About 21 Savage
Whispering betrays an intimacy—a shared acknowledgement of something sacred. And 21 Savage, rap’s ASMR wordsmith, uses the technique to intimidate and taunt, to threaten and destroy. Violence was quite literally Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph’s introduction to rap: He started after his best friend was killed (and he himself sustained gunshot wounds) in a shootout on Joseph’s 21st birthday. This is music born in the streets, desensitized to tragedy because any other coping mechanism would result in unending heartbreak. His breakthrough, 2016’s Savage Mode, produced entirely by Metro Boomin, showcases the rapper’s deadpan delivery and ambivalence toward the stories he tells. With the EP, 21 emerged as one of rap’s great stylists, with his flow and Metro’s minimal beats giving the album an almost ambient feel. When 21 took his signature sardonic style to its logical extreme on Metro Boomin’s “Don’t Come Out the House,” he betrayed a playful willingness to engage with our image of him. With 2018’s I Am > I Was, though, 21 proved he was more than a single, captivating style. The album boasts a diversity of ideas, homing in on post-trap and club anthems and heightening the impact of his signature snarl, which grows in menace as it’s used less frequently. He used to shroud his apathy entirely in hushed sneers, but now, when 21 Savage lulls us with a whisper, the quiet is deafening.
BORNOctober 22, 1992