Give it up for the man 21 Savage, he deserves it.
131,000 units moved in the first week of your album’s release is nothing to scoff at, especially in 2018. For me, I’m pleasantly surprised at this statistic though I’ve been a believer in 21 Savage since the very beginning. For those who pigeonholed him, I’m curious to see the narratives they push to try and diminish this milestone for his second studio album i am > i was. A few ideas I have are:
“He had a 15-song album and added a single with Travis Scott, of course, he did crazy streaming numbers.”
“It was a streaming farm, duh. J. Cole addressed it in his verse.”
“Sales don’t even matter.”
I’m not going to get into all that nonsense, but I will take this moment to congratulate the man. Issa good way to end the year. We’ve watched the “X” rapper grow up before our very eyes, evolving from an assumed gimmicky rapper with a penchant for violence and no concern about his perception to a mature philanthropist who isn’t just preaching about wanting the community to be better but actively doing so. All of this with a knife tattooed on his forehead. Talk about versatility.
As a rapper who had a rough upbringing in Atlanta like him, it’s very natural to get your bag and ball out. Everyone else does it, and it just seems like the thing you do when you “make it.” 21 recognized that the trends rappers perpetuated were negatively influencing the youth. He took the initiative to take his jewelry off and put his money into education and financial literacy.
More than his improvement as a person, he has improved as an artist. Though I liked him early on, his flow felt very one-dimensional. Issa Album saw some branching out into crooning or more melodic sound, and refinement of his rapping ability. With features like “Sneakin,” “rockstar,” “Bartier Cardi,” and his MVP showing on Metro Boomin‘s Not All Heroes Wear Capes, it seemed like while we couldn’t figure out what he was going to do next, the Saint Laurent Don was figuring out just how much range he had and how he could put together something fans could love.
This album continues that growth and his interviews have shown just how invested he was in showing us himself while also putting together a whole experience with his album. From the multiple hotel rooms dedicated to a different song on the album during the release night to having no features listed, to linking up with some artists fans may have never expected him to when he debuted. Childish Gambino came way out of left field. J. Cole shouldn’t have been as much of a shock since he’s jumping on everything this year. And there was hauntingly beautiful chemistry between Savage and Schoolboy Q on “good day.”
The Cole and Gambino feature especially speak volumes to me. They are at the peak of both of their careers and looked to for substance and consciousness in today’s world. I don’t think it’s far-fetched for me to say they don’t work with just anyone, and they have to share the respect I have for the person 21 Savage has become so much so that they not only worked with him on the album but got in the studio with him. Well, Cole at least since Gambino hasn’t been confirmed.
21 has also been spending a lot of time with Meek Mill, another hero in the Black community this year. Whether they were clubbing or making music together for Meek’s dominant LP Championships, lately one isn’t seen too far from the other on Instagram pictures. Not only has 21 manifested his personal growth, but he’s aligned himself with people who he respects and can feed off. Meek is on a mission right now to rewrite the instructions for how the game is to be played, which goes right up 21’s alley of charity work.
I don’t want this to turn into a resume or mentioning everyone 21 Savage hangs with and how he’s influenced. Rather, I just want to take the time to give him his flowers before they aren’t as fresh. For me, the way someone turns themselves from a budding star to a full-on constellation is by making a clear shift in their direction that people approve of, and recognize as genuine, and using their platform and music to uplift others.
People may not believe “No Heart” is timeless, but there are a couple songs on this last album that I won’t be shocked to hear in some years’ time. And I’m always applauding rappers doing good work in the community, but to live what you preach and do is a whole other level. Congratulations, 21. You earned this.