‘Savage Mode II’ lost focus on the original concept, and that isn’t a bad thing.


Melissa Joseph

21 Savage’s newest album “Savage Mode II” features Drake and Young Thug and is also narrated by Morgan Freeman.

21 Savage and Metro Boomin team up four years after their collaborative “Savage Mode” mixtape for a sequel that doesn’t feel like a sequel at all.

When the duo released the original “Savage Mode” in 2016, it marked the beginning of a wave in hip-hop. Suddenly, there was a surge of cold, minimal rap that was fitting for the setting the artist was transporting the listener to.

And it made sense, didn’t it? If 21 Savage’s lyrics reflect a corrupt life of crime, rapping over some lowkey yet aggressive production is only natural. It was clear that 21 Savage found his lane. This makes “Savage Mode II” all the more surprising, since it leaves many of the stylistic choices of the original behind.

The album opens, and is intermittently laced with narration by none other than Morgan Freeman. This is equally hilarious and impressive, and ultimately works in the album’s favor. While it is impossible to forget you are listening to Morgan Freeman as he delivers lines such as “A rat is a f*cking rat, period”, the reason it works is their decision to play the narration straight. The idea of Morgan Freeman narrating a rap album is comical, but only if his delivery is dead-serious.

Throughout “Savage Mode II”, Morgan Freeman’s musings on street life foreshadow the themes explored on the album. Across the 15 songs, the themes and production are substantially more varied than the original; whether this variety is a positive or negative will depend on what the listener is looking to get out of the album. If you are looking for some trap to add to a playlist, there will be a decent amount of songs to choose from. But where it might fall short to the original “Savage Mode” is its sense of identity.

“Savage Mode” is a focused project that hones in on a specific sound, and it nails it. It is clear that Metro and 21 had a vision and stuck to it. “Savage Mode II” is much more of a mishmash of different hip-hop sounds, old and new.

The album starts off with a couple of tracks that sound like something a fan of the original might expect: “Runnin” and “Glock in My Lap.” Over some menacing piano chords and unsettling strings, 21 Savage does what he does best. He’s grim and downplayed in his delivery. 

What follows is a set of tracks with luxurious and dreamy production, marking a change of pace. The first of the two, “Mr. Right Now”, features rap superstar Drake — not exactly known for his savage bars. His feature is, unsurprisingly, cringeworthy and out of place 

One consistent aspect of the album is the production. Metro Boomin manages to cover a number of different styles, and does them all masterfully. By now, it would be a surprise if he didn’t. His beats run the gamut from the signature “Savage Mode” sound to songs that pay homage to classic hip-hop of yesteryear with songs like “Many Men” and “Snitches & Rats.”

21 Savage’s rapping winds up being subpar. He has rarely been someone known to blow fans away with his writing, whose rapping varies anywhere from passable to forgettable. 

Fortunately, he tends to make up for a lack of lyrical prowess with his delivery. 21’s voice meshes with Metro’s production on almost every song, and even adapts to the different styles of hip-hop when necessary. With this being said, listeners will likely struggle to remember more than a few bars over the course of the entire album. It’s disappointing, but not surprising coming from 21.

With “Savage Mode II”, Metro Boomin and 21 Savage put out an album that will likely not cultivate the cult fanbase of the original. The sound is unfocused, and with so many different production styles, 21 Savage wasn’t quite able to tap into the dark and dreary side of hip-hop that he is best at. But with many more hits than misses, they have a collection of fun songs, and it doesn’t seem like they were looking for anything more than that.

Recommended listening settings: the kickback or a drive through downtown in the dead of night.

Score: 7/10

Thomas Stremfel can be reached at [email protected] or @tomstremfel on Twitter.