Without Warning

Without Warning

The 2017 full-length collaboration between 21 Savage, Offset, and producer Metro Boomin highlighted three Atlanta talents at inflection points in their careers. 21 had broken through beyond street-rap circles that year with his studio debut, Issa Album, and the Top 40 count-it-up anthem “Bank Account.” Offset was carving his own niche outside of his group Migos in the wake of a No. 1 single and album—”Bad and Bojuee” and Culture, respectively. Metro Boomin was already one of the most in-demand producers in the industry, having produced chart hits for both rappers as well as for Kanye, Drake, Future, and other big names. Coming when it did, Without Warning plays like a victory lap, but it also avoids pushing for grandiosity, allowing for some career-highlight moments for all parties involved. The two rappers’ styles complement one another perfectly: Offset’s warm tone and sharp, rapid-fire cadence pitted against 21 Savage’s guttural and ominous slow flow. On their collaborative tracks, it creates an engaging, speed-ramping energy (“Mad Stalkers,” “Rap Saved Me”) whereas solo tracks give each party an opportunity to stretch out. The mise en scène of the tape as a whole is defined by 21 and Metro’s signature style: horror movie references, leering threats, uncanny synth lines, and creeping, buzzing 808s. Offset makes this Halloween-friendly universe his own, especially on his solo track “Nightmare.” On the tape’s biggest commercial export, though—the lightly hyphy-styled solo single “Ric Flair Drip”—the Migos member is at his brightest and most luxurious. Building its reputation after the titular wrestler’s appearance in the video, the track eventually cracked the Top 20 on the Hot 100. The central appeal here for 21 fans, perhaps, is the amount of fun he seems to be having—for someone who tries hard to appear as if he is not having fun. Without Warning finds him inhabiting his comfort zone and defining the style he would expand upon and challenge with his more commercially successful work to come: his career-making appearance on Post Malone’s moody smash “Rockstar” later that year and his stylistically expansive sophomore record of 2018, i am > i was.

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