Release Date: Dec 21, 2018
Record label: Columbia
21 Savage's maxim of "I Am Greater Than I Was" is growth, understanding that as an artist and a public figure, you must push yourself to make some changes within. To be "game changing > clout chasing" is to actively do good in your community with your fame and success. This year, 21 Savage has lessened his creative output to focus on his philanthropy, hosting his third annual Issa Back to School Drive and announcing the 21 Savage Bank Account Campaign to teach kids about financial literacy.
The jarringly sober track "a lot," which opens 21 Savage's poised and superbly focused i am > i was, is contemplative without being dramatic, mournful but not morose. At one point, the 26-year-old recounts his little brother's murder and how it warped his psychology, but he does so in a perfunctory way, like talking to a therapist who's already familiar with the smaller details. It's a great tone to strike first: moody at a bit of a remove.
21 Savage has come a long way since being the terrifying street rapper from Atlanta, whose lyrics told no lies of his early torment. He's lost his brother, friends and been shot himself 6 times. From all this, i am > i was finally shows signs of the artist growing up and away from all the trouble. A reflective 21 comes through on the first song 'a lot'.
T he descriptor "mumble rap" is mostly used disparagingly about a new generation of dead-eyed MCs, but 21 Savage turns monotony into a virtue. There is a slight uptick in vocal musicality compared with his previous work, particularly on the Drakeian track Out vor the Night, but for the most part the Atlantan star continues with his dominant voice: a supremely jaded cadence where each line pitches slightly downwards at the end, suggesting a head that can never be held high. He has plenty of average lines - almost as offensive as the rightly controversial "Jewish money" lyric in ASMR is the weakness of "you get burned like toast" as a simile - but his catchy flows always make him magnetic, especially when paired with universally brilliant production from Metro Boomin, Kid Hazel and others.