Album Review: Savage Mode ii

Raghav Raj | Staff Writer

The Savage Mode 2 album cover

Artists: 21 Savage, Metro Boomin

Rating: 6.6/10

Review: Savage Mode, the 2016 collaboration tape between Metro Boomin and 21 Savage, always stood apart from the other great Atlanta trap records that emerged throughout the mid-2010’s. 

Avoiding the opulence of a record like Young Thug’s daringly iconoclastic Jeffrey, and steering clear of the fully-formed pop instincts that informed Migos’ triumphant Culture, Savage Mode felt almost minimalist in comparison. It was a lean, grizzled, sharply focused tape with little room for filler, locking in and thriving on the interplay between Metro’s brooding, borderline-ambient beats and Savage’s sinister, deadpan delivery.

The sequel to that tape — with its charmingly garish Pen & Pixel art, harkening back to the early days of Cash Money album artwork, and a narrative through-line involving Morgan Freeman — attempts to widen the original’s scope, but it sometimes loses the focus and the menace that made Savage Mode as good as it was.

On one hand, there are some truly great moments here. One of these moments comes in the form of “Glock in My Lap,” with a Metro beat so comically, cinematically outrageous that it practically veers into camp. Adorning Savage’s trademark monotone bars with some ominous bell tolls and operatic string vamps, the beat seems destined for a cheesy horror movie film, but in the best way possible.

Metro gets weirder on “Rich N***a Shit,” pairing drum machine cowbells with mellow synths and a decidedly off-kilter violin line that somehow works decently with 21 Savage’s slightly melodic delivery. Of course, it works even better with Young Thug’s exuberantly gleeful sing-song cadence, gliding with the beat for another one of Thug’s scene-stealing features.

Elsewhere, Metro and Savage end up trying too hard on some moments that feel off at best, and just uncomfortable at worst. One of the worst moments here comes with “Mr. Right Now,” on a song that attempts to show off Savage’s sensitive side and comes off as woefully misguided. It gets worse when Drake appears for a guest verse, stumbling through some supposedly seductive bars that fall flat on their face. The song is just awkward, an unnecessary direction to take on an album that really longs for the focus of its predecessor.

Savage Mode II truly thrives when it understands the boundaries it’s working in and tries to mine something new within them. Sadly, that doesn’t happen often enough here, on an album that tries to do too much while saying nothing new.