Thursday, February 8th, 2024

21 Savage – Redrum

Maybe we’re just bigger fans of Whiteclaw…

21 Savage - Redrum
[Video]
[5.38]

Taylor Alatorre: It feels five or six years too late to label 21 Savage the antithesis of mumble rap. So instead, let’s get a few millennia out of date and say he’s the most Apollonian of New Atlanta’s largely Dionysian cast. The metrically precise diction, the immovable stoic delivery, even the ad-libs, so famously predictable they should really be called something else — all of these paint him as someone who’s here to impose order on these rough streets, to make some sense out of this “American carnage.” “Redrum,” like the title of 21’s second album, is as air-tight and legible as a mathematical formula. The sumptuous yet vaguely foreboding sample is given room to unfurl itself in the clearly set-apart intro, before being made to serve as a compliant captive of the song’s mood-setting requirements. From there, it’s a simple foot-tapping journey from A to B, with nary a peak or valley along the way — something that might be a complaint if not for London on da Track’s locked-in, nose-to-the-grindstone production. The abstraction of gang violence into a pulpy Kubrick reference is mirrored by perhaps the most playfully gratuitous “pussy” recitation in 21’s discography. These are soothing mantras, for those who prefer their New Age tunes to come with NC-17 ratings.
[7]

Katherine St. Asaph: Opera trap! Outstanding! To be clear, the song objectively is ass, paced like a try-not-to-laugh compilation from the sample to “I got big cojones!” to a Three Little Pigs skit. 21 Savage seizes the top 16 slots on the hypothetical leaderboard for least convincing intonation of “pussy” (one for each bar). I don’t even think it’s supposed to be a joke, despite being a great one. But let’s be real: there was no chance I was ever going to dislike this.
[7]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I am far more affected by 21 Savage calling someone a pussy multiple times than the constant repetition of “Redrum,” which I guess is meant to have a flip, childlike silliness to it given the Three Little Pigs outro. The Elza Laranjeira loop is already phenomenal, and the gunshots sound pretty momentous, but he keeps undercutting the production.
[5]

Will Adams: London on da Track’s beat is great, flipping a soprano sample into an eerie trap arrangement befitting the Stephen King reference. 21 Savage can’t match it, unfortunately; instead he opts for some half-baked lines and repeating the title approximately five hundred times (and “pussy” approximately five thousand times).
[5]

Jacob Satter: Another one that would do well to read past the second sentence of Jasper John’s famous maxim. London on da Track’s hook is exhilarating on the initial cycle but Savage, who I generally have significant patience for, wears it down to monotone with monotone. Enjoyable enough in dollops, just wouldn’t want to leave it on repeat.
[5]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: A half decade on from “A Lot” and I feel like I’m in the same place as I’ve always been with 21 Savage: equally impressed by the stylistic aspects of his music (That gorgeously wrought sample from London on da Track! His finely honed monotone! Bars that are pretty funny!) and let down by the laziness with which he yields them. He’s better here than he has been in recent years as Drake’s Mase, but there’s a maddening quality with which he half-asses his work here, like he’s figured out exactly the degree of effort with which to exert in order to create premium mediocre trap. I turn this up every time I play it in the car, but I’m not, like, happy about it.
[7]

Harlan Talib Ockey: 21 Savage lives and dies on the hook and the beat. This hook is no “A Lot”, but it’s functional. The beat is fine for about twenty seconds, until you realize it’s not going anywhere and its value is almost all in the sample. If you compare it to 21 Savage’s work with Metro Boomin, for example, the difference in depth and progression is clear. (Even this “London Bridge” mashup is an improvement?) There are some witty, quotable lines in here (see: “he stood on business, now he laying on his back”), but the second verse is much more specific and interesting than the first. 
[5]

Nortey Dowuona: 21 Savage’s whole schtick was being raw and unfiltered — at least to the first hosannahs of his arrival. He was making Trap Muzik — a form of explicitly hard, unapologetic street rap that both effortlessly combined paths of gleeful smugness and repentant thoughtfulness, he managed to create a whole pathway for his type of rappers until his essential smoothness turned to bland — wait. That’s TI.

Ok, 21 Savage’s whole schtick was being raw and unfiltered — at least to the first hosannahs of his arrival. He was making Thug Motivation — powerful, imposing avalanches of pride and success, baked in through his gruff, raspy voice and had kids wearing his shirts all throughout schools — wait. That’s Jeezy.
Ok, one more time. 21 Savage’s whole schtick was being raw and unfiltered — at least to the first hosannahs of his arrival. He was making Chicken Talk — ok, even I know this is Gucci. What is it about him? 
Ok, here we go. 21 Savage is TI without the dexterity, Jeezy without the bass, Gucci without the love for language. He combines all of them to make accessible pop rap with a dangerous edge but never moved out of his range — just rapped the same but with the bare minimum of quality. He didn’t actually change or improve, he just got accepted by folks for who Kodak, Uzi and Yachty were too much of a challenge. He was always what his now disappointed fans say he is now: he’s just doing his job. It’s no “Rubberband Man.” Or “Hypnotize.” Or “First Day Out.” Or —
[5]

Alfred Soto: What’s the point of this? That monotone? The grubbiness? “I don’t go through TSA to get on planes” — what? 
[4]

Leah Isobel: “Redrum” is terse and darkly hypnotic, yes, but 21’s sly, unexpected jolts of celebration and humor (“I don’t go through TSA to get on planes,” “Smack n***** then I get on Live and sing”) bring dimension and a loose, subtle playfulness. It’s precisely the kind of rap record I loved when I was in elementary school — in function, if not in form.
[7]

Ian Mathers: Really, really enjoy the tweak/loop of the sample here, the kind of thing that’s going to make practically any material on top of it feel more awesome. 21 Savage gets some good lines in, but whether it’s Kubrick/King fandom or wanting to avoid TikTok censorship… the best thing I can say about the refrain is: at least it’s not called “Unalive.”
[7]

Isabel Cole: I actually love everything about the sample — the songs chosen, the use of it as an introduction that feels almost like a framing device in a movie, the way it gets appropriated into the beat, which feels dark and sinister and brings to mind (appropriately enough, given the title word’s most famous appearance) a haunted house, creepy and cool. Too bad about the rest of it!
[3]

Oliver Maier: Who the fuck picked this lil sorry ass beat.
[3]

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