3 Album Reviews: Trap Rap, 2017 (Offset, 21 Savage, Gucci Mane, Young Thug, Future)

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Offset, Metro Boomin, 21 Savage – Without Warning (2017) – B+

A lot of praise has been given to Metro Boomin’s atmospheric bangers (appropriate for a Hallowe’en release) and Offset continuing his streak from Culture. By contrast, comments have been less kind towards 21 Savage, who does what he’s been doing since he landed on the scene. Me, not only do I think 21 Savage and Metro Boomin fit together perfectly and create something even more threatening because their casual styles (best seen in solo spot “My Choppa Hates Niggas”), I also think 21 Savage (I am very much tempted to use the word “offsets”) complements Offset despite how completely different their two approaches are. Put it this way: despite both rappers being less interesting, this is a far cry better than Future & Young Thug’s recent collaboration, which saw two like-minded artists doing a victory lap as opposed to two different styles bringing the best out of each other. And it’s not like Savage’s completely phoning it in. Yeah, he likes an easy rhyme and empty brag, but he’s also deploying subtle flow switches and  memorable lines like the self-aware “Everybody the same, all these niggas sound alike” (“Ghostface Killers”) to “My dog lost his life and it changed me / I’m popping percocets ‘cause the pain deep” (“Darth Vader”). Of course, they owe much to Metro Boomin, who provides beats like the synthesized strings sounding like squeaky metal on “Rap Saved Me” or the heavy bass hits under the easy melody of “Ric Flair Drip” or the hypnotic woodwind-like beat of “My Choppa Hates Niggas” (reminiscent of some highlights from Future’s eponymous album). That being said, there is a drop-off in the second half with not enough happening on Southside-aided “Run Up the Racks” or “Still Serving”, at least, until Offset comes in on the latter. And the best song comes early in “Ghostface Killers,” with an excellent rapped chorus from Offset that’s been running through my head since the tape dropped and Travis Scott sounding excellent as always even if he doesn’t say much anything at all.

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Gucci Mane & Metro Boomin – Droptopwop (2017) – B

Spanning 37 minutes over 10 tracks, and theoretically having no room for bullshit and being executively produced by Metro Boomin, Droptopwop ought to be Gucci Mane’s best post-prison project. But it’s not, and the reason isn’t Gucci Mane but the beats; I’ve raised eyebrows to any reviews that praise Metro Boomin’s work here since a lot of it is so by-the-numbers for him and the assisting producers. Yeah, the keyboards of “5 Million Intro,” “Hurt a Nigga Feelings” and “Helpless” are playing recognizable melodies but they’re nothing to write home about, and yeah, the bass of “Met Gala” hits hard, but it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. Not that these tracks are entirely unworthy (with the exception of “Helpless”): the choruses of “5 Million Intro” and Offset has both a show-stopping verse and the best hook on the tape for “Met Gala,” but it doesn’t help that they’re all on the first half here. (The only beat on the first half that’s not merely “functional” is also the shortest, “Tho,” with its demented synth-line.) Conversely, the second half houses lots of stuff to dig your ears into, like the haunted backdrop of “Finesse the Plug Interlude” (odd that tracks marked “Intro” and “Interlude” are as long as the ones here) and London on da Track’s buried keyboard on “Both Eyes Closed.” Plus, so many quote-worthy lines, like Gucci Mane’s “I’ve got a chick so fine, make a blind man see her” and 2 Chainz’ “Sell a preacher the Bible / I’m a hustler for real […] Sell my cousin some Adderall ’cause he takin’ his finals” on the posse cut. Elsewhere, Gucci Mane uses the same rhyme to close out the last verse of “Dance with the Devil” and comes up with some stunning one-liners in the process(“Pull up in a lot and the car cost a condo”; “If Metro don’t trust you I’ma foot you in your asshole”; “I took her to the 6 but no, that’s not Toronto”). All told, it’s another win in both artists’ books, but a mild one.

Future & Young Thug – SUPERSLIMEY (2017) – B-

Remember what a wet blanket most of What a Time to be Alive was, especially coming off career highs of DS2 and Beast Mode? How some of the tracks felt like leftover Drake verses thrown onto leftover beats Future had on hand? That’s the exact same case of SUPER SLIMEY, which is probably even more disappointing because a Future-Young Thug collaboration is a trap rap wet dream whereas more “Where Ya At” is just a nice to have. There’s just too many wasted opportunities, like the peculiar absence of Zaytoven (would it not have been nice to hear Thugger over Zay’s keys?) and Metro Boomin (who has produced beats for both); the usually reliable Mike Will Made It hands in a severely underutilized vocal sample on “Mink Flow” and collects his paycheque. Similarly, London on da Track – responsible for many of Young Thug’s best beats (“Check”, “Flava”, “No Way”) – produces “Killed Before” and it’s one of two Young Thug solo cuts that suggests that SUPER SLIMEY was cobbled together from whatever both artists had left in their vaults. (It would’ve fit right at home on the acoustic guitar-featuring and singing-heavier Beautiful Thugger Girls.) On that note, Future solo cut “4 da Gang” sounds like a re-hash of similar-sounding beats from FUTURE. Whatever few highlights don’t stack against the best songs from either artist’s previous output this year: the jittery electric guitar line on “No Cap”; the sheer contrast between Young Thug’s yip and Future’s drawl that helps the choruses of “Patek Water” and “Real Love”; Future’s hoarser voice on closer “Group Home.” And I’m having a harder and harder time finding laughs in Young Thug’s verses. By the first quarter of next year, both artists will have released something new and this one will be a blip in the rear-view mirror.

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