Metro Boomin has mastered the art of the dark banger.
With the passage of time comes the passing of torches. In the nineties, the art of the Dark Banger was pioneered by producers like Dr. Dre and DJ U-Neek, N.O. Joe and Dame Grease. The early two-thousands found the Good Doctor instilling dark musical habits in his protege Eminem, while a new sonic trend seemed to be arising within the Crunk movement. While remnants of the Dark Banger’s DNA remained embedded within the mainstream, Dre’s decision to shift his focus opened the door for a new minor-key aficionado. Lo and behold, a young Atlanta talent emerged with a contemporary and regionally-fueled take on the sound.
Not only has Metro Boomin solidified himself among the greatest producers of our time, but he also sits comfortably alongside the spookiest. A pioneer of the influential trap sound, Metro’s expanded beyond tradition’s reach by incorporating a distinct and ominous sonic quality. Don’t get it twisted. Eerie trap music had bubbled for a minute, with producers like Mike WiLL and Zaytoven dabbling in the vibe. Consider that Gucci Mane once described Diary Of A Trap God as a “horror movie,” a claim backed by the project’s pervading violence and cold production. Yet with Metro Boomin’s evolution came a sense of focus, a prioritization of atmosphere and sound. Projects like 21 Savage’s Savage Mode, Gucci Mane’s DropTopWop, and the Offset/Savage collaboration Without Warning were elevated by Metro’s presence, as much as the respective rappers.
A modern master of the Dark Banger, Metro Boomin has consistently proven himself a force to be reckoned with. Restrained though he may be, his ear remains as deadly as Leatherface. It’s only a matter of time before an aspiring horror filmmaker scoops him up for a score. Until that day comes, however, we’re content to examine some of Metro’s spookiest selections to date.
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OFFSET, 21 SAVAGE - MAD STALKERS
Offset and 21 Savage’s surprise Halloween collab tape Without Warning is arguably the darkest body of trap music released in recent memory, challenged only by Trouble’s Edgewood. Across the journey, nearly all of the instrumentals highlight Metro’s mastery of the eerie. While narrowing down the particular standouts is a difficult task, there’s something to be said about the unsettling “Mad Stalkers.” With a demonic introductory giggle, a creeping main loop, and sci-fi inspired background chimes, Metro concocts a suspenseful and sonically interesting banger. Around the one-minute mark, he implements a sickening synthesizer into the mix, adding a strangely beautiful layer of sorrow. The fact that Metro Boomin managed to incorporate such an overt horror-influence into hard-hitting trap music speaks to his evil genius status.
YG - 1 AM
Though 3 AM is widely considered to be the hour during which unspeakable shit goes down, 1 AM isn’t exactly known for its wholesome lineup of activities. YG’s My Krazy Life found Metro looking to his west coast forebears for inspiration, pairing cinematic Hitchcock-esque strings with a calculated G-funk bassline. History finds that gangsta rap has occasionally brushed shoulders with horrorcore, it’s interesting to notice the many thematic crossovers. The inherent threat of a situation turning left at a moment’s notice among them. YG’s suspenseful reflection is given heightened stakes through Metro’s masterful work, culminating in a work that would have surely kept Dr. Dre’s head ringin’.
LISTEN: YG - 1 AM
GUCCI MANE - FINESSE THE PLUG INTERLUDE
Many have likened Gucci Mane to the Boogeyman, but it’s rare to see his music reflect his alter-ego’s reputation. That changed on the Metro Boomin-helmed DropTopWop, which found Gucci diving down a rabbit hole of strange and haunting production. One of the project’s standout moments arrives on “Finesse The Plug,” a spooky instrumental delivered by possessed music boxes and various haunted children’s toys. Gucci slows down his flow, taking to the hellish chimes with a singsong melody. Metro’s chosen sounds on this one are a testament to his imagination, one that doesn’t shy away from exploring its darkest instincts.
