A soul sample starts things off before a jazz loop kicks into a deeper hip-hop groove. Then 21 Savage, an Atlanta rapper known for crafting songs full of brooding aggression and vicious violence, starts rapping.
Here's the real surprise: for the first time on record, Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph sounds relaxed. Chill, even. His first words on his second album, I Am > I Was, aren't about guns or drugs or prison or mowing down his enemies with an arsenal of weapons.
It's a simple request to turn down his headphones. As for that soul sample, It's from a song called I Love You For All Seasons by 70s female soul act The Fuzz, and on 21 Savage's take, it sounds delightfully summery.
This is a new vibe for 21 Savage, the 26-year-old who spent his previous release, 2017's Issa Album, as well as multiple mixtapes, collaborative records and guest spots, detailing bloody escapades and murderous horror shows.
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There are still moments like that on I Am > I Was, a surprise release delivered pre-Christmas. Over Gun Smoke's intimidating throbs and police sirens, he raps about his gun like it's the love of his life. "Put my Glock down, that's a no-no," he mumbles in the chorus. "When I wear my suit, I tote my .44."
But that's the exception, not the rule. Out For The Night has a laid-back guitar riff that sounds like someone noodling under a full moon, while 1.5 utilises summery flute loops and an upbeat Offset. A&T is a silly, stupid throwaway, but it's kinda fun, there's a song called Good Day that has Schoolboy Q on absolute fire, and there's even a love letter to his mum that starts by thanking her for giving birth to him.
Best of all is Monster, 21 Savage's most obvious attempt at crafting a pop hit, one full of hooks, lyrical quotables and electronic flourishes. It's a fascinating song, picking apart the perils of fame in savage detail. All this range, and it's only album number two. You can't help but wonder where 21 Savage will be by album five.
21 SAVAGE - I Am > I Was