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He is definitely greater than he was


I Am > I Was lives up to the hype with deep themes, excellent production and an A+ cast of features.

Sinking into the melodic trap of I Am > I Was, 21 Savage’s first solo album of the 2018, is a guilty pleasure, a late night snack. Your parents probably wouldn’t want you consuming it, but it feels oh-so-good. Debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list, the album encompasses themes of loneliness, drug abuse, parenthood, and poverty in a way that is digestible for the average hip-hop listener to enjoy. It’s 51 minutes of your life well-spent. 

The album’s production is top notch. I Am > I Was could go beat for beat with the best albums of 2018. Songs like “A Lot” feature soul samples and buttery-smooth 808’s, while others like “a&t” bring a gritty, fun feel — making use of whimsical sounds which play off of each other to create a super fun vibe — especially when paired with infectious vocals from City Girls.


Thematically, this album delivers much more than previous 21 Savage albums in the form of lyrical substance. “letter 2 my momma” is a reflective song that deals with the struggles of single par enthood and poverty, in which 21 Savage raps about how his mom was able to balance raising her son and her job. Here, he reflects on his willingness to break the law instead of watching his mother struggle, with lines such as “commit a burglary and take it to the pawn,” showing what it took to make ends meet on the Atlanta streets. Hard-hitting lines are first-hand accounts of the cycle of poverty in the ghetto, and leave the listener even more impressed by 21 Savage’s success because they can see what he had to struggle through to achieve it.


The album boasts a multitude of well-placed features from the likes of Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and Travis Scott. Savage purposefully left their names off the song titles because he wanted people to listen to the songs not for the features but for the content. This is a double-edged sword that may draw in fewer overall streams, but also increases the likelihood of fans listening to the full album continuously, something that can be missed in today’s music market.


In the process of this review, I found myself listening to songs such as “A Lot”, “a&t”, “ASMR” and “Ball w/o You” on repeat, and in total only 5 songs of the 15 on the album didn’t make it onto my personal playlist (a big honor, considering most albums only get 1 or 2 songs). In general, the album shows tremendous growth by 21 Savage in that he is able to deliver metacognitive lyrics and catchy club beats in a blend that is both enjoyable and totally true to himself. So sit down with that bowl of ice cream at 1 AM; you deserve it.

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