Album Review: 21 Savage & Metro Boomin- Savage Mode 2

21 Savage and Metro Boomin redefines what it means to be a savage in the sequel to the rapper/producer duo’s 2016 project Savage Mode.

During the rollout of 21 Savage’s previous album I Am>I Was, he says in the album’s documentary “I can grow as a person, but y’all still gonna want to hear me smoke people, **** **** and wear designer; like ‘Damn! Y’all wanna keep me in a box.” At the time, this sounded like a strange contrast from the Savage who sent threats of gunplay to his rivals using KKK-themed wordplay in My Choppa Hates ****** , rapped about shooting sprees and home invasions  in No Heart, and aptly titled his debut mixtape The Slaughter Tape. Nevertheless, the album was released to huge commercial success and acclaim from fans and critics alike with songs devoted to more introspective subject matter such as romance and tribulations before fame such as Ball w/o You and A Lot. With activities in his hometown of Atlanta such as a visit to a middle school advocating financial literacy with Congressman Hank Johnson and his annual Issa Back 2 School Drive community events for kids and their families, 21 is poised to mature as a person. Savage Mode 2 reunites the rapper with his frequent collaborator and producer Metro Boomin and revisits his hardcore roots while retaining the introspection and maturity seen in I Am>I Was.

From the start, it is already evident that 21 is ready to return to a murderous and confrontational mood. The track Runnin sets off this vibe with an eerie and ghost-like Diana Ross sample in the background while 808 and hi-hats pound with the pace of someone on a stakeout for his enemies. He raps “Called the first one Savage Mode, my mood, that’s what it was/2016, we was ridin around, beatin ****** up in the club” and “He was talking gangster, we caught him at a light/I let my young ***** do it, it was free, he wanted a stripe”, immediately echoing the nihilism of the first Savage Mode. The following track Glock In My Lap continues the onslaught with horror movie-esque strings and piano in the instrumental while Savage fires with bars like “Leave an opp cold, like December, .45 on me it’s a Kimber/AK knockin down trees like timber, Get your baby mama ‘fore we bend her”. Other tracks such as Many Men expand his tales with themes of jealousy and revenge with lines such as “Many men  wanna kill me, dawg, I feel like 50, I got small fries want my spot tryna defeat me/I got real model bitches tryna R&B me, All that cap inside your raps, I ain’t even play your CD”, keeping one foot in the streets and the other in his newfound life of higher status. There’s even a song reminiscent of 1980s and 1990’s gangsta rap in Steppin On ******, with breakbeat-heavy production and a simplified flow evoking classics like NWA’s Boyz N the Hood and Ice-T’s 6 N The Mornin.

Despite the album’s predominantly gangsta rap vibe, 21 balances the grim content with some songs reflecting themes surrounding his current life. Mr. Right Now shows off a somewhat more romantic side for females with a very sexual Drake verse and lines such as “Ayy, turn your phone off, take your clothes off, I’m a savage but I **** her to a slow song”/Turn the lights down, lay the pipe down, I ain’t Mr. Right, but I’m Mr. Right Now.” Rich ***** ****  with Young Thug celebrates the excesses of fame with its hazy mid-tempo production and  bars like “Saint Laurent the only thing I put on my back, Off-White jeans look like cooked crack/I call my Porsche stomach ‘cause the **** snatch, Gave my girl a dub now her butt fat/You might take your women to the Louis store, My ******* be askin ‘Where’s Chanel at”. On a more serious note, RIP Luv laments 21’s more personal struggles with intimate relationships. In this track, he raps “Woulda never went against you ever, I even tried to make the grudge settle/Yeah I heard you slept with a couple fellas, Still treated you like a virgin because I know you better.” Metro Boomin elevates the instrumental with guitar licks to capture its somber mood.

After the release of the original Savage Mode in 2016, one would think that 21’s definition of savage is to dominate all of his opposition in the context of the streets. With this album, he proves that being savage is to stay focused and keep fighting to be at the top of his game. Metro Boomin’s cinematic production and 21 Savage’s ever evolving perspective makes this one of the most memorable hip hop albums of 2020.

Score: 9/10

Written by: Kristian Gonzales

Picture source: Genius

Welcome to Dreamland: COIN’s Third Album

Last month, Nashville-based indie pop band COIN finally released their long-awaited third album, Dreamland.

I spent my high school years driving around listening to COIN’s first two albums and I think it would be safe to say they are a big part of the soundtrack of my life. COIN is one of those bands I could listen to forever and not get tired of; I was ecstatic when they dropped Dreamland and this album does not disappoint.

Opening with “Into My Arms”, Dreamland immediately makes itself known as a good classic indie-pop record, joining previous self-titled COIN and How Will You Know If You Never Try. Less ‘windows down summer indie’, the next tracks “I Want It All” and “Simple Romance” both give off a slightly different feeling than the rest of the album; with both being co-written/produced by Mark Foster of Foster The People, it makes sense.

