Frequent partners 21 Savage and Metro Boomin’s second collaborative release, SAVAGE MODE II, functioned as a comeback when it debuted at No. 1 in the fall of 2020. In 2019, 21 had remained largely silent following unwanted public attention surrounding his detainment by ICE, and Metro had ambiguously announced his “retirement” from rap the previous year, though he resurfaced periodically with stray production credits. Following several years of rumors and fan demand, the duo released the original SAVAGE MODE II to tremendous fanfare. Part of the pomp and circumstance was an accompanying chopped-and-screwed version of the album—courtesy of OG Ron C and Slim K from the renowned Houston DJ collective the Chopstars—released two weeks later. The tape of slowed and remixed tracks, reordered with new skits, takes a very different trajectory from the original album and helps trace the DNA of 21's and Metro’s signature styles back to their sources. By releasing an official remix version of the album, 21 and Metro aligned themselves in earnest with past generations of Southern rap forebears who had clearly influenced their work. (SMII’s Pen & Pixel–style cover also contributed to the effect.) With the chopped-not-slopped treatment, they paid tribute not only to Houston pioneer DJ Screw but also to the druggy, swampy textures of Three 6 Mafia—always one of their most overt influences. (DJ Paul posted an announcement about the album on Twitter prior to its release.) But even a cursory listen to SAVAGE MODE II [CHOPPED NOT SLOPPED] reveals that the project functions in more meaningful ways than merely as a nod to their heroes or a publicity stunt. SMII’s finest moments find interesting new resonances here—see, for instance, the disorientingly repitched central sample of the instant-classic Metro beat for “Glock in My Lap” and the undead reimagining of Drake’s crooning on “Mr. Right Now.” Metro’s production takes on a cavernous, metallic quality, with deft turntable punctuation throughout the tracks that substantially remakes them as compositions. Competing with the strength of the songs themselves are Ron C and Slim K’s refined turntable antics, derived from DJ Screw’s patented mixing techniques. Here, chops meld with the slowed 808s to make entirely new grooves, not just slowed-down ones. The result is that both versions of SAVAGE MODE II play out as totally singular musical experiences, even when listened to side by side.

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