Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

21 Savage ft. J. Cole – A Lot

How many decimal points do we use in our ratings?


Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: For a rapper who’s built his brand on a complete lack of emotion, 21 is so evidently thankful in every bar of “A Lot” that his stoic joy is infectious. Maybe it’s the obvious retro (both to the ’70s soul it samples and to Kanye) production getting me again– it worked when Vic Mensa did it, so why not here? In fact, the good vibes almost let me forget J. Cole shouting out 6ix9ine during what would otherwise be a career-best verse.

Nortey Dowuona: Distinctive, pulpy bass and clipped drums hobble along while a powerful filtered sample wails in the back. 21 does his thing, and it’s not a lot. J Cole does his thing, and it’s… a lot. He back-pats a pedophile/pedophile funder, shouts out Markelle, shouts out Dennis Smith Jr., then leaves.

Nicholas Donohoue: I’ve thought a lot about SoundCloud rappers recently (do not recommend), in part because a large part of mainstream hip hop’s new output is obsessed with the implosion and inclusion of so many of its acts. Unsurprisingly, J. Cole, a man with nostalgia goggles on the issue of respectability of Black women, is willing to extend his sympathies to a racketeer, a rapist, and (in the logic of the song, the worst thing you can be) a snitch. A shame, because this song is a good use of 21 Savage’s ability to weave pathos and stress subtly into his delivery.

Thomas Inskeep: 21 has a completely average flow and nothing to say with it — the chorus to this song is actually “how many _____?/A lot” — while J. Cole has a half-decent flow and nothing to say with it. Were it not for the sample of cruising classic “I Love You” by East of Underground, there’d be nothing here of note. That said, why not just listen to East of Underground’s original and ignore this trash?

Ryo Miyauchi: “A Lot” bears structural resemblance to a few of 21’s hits — for example, the question-as-hook was employed to great effect in “No Heart.” But the self-references in style and theme show the rapper growing out of the old model as much as he builds off it. The thick, sample-driven beat sets the track apart musically from the murky ambience of Savage Mode, but 21 also wears his heart openly, with personal lyrics exuding an unseen humanity from him.

Alfred Soto: “I’d rather be broke in jail than be dead and rich,” Savage raps, and I don’t believe, not after the litany of questions he asks in the first reverse, although, to be fair, I’d rather be broke than maintain so many lawyers on payroll. As sincere as Savage and Cole present themselves, I get the sense that they’re trying for a coldness that once came naturally.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: 21 Savage has always been a conscious rapper at heart, but it’s arguably less interesting to hear him deliver pensive lyrics in such a forthright manner. Alas, “A Lot” is still a pleasure to hear. He sounds like the wisened older brother he was always capable of being. He relays information not to be didactic; it sounds like he’s just casually talking with you on a sunny weekend afternoon. The soul sample completes that image.

Reader average: [7] (1 vote)

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One Response to “21 Savage ft. J. Cole – A Lot”

  1. I totally missed the line about 6ix9ine, damn…and just when I was about to feel good about J. Cole for the first time ever because of those endearing bars about Markelle.