The Atlanta rapper and St. Louis super-producer team up once again and deliver a more-than-worthy successor to 2016’s Savage Mode.
In hip hop, the sequel album has historically been hit-or-miss. Much like in film, the sequel has a lot of pressure to live up to the legacy and quality of the original, and for every triumphant follow-up, there’s been a disappointing letdown. With Savage Mode II, 21 Savage and Metro Boomin set out to be bigger and better the second time around — and bring Morgan Freeman along for the ride.
When the rapper/producer pair teamed up for the original Savage Mode in 2016, Metro was on a sensational run and 21 was one of the exciting new faces in hip hop. The project’s eerie, ominous trap sound, paired with 21’s monotone delivery and haunting tales of street life were a match made in heaven, even with the hellish soundscape. It was massively successful, launching 21 into a new realm of stardom and further cementing Metro as one of the genre’s best producers.
With so much to live up to, it would’ve been entirely understandable for the duo to succumb to the pressures of making a sequel and fall short. Fortunately, that’s not the case, as this is a rare occurrence in which the sequel completely trumps its predecessor.
With Savage Mode II, the pair have delivered a follow-up that improves on nearly every aspect of the original, while understanding exactly what made the first so special. A lot of Metro’s production mostly maintains the dark, brooding tone of the original, though there are several moments here that showcase his range as a producer. The biggest difference on this one is that the quality of the instrumentals has improved tenfold and they’re extremely dynamic and cinematic. His work here feels less like he’s producing an album and more like he’s scoring a film.
Another aspect of this album that gives it that movie-like feeling is the narration that appears throughout, courtesy of Morgan Freeman. From his opening monologue to his final words on the closing track “Said N Done,” Freeman has moments peppered throughout the project in which he delivers words of wisdom to the listener. He immediately sets the tone for the album and his appearances throughout perfectly emphasize the album’s lyrics and themes.
The instrumentals and narration do a fantastic job of setting the framework for 21 to succeed, and he does not let that foundation go to waste. This may very well be the best he has ever sounded in his career. Lyrically, he’s sharper than ever and while he’s still quite monotone, his flows and delivery have drastically improved and have given his lyrics more punch.
The diversity that Metro Boomin brings to this album’s soundscape also pushes 21 to be more adventurous, both in terms of style and content. With some more introspective moments, a couple of relationship tracks, the lavish “Rich N**** Shit” and the seemingly N.W.A.-inspired “Steppin on N****s,” he seems comfortable on almost any instrumental Metro throws his way.
Savage Mode II is a blockbuster sequel that shines in its cinematic approach thanks to incredible instrumentals, a much more refined 21 Savage and guest narration from Morgan Freeman himself. It’s a testament to the improvement that 21 and Metro have shown over the years, honing their respective crafts since their first collaborative effort. Ultimately, this sequel will stand as a benchmark in both of their catalogues.
Trial Track: “Many Men”