For as good as he is at making singles (“Bad and Boujee,” “Mask Off,” Post Malone’s “Congratulations,” and The Weeknd’s “Heartless”), Metro Boomin also knows how to put together an album. 21 Savage’s Savage Mode and SAVAGE MODE II, the Savage and Offset project Without Warning, 2018’s NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES and its sequel—and the second installment in a planned trilogy—HEROES & VILLAINS: They’re all proof that rap in long form is still as dynamic as its bite-sized counterparts. “I didn't want to be doing those things where it's like, 'Okay, I just called every artist on my phone,' or 'Let me just show you and flex everybody I could get on the song,'” he tells Apple Music. “It’s like a movie, you know what I’m saying? Maybe in this scene we got these two characters, and you might not see this character until two scenes later. And now he’s in here with this guy again. And now all three of them are together. Just mixing up the bags.” Easy enough, or at least sounds it. But the shape of HEROES & VILLAINS is a seductive and addictive thing, flowing from punishing to reflective and sleek to classic-sounding with a grace that feels both commanding and natural. And the “characters” he alludes to aren’t just some of the most iconic voices in modern rap, they’re juxtaposed in ways that bring out their essences: the boom of Future (“Superhero”) and deadpan menace of 21 Savage (“Walk Em Down”), the alien croon of Don Toliver (“Too Many Nights”) and the mania of Young Thug (“Metro Spider”). “I mean, no one can really say or guess what's in Thug's head,” Metro says. “He's one in a trillion, man.” And if you think he can only work with rap, listen to the dance-adjacent “Around Me” or The Weeknd feature “Creepin’,” which turns the airy heartache of Mario Winans’ 2004 track “I Don’t Wanna Know” into something haunted and new. And for anyone who already knows NOT ALL HEROES and was wondering: Yes, Morgan Freeman’s here, too. “It was like, ‘What's the craziest thing we could think of?’ Morgan, he had really liked the script, and what it was saying, and the values, and certain things in it, and he felt like it was important for young people to hear those things.”

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