“Crash My Car” is probably the most musically powerful song on the album, being born out of wanting a song louder than “Talk Too Much” (their most popular song). The story behind “Crash My Car” is a perfect example of the band’s impact, and also why I was so eager for this third album.

“The day after we played Music Midtown in Atlanta [in 2017], we played for like 15,000 people and we heard thousands scream “Talk Too Much.” I knew, the next day, we had to write a song louder than “Talk Too Much.” I was so inspired. We went to the studio, literally the next morning, and “Crash My Car” came out in probably three hours. But we didn’t have a story. There was a chorus, there was some lyrics… it didn’t really say much. Then in October [2017], a girl came to a show in Oxford, Mississippi. After the show, she stuck around to tell me that she got in a very bad car accident on the way to the show in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her car was literally totaled — completely totaled. She showed up, still. She drove her totaled car and made it to Oxford, Mississippi in the same day. I was like ‘Why would you do that, that’s so dangerous!’ and she [said] ‘I want to be here. More than I care about my car, more than I care about my possessions.’ It all clicked. That’s what this song means. It’s not about what you have, it’s who you’re with. “

COIN interviewed by Monica Sucic for WTBU

“Dreamland Sequence” is the first of two quasi-interludes on the album. Its dreamy sound definitely adds to the Dreamland experience, and provides a moment to just sit and think before going into “Cemetery.” In this track, COIN tells a story with the message that being “the richest man in the cemetery” is nothing compared to leading a life filled with love for those around you.

One of my favorite parts of Dreamland is the transition between some of the songs in the album. Lead singer Chase Lawrence likes the transitions between the last few songs, but I actually like the subtle transition between “Youuu” to “Valentine”. The fade-out/in musically connects the two songs, making room for a possible lyrical connection to be made. “You ever love something so much it hurts?” from the latter can enhance the entirety of “Youuu”, a proclamation that “it’s always been you” no matter who the narrator may love now. Still loving the past someone so much it hurts. “Youuu” is probably my favorite song on Dreamland, anyway. I’ve been waiting for this song since they added it to their live setlist a while back and the official released song is even better than I expected.

Next song “Nobody’s Baby” is also one of my favorites. This song encompasses my memories and feeling of driving around years ago better than any other. This is one that reminds me of how much I love COIN and why I still listen to them after years. “Never Change” also sounds a bit like past COIN to me for some reason. Both are highlights from Dreamland.

“Lately III” continues the tradition of “Lately” and “Lately II” from the past albums. Each “Lately” fits its respective album well, with this third installment sounding more dreamy, akin to “Dreamland Sequence”. “Lately III” also features the topic of sleeping in cars that has been crowned Dreamland’s most mentioned topic. The “Lately”s generally make my top songs and “III” is no exception. “Lately III” also begins the beautiful transitions of the last few songs.

“Babe Ruth” features one of my favorite lines from the album: “Oh baby, whatcha gonna do when the universe puts your hand in mine?”. Following “Babe Ruth” is the other dreamy interlude “Heaven Hearted”, which goes into closer “Let It All Out (10:05)”.

In contrast to the loud way power is harnessed in “Crash My Car”, “Let It All Out (10:05)” has the most power emotionally. If you’ve been a fan of COIN for some time, seeing that “10:05” in the title is already enough to know this song is going to be special.

“when you see 1005, it means everything will be ok”.

“1005” came to be a sign that you are right here in this moment, and it will be okay; paired with “let it all out” meaning that once you let go of something, you can realize that “none of this is permanent anyway.” “Let It All Out (10:05)” is a perfect ending for Dreamland, as it holds the best representation of who COIN is in a song.

Dreamland is yet another great album by COIN, and solidifies their spot as one of my favorite bands of all time. I’ve had this album on repeat since it came out and probably will for years to come.

Listen to Dreamland here.

Written by: Emerson Redding


El Sonidito: Bad Bunny

Since his beginnings as a sad boy latin trapper, Bad Bunny has completely changed the current sound of reggaeton. From collaborating with J Balvin on tropical beats to now dropping his sophomore album YHLQMDLG, he has risen to meteoric fame.

YHLQMDLG (Yo hago lo que me dé la gana), starts off easing the listener with “Si Veo a Tu Mama.” Bad Bunny demonstrates his incredible vocal range over a warm loop of piano keys that will have you swaying your shoulders and remembering fond memories of home or a past love. A soft greeting into the dynamic and captivating sounds the listener will soon experience.

The following song “La Dificil” is where the album begins to truly move. “La Dificil” has the  standard 808 drums reggaeton is known for, along with creative production that prevents the song from staling any way through. The album has a couple of radio hit cuts, but this was easily the winner.

