The title of 21 Savage’s latest drop really defines what this album means to him. He has come a long way from the “murder rap” he coined with his early 2015 mixtapes The Slaughter Tape and Slaughter King. Sure, he touches on those topics on a few tracks but for the most part, i am > i was feels like a self-reflective album of sorts. With the release of this project coming just days before Christmas and after most people in the industry had summed up 2018, this album very much feels like its more of a 2019 drop, especially with not much coming out yet so far. Since it’s my first review of the year and my 50th review with Colossus, I decided to switch it up a little bit. Instead of my usual format, I am going to pull out the tracks that really made this album for me as well as the ones that didn’t. Let’s begin!
There isn’t another song on this whole album that would open it better than this does. Between that smooth sample of the East of Underground’s “I Love You”, to 21’s flowing verse and chorus, to J. Cole hoping on and killing yet another feature. This opening track is just too well done not to talk about. It immediately sets the tone and theme of the album and vibes your mindset right out. Plus that chorus is just so damn singable!
This track had no need to be on the album. At all. Besides the silliness of Yung Miami screaming “ass and titties” on the chorus, it doesn’t feel like there is much here. Just feels unnecessary.
“out for the night”
I am surprised how overlooked this song seems to be getting. “a lot”, “all my friends”, and “can’t leave without it” are all getting their fair share of attention and radio plays but this track bumps and seems to be getting nothing. The drum beats just entice you to dance a little and that Santana guitar sample is so smooth mixed with it. Plus the chorus is tons of fun to sing along with…
Five foot five (Five), she my ride or die (Die)
Never tell a lie (Lie), we like Bonnie and Clyde (Clyde)
Lookin’ at her thigh (Thigh), like, “Do it come with rice?” (Rice)
She don’t like FaceTime, she would rather Skype
But I’m out for the night (Straight up)
Out for the night (Straight up)
Anytime Offset and 21 collab together, it is usually pretty damn good. This is another example of that. They just seem to work well and connect smoothly that it feels right. It’s fast-paced but right on cue in the lineup of the album.
“all my friends”
The number seven track is another surprise to me. Not that 21 worked with Post Malone on the song but that it hasn’t blown up as one would think. The last time these two connected, they made “Rockstar” go 7 times platinum, a seriously impressive achievement. It wouldn’t shock me that once all the white girls finally discover this song when they get back to college, it will start to really blow up. The beat on it goes so hard and both artists do great on their respective verses but it feels far more like Post’s song than 21’s which takes a bit away, especially on this specific album.
“can’t leave without it”
Since Future’s “Mask Off” it seems like we keep seeing the use of flutes in trap beats. It fits in perfectly with 21, Gunna, and Lil Baby. This song is also a perfect example that these two rising rappers joining 21 are seriously the next big trap rappers.
“good day” and “pad lock”
These two tracks that fall back to back later in the sequence of songs just are boring to me. It’s great to hear SchoolboyQ jump on “good day” but other than that the two tracks blend into each other and I get distracted and find myself looking at the score of the Liverpool game or getting a snack. It’s nothing against the songs or 21 as both have solid vocals and beats but they just don’t seem to do it as much for me.
Love love loveeeeee the connection here between Childish Gambino and 21. Childish doesn’t feature or release nearly enough so hearing his voice towards the end of the project was a blessing. You feel a certain cohesion and flow between these two ATL rappers. This isn’t the first time 21 has hooked up with a fellow artist from his city and most certainly won’t be the last, as he always seems to work well and vibe the best with his “neighbors”.
“letter 2 my momma”
I wasn’t originally going to write about “letter 2 my momma” because I didn’t think it was necessary but after a couple listens, I realized this is the perfect wrap up to i am > i was. It’s uniquely reflective for 21, discussing his childhood, upbringing, and thankfulness for his mother, things one wouldn’t really expect the gun and ammunition loving artist to talk much about. It is perfectly placed as well on the album, coming right in at the end to wrap up the self-reflection theme of the project before bouncing back to “4L” and 21’s personality.
I loved this album and am already expecting this to stay in my rotation for a while. It’s got songs to turn up to and it has songs to relax to. It’s clear 21 is growing as a rapper and that’s always a great thing to see. Like a fine wine, he seems to be getting better and better with age.
Expect this album to get more and more popular as 2019 comes into fruition and 21 Savage to continue his growth from murder rapper to hip-hop artist. So the real question comes down to “how many people that doubted?” A lot…..