Favourites: Bank Account, Close My Eyes, Thug Life, Numb, Whole Lot, Bad Business
Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, or “21 Savage” is a (t)rapper from Atlanta, Georgia, but unlike most of the acts in the trap scene that were brought up in the ATL, 21 really is spitting the truths of his experiences within the trap. Shooting people down if they don’t respect him, slanging drugs, and stuntin’ on his exes, Savage gives you the impression that you really shouldn’t be messing with him, and that he should be feared. He raps with both confidence, affirm-ability, but also at a cadence that cancels him out of the “mumble-rap” lane. He became a mainstream success at the age of 22 with singles like “X” featuring trap king Future and “No Heart” which were on the collab mixtape he did with Metro Boomin’ “Savage Mode”; love those tracks. It’s 2017, and we got “ISSA Album”…and let’s just say you get exactly what you think you’d get with a 21 Savage debut.
Young Savage, why you trappin’ so hard?
ISSA begins with the very suitable opening track “Famous“, which is his reflection song about his “rags to riches” story, grindin’ to the top with his street smarts. Simple piano plucks under the constantly reoccurring BOOOOOM….BOOOOM sub bass that just floods every song on this album, makes for a laid back, but rather dull instrumental. Next comes “Bank Account“, a song i’m predicting is going to blow up to the heights of “Bad and Boujee” and “Mask Off” with its incredibly infectious chorus: “I got 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, m’s in my bank account”… easy to remember, everyone can sing along from the first listen!! how fun, and you feel like the shit reciting these lyrics with your friends, as I did with my co-workers as we were slanging orders in the kitchen, dancing around to 21. I guess it’s important to state, that 21 Savage isn’t going to “wow” you with his lyrical ability, but its his laid back, no fucks given rapping style that makes him stick out from the rest of the hip-hop community, so just turn off your brain for a little bit and just vibe to this album and you’ll have a much better experience with it.
21 discusses his PTSD-like symptoms from being involved in multiple shootouts and gang murders in the song “Close My Eyes“, and having to get high to cope with the nightmares about dead bodies and gang activity. This song grew on me, i dig the subtle melting sounding synth, and 21’s flow on top smoothly fills in the vacant space on this ethereal feeling track. We get smacked in the ears with the iconic trap siren most notably known off Future’s “Dirty Sprite 2” on “Bad Business“, letting you KNOW this is going to be slap. Loved his flow and delivery on this track, you can’t help but bob your head like an idiot while walking down the street listening to this on your headphones, or wherever really. This song is pretty straight forward lyrically…the dude’s bad business, alright? He also has found a fascination for Saint Laurent jackets and added the braggy Asap Rocky-esque confidence in his style. In “Baby Girl” we are introduced to a very sexually graphic 21, in the vain of Danny Brown’s usual subject manner. The beat is meh, seemed to be an after thought for the album, and I feel a bit awkward listening to this song, even by myself…I don’t necessarily need to know what 21 savage is doing in the sack, lol.
“Thug Life” cleanses the pallet, with an opening on it that reminds me of the intro to “Tuscan Leather” by Drake, the vinyl scratching and the reversed vocals through a low pass filter are lovely on the ears. Thug Life serves as an ode to 2pac in a sense. “Feel Like 2pac, Thug Life”, Savage explains his drug dealing past, having to hide all his crack in his grandmothers house, and near the end he talks about the unfaithful women in his life , stating that he never should’ve trusted that “dog ass bitch” lmao. We get an unexpected DJ Mustard produced track, “Facetime“, which is in my opinion the worst track on this album. He tries out this new R&B fused trap flow, trying to sound like a Ty Dolla $ign, or Drake, and although I appreciate how he fought his label to have this track on the album (which he discusses on his latest Breakfast Club interview) , I really don’t think this sound is for him, just cringe as hell in my opinion, as the context of this love song is that he’s too drunk to text this girl so he’d rather Facetime her instead. Here’s that breakfast club interview i’m talking about:
In a complete contrast in mood from Facetime, the next track “Nothin New” is a political themed track, where 21 Savage talks about his frustrations with racism in America and how nothing has changed; “it ain’t nothin new”. Nice piano licks and a more upbeat trap beat makes for a more introspective and classy Savage on this song. “Numb” is another favourite for me on this project, I really liked how the beat holds off until the chorus: “numb the pain with the money” repeatedly recited to you until it gets stuck in your head for weeks. The song does a nice job of noting that Savage is wealthy and successful now, and he doesn’t have to worry about his rough upbringing.
Yet another bass-heavy brag track on “Dead People” where he uses the presidents on American currency to explain yet again, that he’s wealthy now and that he’ll always be accompanied by those “dead people” with all the cash he carries; yeah okay, cool. Oh, oh, and lookie here we got another track about money, “Money People”…which features more piano drowning in seas of sub-bass. Growing very tired of this sound by this point of the album. Alright, 3 more to go, I got this. “Special” is another lack luster love song, but i did love the synths on this track, and near the end he switches up his flow a bit which was refreshing, thanks 21. The next track gave me a bit more hope for the album, “Whole Lot” features ad-libs from Young Thug, and adds a colorful new voice to compliment 21’s cadence in the song. I love the amount of flows he manages to put in this track, the triplets are very prominent and he delivers them amazingly. The last track “7 Minute Freestyle” is obviously a real, one take freestyle…near the end he’s just making up shit on the spot, and ends up just mumbling some lines. Around the 2 minute mark of the song, Savage FINALLY raises his voice a bit, and it caught me off guard…its a shame he doesn’t yell like that more often, it really adds a more terrifying flavour to his voice. But yeah, pretty half assed song otherwise…turned that one off aronud the 5 minute mark.
All in all, this album is just all over the place. There’s no concept to the album, 21 Savage is just talking about where he’s at in life, and he didn’t really do anything musically that you wouldn’t expect from him… besides Facetime I guess. I think he is going to have to add a bit more variation in his subject matter and beat selection in his next project for him to remain relevant and fresh. However, there are a few bangers on this album that i’ll continue to listen to when i’m wanting to just jam out to some real street, atlanta trap music; Savage does that with finesse.