On YHLQMDLG (which means “I do what I want”), Bad Bunny makes constant nods to his predecessors and the sound of 00’s reggaeton. He brings the talent of OG’s such as Daddy Yankee, Yaviah, and Ñengo Flow to recreate hits from the “Gasolina” era.

Taken from: Urbana FM

Prime example of this being, “Yo Perreo Sola.” A grimy perreo anthem that pushes the boundaries of what the current sound of reggaeton encompasses. Hypnotizing loops in the production paired 808’s and Nesi’s seductive delivery create a club/party track that is bound to change any atmosphere or mood. Bad Bunny oozes confidence, dropping constant one-liners and mixing his cadences effortlessly. This right here, is what primo reggaeton sounds like.

Bad Bunny doesn’t miss a beat transitioning into “Bichiyal” as the next track. A bombastic perreo anthem meant to fit in a plethora of DJ playlists this year.

The true centerpiece of this project is found in the midst of the album. After “Bichiyal”, YHLQMDLG goes into a handful of fun and moody radio cuts until we reach the true gem of the project, “Safaera.” “Safaera” is not a song, it’s an auditory Odyssey. Dynamic beat switches about every minute throughout this 5 minute journey, with stellar performances from Jowell & Randy, Ñengo Flow, and Bad Bunny. Constant use of samples and references to decades worth of music are bound to evoke moments of nostalgia within this epic megamix. Easily the best reggaeton track of this decade.

Bad Bunny at the beginning of  2020 was a latin artist that was seeping into different cultures beyond latin america. Bad Bunny now is a global superstar. Sigue con el sonido Benito!

Written by: Damian Orozco

Peep This Joint: Royce Da 5’9” – The Allegory Album Review

After reflecting on his life in the highly introspective, soul-baring album, The Book of Ryan, in 2018, rap veteran Royce Da 5’9’’ focuses his newest effort, The Allegory, on looking outwards and providing philosophical commentary on society at large. 

In an interview with legendary Los Angeles radio host, Big Boy, Royce explained the origins of the album title, revealing it as a direct reference to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

“The album speaks a lot about perspective, I’m intrigued by perspective these days,” Royce said. “It’s amazing to me that two people could be looking at the same thing and seeing two totally different things, and each thing being their respective truth.”

With this project marking his eighth studio album, the Detroit emcee enlists a myriad of rappers to help push the album’s focus on perspective. The Allegory runs for a little over an hour with 22 tracks total of dense lyricism and philosophical messages meant to question the listener’s current perspective on reality.

In the rap game, Royce is best known as a top-tier lyricist and storyteller. But in this project, he switches things up by producing every track on the album. Considering that he has only recently started producing beats with his first credit on Eminem’s newest album, this is an ambitious feat that deserves its own applause.

The album opens up with the song, “Mr. Grace (Intro)” where a sample of a a father teaching his daughter financial literacy is played. Lines such as “If I gave you a million dollars right now, would you buy candy or a candy store? A candy store,” and “If I gave you something for 500, and you flip it to the next man for 2000, what is that called? Upselling” indicate Royce’s invitation to listeners to question their perspective on America’s lack of financial curriculum for its children.

He confirms this later on in his verse the repercussions of this lack of literacy rapping, “But this is America, where credit is for the privileged and profit is not my amenity.” In this line it’s clear to see that Royce is targeting the oppressors, namely rich white businessman who maintain the racist status quo of oppressing minorities.

A standout track of the album is the song, “Upside Down feat. Ashley Sorrell & Benny The Butcher.” As the fourth single of the album, Royce and rising New York rapper Benny The Butcher lay down a lyrically he avy tirade against the aforementioned oppressors. With Royce rapping, “White kids graduate to relationships with a ton of perks / Black kids, just aggravated and had to take a ton of Percs,” it’s clear to see the frustration he holds over the lack of equity in today’s status quo. Benny The Butcher voices similar frustrations rapping, “Young heathens clap tools over VVS jewels / White kids pull heaters at school, wanna CBS News.”

For a rapper with one of the most sharpest pens in the game, the production throughout the album never seems too boring or stale, despite the heavy reliance of sampling and boom-bap drums. The eclectic use of a wide range of samples such as Kool & the Gang’s funky hit, “Sunny Madness” in the song, “Dope Man” or the soulful crooning of The Linton’s “Lost Love” in “Overcomer” shows the hard work Royce put in before showcasing his work to the world. It ultimately pays off with an impressive production quality not typically found in rappers who decide to dip their toes into beat-making, especially one capable of such high caliber lyricism.

Overall, The Allegory proves that Royce’s pen is still sharp as ever and showcases his new production skills in this self-produced album. If you’re itching to hear some hard hitting bars that’ll have you reflecting on your own perspective, I suggest that you peep this joint out!

Rating: 8/10

Written by: Johann Oribello