A few listens in, and I feel that Savage Mode has more than lived up to the hype. It's inspiring that Metro Boomin (likely) passed on a number of more lucrative opportunities in order to work closely alongside a relatively untested artist. After months of reclusive in-studio dedication, what they have achieved is a concise, immaculately curated project that gives a look into the mind of a killer whose words bear all the weight and menace of his past sins. Though it might be the most haunting listen in recent memory, Savage Mode is most effective in its subtlety, as the productions have a faint trap pulse but are otherwise ambient arrangements of noises that sound fit for an abandoned church. As for 21, he often raps with little to no energy, but his deadpan delivery gives his message a bleakness that's probably true to life, if one could imagine witnessing all that 21 has in the brutal 21 years he's spent in the darkest corners of Atlanta. When he does up his energy -- as he does here with a quick burst that references both the Cat in the Hat and Stuart Little -- it's all the more chilling.
As he begins "No Heart" with a series of rhetorical questions about himself, one starts to understand why he's such a compelling persona. After this track, I was transfixed and eager to listen to the rest of the project. Across Savage Mode, there are intermittent moments that do provide evidence of 21's humanity and of all that he actually holds dear to his heart. He recognizes that all of those things, however, are situated within a world of chaos in which the will to survive must always trump one's feelings.
"No Heart" is the only Savage Mode track on which Metro is assisted on the instrumental. He's joined by another legend in Southside, and additional production comes from Cubeatz, the duo that has also worked with Drake and ScHoolboy Q this year.
Stream Savage Mode here.