Release Date: Oct 31, 2017
Record label: Epic
Everything that has made Without Warning such a surprise has been blatant from the moment it was released. Forget the sneak attack method with which it arrived on Halloween, just about every preconception a hip hop fan could have applied to it proved false. Glancing at the involved parties prior to listen, the assumption at large was that this would be Offset's show, doing favors for his co-stars' career, a lucky 21 Savage tagging along.
Without Warning is obviously rap music as horror film expressionism. Released on Halloween by buzzing Atlanta trap rappers 21 Savage and Migos' Offset with super-producer Metro Boomin, the mixtape carries all the signifiers in its lyrics, allusions, and sonic cues: eerie cackling, howling winds, jump-scares, skeletons, goblins, bloody Phantoms, Grim Reapers, Jason, and Nightmare on Elm Street. 21 Savage and Metro Boomin know a thing or two about turning murder to bloodsport, as they showed on their 2016 mixtape Savage Mode, which serves as a gory precedent for Without Warning.
At a time littered with often stunning cases of newcomers ascending to rap stardom in short order, 21 Savage's rise has been one of the most impressive. Having made his name on the mixtape circuit, the unconventional Atlanta rapper broke out from the pack with Savage Mode. Produced by Future's hitmaker, Metro Boomin, the EP introduced the emcee's monotone grimness to a wider audience while demonstrating that the producer's club-friendly sound could soundtrack a more murderous mindset just as well as a lean-addled one.
Both surprise and unforeseen collaboration albums have become so commonplace in Hip Hop's landscape that they're somewhat expected of artists these days. This past Halloween (October 31), 21 Savage, Offset and Metro Boomin pulled double duty on predictability when they unleashed Without Warning onto the general public, generating a modest amount of attention without actually deserving it in its totality. Like most projects that get recorded without the guise of a meticulous A&R, Without Warning's billing never exceeds the expectations of any artist -- rapper or producer -- let alone offer a glimpse of what allows these individuals to rank amongst 2017 Hip Hop's most popular figures.
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.