21 Savage, Issa Album | Album Review
Up-and-coming southern rapper 21 Savage has his moments on his debut Issa Album, but also has plenty of room for improvement.
Rappers have changed over the years. The new breed of rapper tends to be starkly different from the old. In the last couple of years, there have been triumphant newcomers, as well as questionable ones. In the case of 21 Savage, he has his pros and his cons. 21 Savage is known for his deadpan delivery, which is sometimes distinct and at other times, merely deadpan. Issa Album serves as the 22-year old’s debut album. It has its moments, but it also has misses too.
“Famous” sets the tone for Issa Album. 21 Savage delivers hard-nosed rhymes in his signature low-energy approach. The results are respectable, though not triumphant. At this point, he can get away with the style because we’re at the beginning. Also, the production provides a lift.
“Bank Account” is by far the crowning achievement of Issa Album. Featuring simple production built around a guitar line, spare some synths, and an anchoring groove, it’s magical. Furthermore, the subtlety of 21’s delivery is perfectly suited. Even though the sound is kinder and gentler, there’s still fire. The repetitive hook is infectious, even if references to shooters shouldn’t have that effect.
“Close My Eyes” opens with 21 Savage mumbling at his lowest energy level yet. He shows a bit more zest beginning with the verse, but there’s still a lack of overtness and assertiveness. Nonetheless, some of the rhymes still affect, evidenced by the chorus.
“I don’t wanna go to sleep, I’m way too high, dog / I can’t get no sleep, I swear I’m way too high, dog / I see dead bodies when I close my eyes dog.”
“Bad Business” features a strong backdrop, like much of Issa Album. Again, 21 Savage exhibits a toughness lyrically, sans emotional delivery. While the dark side of the rapper still shines through, “Bad Business” falls short of the glory of “Close My Eyes.” Among the clumsiest moments are the oral sex references: “I pull it out the boxers and then she lick it.” The same thing happens on follow-up “Baby Girl,” where Lil Wayne comes to mind on the chorus.
“Yeah, suck me like a lollipop, baby girl… / Ride that dick and do the bunny hop, baby girl… / Yee ain’t talkin’ ‘bout money, I ain’t stayin’, baby girl / Yee ain’t talkin’ ‘bout f*ckin’, I ain’t stayin’, baby girl.”
While he covers more ground than sex, it dominates “Baby Girl.” Again, nothing brand new. “Lollipop,” 2008 has no competition.
On “Thug Life,” naturally, 21 Savage “feel like 2Pac, Thug Life.” Imagine that. Regardless, “Thug Life” is one of the better moments from the rapper. With his own checkered past, the autobiographical portions bode well in his favor.
“They kicked me outta middle school and sent me to the house…/ Used to jump n*ggas, now we jumping in a crowd / Used to make my mama cry, but now I make her proud.”
Furthermore, the production, fueled by an En Vogue sample, only heightens the success.
Unfortunately, the high of “Thug Life” doesn’t continue on “FaceTime.” Basically, 21 Savage doesn’t have much to say here. “FaceTime” is fueled by alcohol and sex. Next! “Nothin New” is an improvement, once more relying on life experience to fuel his rhymes. While this isn’t valedictory per se, it’s more in his wheelhouse than the ridiculous, sexually-driven joints.
“Numb” extends upon the success of “Nothin New.” Despite the pain he’s experienced throughout his life, 21 Savage chooses to “Numb the pain with the money.” It shines because it’s dark and there’s the sense that he showcases a bit more edge compared to some other tracks.
Following “Numb,” Issa Album begins to slip. The production work shines on “Dead People” –The song is chilling, but nothin new. The same can be said about “Money Convo.” At this point, we know that he’s come up, he numbs the pain with money, and times are better. There was no need for another song. “Special” falls in line with the ill-conceived love, sex-oriented records. This is not his lane.
Penultimate record “Whole Lot” is more of the same. Money, sex, etc. The dark production is a selling point for closer “7 Min Freestyle.” The same can be said of a heightened sense of assertiveness from the rapper himself. Still, seven minutes of 21 Savage in one song is absolutely too much. It grows repetitive pretty quick.
Ultimately, Issa Album fall short. To reiterate, 21 Savage does have his moments, namely “Bank Account.” Still, it seems like he runs out of interesting things to rap about as opposed to recycling. Making things worse is the delivery, which is sometimes a pro, but not always, particularly when 21 lacks notable bars. There’s potential, but 21 Savage has work to do.
Gems: “Bank Account,” “Close My Eyes,” “Thug Life,” “Nothin New” & “Numb”