I was planning to detail the five best features on Metro Boomin’s surprise release, Not All Heroes Wear Capes. Only, I came to the realization after my approximate tenth listen of the album (give or take) that, every single 21 Savage feature is the best, and he’s got three of them, so, that about sums up the top three of my would-be list. It left me contemplating how 21 has been on a verse-killing-spree as of late. Which led me to think about much we need a new 21 Savage album, but not just any 21 Savage album, one that connects the devious-looking ATL rapper with his break-out producer, Metro Boomin. So, here we are. 

Right before the joint project trend started oversaturating our already-oversaturated rap market, 21 Savage found fame with Metro Boomin’s skillful and sinister production on Savage Mode. It was an eerie and sharp listen, front to back, condensed at 9 tracks, introducing the general public to the wicked voice of 21 Savage. He had a couple of mixtapes under his belt prior, however, none were as refined in sound as Savage Mode. Still, some seemed uncertain about his future and security in the rap game following his break-- was this a flash in pan, how would he progress? At the same time, let’s consider: this wasn’t the case of an artist breaking through with one song (think: OT Genasis “Coco”; OG Maco “U Guessed It”; Madeintyo “Uber Everywhere”). 21 broke through with an entire album of songs. In the former situation, we’ve definitely seen artists come and go, or perhaps more aptly put, come and then fade into unconsciousness-- it’s not as though they had any intention on “going,” it’s more like, we, the public, quickly lost interest beyond that one song. In this sense, the artist was perhaps not properly vetted or developed for the perniciousness of rap fans; the stable of music that followed was somehow unable to re-capture the organic viralness of whatever connected with fans first. If there were ever these types of doubts concerning 21 Savage, they’ve all but been washed away. And, if there were these types of doubts, I would say that they thrived around the time Issa Album dropped.

Although 21 Savage was still very much new to rapping when Savage Mode released-- he’d only been rapping for three years if not a bit less-- the raw talent was there. Did he set the bar too high for himself off the bat? Almost exactly a year after the critically-lauded Savage Mode, we received the meme-glorifying Issa Album. At the time, Savage was very publicly dating Amber Rose. It was a pairing that took us by surprise initially, one that fans seemed to take issue with. We were given many a glimpse at Savage’s softer side during this fling, a far cry from the image of his menacing face with a dagger tattoo drawn in the middle, that became a meme off an infamous VladTV interview. Issa Album was everything we did not really want from 21; it was the capitalization of a meme that, at the time, we’d basically already grown tired of, and bared seemingly zero connection to the album contents therein. The tracklist was a bit bloated, with wonky forays into serenade territory on “FaceTime.” This is not to say we necessarily needed an exact replica of Savage Mode in sound and style, but that Issa Album was not the natural progression we would have assumed for 21 Savage-- nor was it a direction that the fans had expected. We’ll leave to deciphering why (i.e. Amber Rose or nah) that was the case for another time.

Still, it’s not like fans all of sudden wrote 21 Savage off entirely, we just hoped for better in the future-- we were still excited at each new drop that featured the rapper, as we looked for the innovativeness and spark found within Savage Mode. And, lately, that’s all we’ve been getting from young 21.

21 seems to have settled neatly back into darker tones and darker imagery, which is fine by us. He’s taken some time away from releasing another full-length since Issa Album (save for the quick follow-up of Without Warning, a trio-album that served as the first step back in the right direction), appeasing fans more recently with a slew of slayed features that not only show a newfound sense of dexterity in terms of rap, but quirky and interesting lyrics to boot. Quavo’s bloated solo album found the 21 Savage verse to be one of the most interesting, and unforgettable parts (in a sea of forgettable-ness). The same can be said of his verse on Travis Scott’s equally star-studded Astroworld (“NC-17”). Somehow, 21 has been creeping into songs and stealing the show with lowkey funny quotables, ad-libs, and flow all neatly tied together on a whole other level. These songs have all been led by formidable, if not a bit dark, production, to be sure, undoubtedly helpful in 21 finding the pocket of each.

With Metro’s new album, the chemistry between the two is once again clear and freshly embedded. Not only that; the thing about 21’s verses on this album, is that they show growth while still reflecting his roots. He’s being gangster (“Hangin' off my waistline is a Glock / The body in that casket was a opp), he’s being funny (“Levi jeans, low self-esteem, he on BlackPeopleMeet”), he’s whispering half of a verse and then asking the listener, “Y'all must thought that I was gon' whisper the whole time,” he’s being bleakly honest (“Told myself I wasn't gonna drink no more / It's like the styrofoam glued to me though / I feel weak for using drugs to ease the pain / From the street, concrete in my vein”). Over the course of his three features, we get something refreshing each time 21 steps in with his scratchy-pronunciation and agile flows.

Is he the most exciting part of Metro Boomin’s Not All Heroes Wear a Cape? To be clear, the album as a whole is special. But, the unintentional or accidental result of it is that we now need another full-length (by that I mean, 10 songs) from Metro Boomin and 21 Savage exclusively.