21 Savage & Metro Boomin’s “Savage Mode II”: The Darkest Beats

At long last, one of the year’s most anticipated projects has arrived: Savage Mode II, the nightmarish collaborative effort from 21 Savage and Metro Boomin. The reputation of its predecessor is well established. Seen by many as a modern classic, if only for the innovative blend of trap and horrorcore present throughout. Though some found Savage’s rudimentary flow and detached delivery to be off-putting, others appreciated the young Atlanta rapper’s unique and distinctive persona. Four years later, 21 has expanded his toolkit considerably, honing his technical prowess and truly allowing his imagination to run wild.

Behind the boards, Metro Boomin’s contributions proved invaluable in shaping the producer’s legacy in those early stages. Carrying the torch previously held by Dr. Dre, the once-reigning king of the dark banger, Metro’s spooky and atmospheric Savage Mode soundscapes laid the foundation for many of his subsequent musical endeavors. As time passed, his vision and creativity only expanded, though that iconic eeriness still lingered in many of his tunes; in fact, it seemed to be encouraged by 21 Savage, who pulled Metro back into his Savage Mode bag on 2017’s Offset collaboration tape Without Warning.

Now, in the month of Halloween, the pair have reunited to deliver another full-length album. Everything from the hype to the scale appears to have quadrupled in size; case in point, Morgan Freeman serves as a narrator through the fifteen-track journey. There is certainly plenty of material to unpack, especially given how focused and charismatic 21 is throughout, turning in what may amount to the best rapping of his career. And yet it still feels appropriate to shine a spotlight on Metro Boomin, who continues to campaign for the coveted title of the production GOAT; no easy feat, but a seat at that particular table is a victory unto itself.

Despite the intro’s Freeman-voiced thesis that the pair have essentially become one, here are five of Savage Mode II’s standout dark bangers…based entirely on a few early spins, of course. 

RUNNIN’

Setting things off with an immersive bang, Metro wastes little time in showing off a few new tricks. Opting to build around a melancholic vocal loop Metro deftly loops a fragmented and pitched up sample, imbuing “Runnin’” with the slightest of golden-era qualities. The additional elements are straightforward enough — a haunting low-end piano bassline and up-tempo trap drums — but paired altogether, and Savage Mode II kicks off on an appropriately sinister note.

GLOCK IN MY LAP

The transition from “Runnin’” into “Glock In My Lap” is easily one of the project’s high points. A three-way collaboration between Metro, Southside, and Honorable C.N.O.T.E, “Glock In My Lap” lulls listeners into a false sense of security with its simple two-note piano riff. As the track progresses, unsettling string sections elevate the urgency, one of the most murderous sounds we’ve heard in a minute. Throw in some crafty synth work for good measure, and we’re looking at an easy highlight off Savage Mode II.

SLIDIN’

After a few stylistic deviations, Metro Boomin reroutes back into dark banger territory with “Slidin.” A master of simplistic arrangements, it’s the sounds he chooses that breathe life into his work. Here, his chosen element is a bizarre synth stab, once again following that two-note progression. Bobbing like will o’ the wisps over his lively percussion, the instrumental once again spurs a spirited performance from 21 Savage, whose menace only enhances once Metro brings yet another melodic layer into the mix.

MANY MEN

What makes Metro so effective is his willingness to work with both synthesized and orchestral elements, often pairing them together to create interesting soundscapes. On “Many Men,” the former serves as the dominant driving force of the instrumental, with the latter represented by some subtle, yet undeniably mournful woodwinds. Though the main riff seems to encourage a violence response, Metro allows for a soft hint of regret to shine through, adding a certain gravity to 21’s actions.

MY DAWG

When “My Dawg” first begins, things can feel rather disorienting. 21 pulls a DaBaby and kicks off a dexterous flow off the top, floating over an ominous, horror-film-esque piano progression. It’s initially difficult to catch where he’ll find the beat, but part of the excitement comes in knowing that Metro will make it work. Upon bringing the snares in, 21’s flow suddenly makes complete sense. It’s but one of many brilliant production flourishes to be found throughout, making this one an easy standout track on an album full of memorable moments.