everything he could to drive “4L” into the ground. I’ma need him to do better.
Otherwise “4L” is one of Savage’s best overall tracks. Its brash chorus features the Zone Six emcee delivering a classic Southern vocal performance. 21, please, get another part-two thing going for this song. Your energy deserves to stand next to kings, not homies. We all love our homies, but a true dude knows when to either step up or step down. Young Nudy did neither, resulting in a wasted opportunity. Lemme chill on him, though. Maybe he did his best. Additionally, the album’s sequence stifled its longevity. i am > i was pleasantly surprised me. It has its limitations nonetheless. 21’s lack of substance continues to deflate after 30 minutes of music. Some tracks overlap each other in sound and theme. And since his lyrics and tone stagnate, the majority of these efforts become forgettable. Despite this, 21 Savage has taken a giant leap forward on just his sophomore LP.