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21 Savage Re-Emerges With His “american dream”

21 Savage is no stranger to the cinematic. The rollout for his and Drake’s 2022 effort, Her Loss, came in surprise fashion, fit with a ton of production value as it went from unexpected announcement to full release just a week later. Dating back even further to 2020’s Savage Mode II, Morgan Freeman narration enveloped the entire project. All of that to say, the massive headlines generated earlier this week from the Childish Gambino and Caleb McLaughlin-assisted american dream trailer were about par for the 21 Savage course. As time went on, it was clear that there was no actual movie in production, and instead, the cinematic short was in anticipation of 21’s first solo album in eight years.

The ATL Rapper Addresses His LDN Origins

With the title track, american dream opens in film-like fashion—a spoken word section from 21 Savage’s mother over a sparse, score-like instrumental: “My unwavering hеart remains / For all the trials and all the pain / The mission is as its always been / For my son to become a man and live free in his American dream.” Both in that section and in the title, the Atlanta rapper tacitly addresses the immigration scandal that took social media by storm a few years back. It was the revelation that despite his Georgia upbringing, Savage was in fact born across the pond, something that he circles back to later in the tracklist.

That intro seamlessly fades into the true opening track, “all of me.” It’s marked by soulful production, and 21’s verse is a twist on his classic formula. Though he’s as braggadocious and boisterous as ever, there are some choice windows into an introspective side. Take this couplet from the chorus as proof: “I stand on business, dot my I’s and cross my T’s / All I got is these lil pictures when I think ’bout all the G’s.” 21 Savage jumps back to standard fare on american dream by the second track, “redrum,” which again is a key indicator for what you can expect on this project. Undoubtedly, this album is the most well-produced of his career, and the London on da Track contributions here are equal parts eerie, gorgeous and thunderous.

Doja Cat Makes a Surprise Alongside 21 Savage on american dream

As with most “Rap Caviar” kinds of projects, american dream arrives with a healthy guest list—some familiar and some unexpected. Lil Durk, Young Thug, Travis Scott and Metro Boomin make up the familiar faces while Burna Boy, Brent Faiyaz and Mariah the Scientist mark their first appearances alongside 21, though collaboration with the Atlanta rapper isn’t entirely surprising.

Which leaves Doja Cat, an unannounced feature and no doubt the biggest surprise here. It’s fair to say that “n.h.i.e” (standing for never have I ever) is 21 meeting Doja at her level rather than the other way around. Indeed, this was originally going to crop up on Doja Cat’s Scarlet, its omission there leading to its debut here. 21 is metronome-like on the song, delivering another lowkey, trademark 16 that balances flexing with calm confidence.

Doja Cat makes up for it in the inventiveness category, clearly having a good time out of her comfort zone—she quite literally uses the word “adlib” as an adlib in her opening lines. Likewise, the flow that she hits by the end when she raps, “I don’t beeline to no D, like, I don’t be like none these b****** / If I feel like havin’ free time, hit the seaside with them fishes,” is expert-level triplet work, easily the biggest highlight on “n.h.i.e” as a whole.

The Rest of the Guest Stars, Familiar & Otherwise

Circling back, “dangerous (ft. Lil Durk & Metro),” “pop ur sh** (ft. Young Thug & Metro),” and “nee-nah (ft. Travis Scott)” arrive in quick succession and make up the red meat of this project, the moments where 21 Savage devotees receive the hard-hitting trap songs they expect. Of the bunch, “pop ur sh**” might be the best. 21 more than delivers on the promise of the title, providing an album-best verse that nimbly switches between flows. It, unfortunately, has to be noted that a so-bad-it’s-almost-good line veers the song off course in the hook: “What you smoking? Uncle Snoop / It smell like gas, I think somebody pooped.” Despite that, Thug & 21 Savage have built up some of the industry’s best chemistry over their rich collaborative history, and it again bears fruit on american dream.

Summer Walker’s “prove it,” Brent Faiyaz’s “should’ve wore a bonnet” and Burna Boy’s “just like me” make up a decidedly “for the ladies” three-track stretch towards the album’s close. Each of them is pretty close in tone and tenor to “Mr. Right Now,” songs where 21 Savage gets a bit softer and delves into his relationships past and current. They’re more or less interchangeable, but he uses the formula so often for a reason—it makes for pretty good songs in their own right.

At the very end, “dark days” is the song that’s most intriguing. Mariah the Scientist is on hook duty here, sounding straight off of 2000s airwaves for a soulful, emotional performance. The development is how 21 Savage entirely responds in kind, delivering two extended stream-of-consciousness verses where he opens up about everything that’s plagued him over the past few years.

21 Savage’s Vulnerable Side at the Tail End

The subject matter is varied but dark and honest no matter where it ventures: “You feelin’ like nobody love you, I know how that go / You gotta love yourself, lil n****, that’s gon’ help you glow / I know it might sound lame, but just stay in school / They got a place that they put people who don’t follow rules.” Or, later in the song, “Never do no suicide / But I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t crossed my mind / I hurt on the inside and I still act like I’m fine.”

Ending american dream on this note is an inspired choice by 21 Savage, as it leaves the listener with the overriding note explored on this project. He hasn’t changed up entirely, but clearly, the years have led to a wizened man, more in an “older brother” seat in hip-hop than when he first made his introduction. Luckily for us, the quality of his work hasn’t missed a beat along the way, and american dream is another great installment in what’s becoming an ironclad catalog. You can find american dream on all streaming platforms.

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Bo Wilke
Bo Wilke
4 months ago

Amazingly written and hit on all the points that I had when listening!

4 months ago

Wow, what a fantastic blog style. How long have you been blogging for? You made it seem so simple. Your website looks beautiful overall, and the information is even better.


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