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WAKA FLOCKA FLAME & BEN G - ACTIVIST
The unsettling can arrive in various states. Most commonly, it derives from threats of the existential, supernatural, or physical variety. On Waka Flocka Flame’s “Activist,” Metro sparks feelings of unease best associated with an overwhelmed and deteriorating mental state. Sounds that might otherwise come off playful take on a feverish quality, evocative of a drug-trip on unfamiliar ground. Managing to remain hard-hitting without sacrificing its more nightmarish characteristics, “Activist” once again highlights Metro’s role in steering a track’s course.
GUCCI MANE - DANCE WITH THE DEVIL
Not to be confused with Immortal Technique’s notoriously sordid tale, Guwop’s “Dance With The Devil” conjures dread for altogether different reasons. While some of his other instrumentals are more atmospheric in nature, this one features a reverberated minor-key piano loop at the forefront. With such a direct melodic anchor, “Dance” feels more assertive in its presence, slowly unfolding as subtle elements are layered beneath the mainline. Metro’s beat once again taps into that Boogeyman persona, saving Gucci the trouble of uttering threats; they simply hover around him, represented by a ghoulish and dangerous soundtrack.
21 SAVAGE - SAVAGE MODE
The mind behind the album that made 21 Savage a star, Metro Boomin’s contributions to Savage Mode stand among the strongest of his horror-inspired work. Though the entire album plays out like a hood nightmare, its title track manages to effectively capture 21's villainous essence within seconds. Backboned by lively trap percussion, Metro’s dreamlike synthesizers hover and float like apparitions. Beneath it all is a melancholic chord progression, which takes on a bleak sense of finality when paired with Savage’s fatal slasher flick bars.
LISTEN: 21 Savage - Savage Mode
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OFFSET & 21 SAVAGE - GHOSTFACE KILLERS
Not only was the opening track to Without Warning designed to capture the album’s tone, but to establish its horror-pedigree through the art of connotation. “Ghostface Killers,” a marriage between the legendary Wu-Tang lyricist and Scream’s iconic antagonist, Metro Boomin skews closer to the Wes Craven than he does Tony Starks. As lyricists, neither Offset nor Savage particularly embrace the darkness within; at least, such a conclusion can be reached by their solo repertoire. Yet with Metro at the helm, the pair are united under a common goal -- which is to say, ushering in peak Halloween anthems.
GUCCI MANE - BUCKET LIST
Metro Boomin’s 2017 campaign was incredible, culminating in some of his most imaginative and malevolent work. Gucci Mane’s DropTopWop proved a welcome beneficiary of Metro’s creative surge, and it’s no surprise to see a handful of tracks cemented on this list. Musically, “Bucket List” is reminiscent of an existential crisis at once isolated and surreal. Digging into the toybox for seemingly innocuous sounds, Metro lays down a simplistic loop atop reverse-delayed strings; what results is a hazy and dreamlike voyage through the East Atlanta Santa’s psyche.
LISTEN: Gucci Mane - Bucket List
21 SAVAGE - MAD HIGH
Another Savage Mode standout, Metro’s work on “Mad High” evokes shades of Eminem’s beat-making, particularly within the arpeggiated chord progression. Operating in the minor-key piano realm, a safe space for Dark Banger connoisseurs, Metro channels peak John Carpenter energy; you can almost feel Michael Myers peeping through the blinds as the song reaches its apex. Paired with 21’s lackadaisically violent bars, “Mad High” is the perfect encapsulation as 21 as a modern-day slasher archetype, one with a gleeful inclination toward firearms.
LISTEN: 21 Savage - Mad High
OFFSET & 21 SAVAGE - NIGHTMARE
There’s something notably off-kilter on “Nightmare,” a fact that becomes evident within the borderline dissonant introduction. For one, it sounds if Metro mic’d up a pack of inebriated wolves, creating the disconcerting effect that things aren’t quite right. Layered against a menacing piano line and Phantom Of The Opera-esque organ, the howls stand out as a particularly disorienting element.
LISTEN: Offset & 21 Savage - Nightmare