“american dream” is (almost) a dream come true

21 Savage’s most recent full-length LP is an unexpected but greatly appreciated release.
The cover art for american dream displays a baby picture of 21 Savage, with several personal details scattered throughout. The promotional images released on Instagram for this LP followed a similar format, with Savage announcing the features by posting baby pictures of the guest contributors. (Photo credit: rateyourmusic.com)
The cover art for “american dream” displays a baby picture of 21 Savage, with several personal details scattered throughout. The promotional images released on Instagram for this LP followed a similar format, with Savage announcing the features by posting baby pictures of the guest contributors. (Photo credit: rateyourmusic.com)
Photo by rateyourmusic.com



american dream” is 21 Savage’s triumphant return to solo music, after a dizzying number of guest appearances and collaborations. While the album suffers from some minor flaws, the overall scope of the record is something completely unique to the Atlanta rapper’s style.

This surprise record follows “Her Loss” as 21’s last record, however, 2018’s “i am > i was” was his most recent solo record, with a steady stream of notable features ever since. From appearances on not one but two Drake projects, a few songs with Travis Scott, and a starring role on Metro Boomin’s blockbuster album “HEROES & VILLAINS,” his critical acclaim ultimately spawned the Billboard top 5 hit “Creepin,'” which landed him a billion-stream collaboration with pop superstar The Weeknd.

21 Savage is a mysterious figure and one who often characterizes himself as violent and corrupted. Just one look at his discography gives one enough information to get in touch with his persona; with records such as “The Slaughter Tape,” “Slaughter King,” and the two-part “Savage Mode” series, it is easy to see that violence has been a key part of the 21 Savage story.

And that 21 Savage story was supposed to hit theaters. Just four days before the album’s release, 21 released a “trailer” for a theater film that was to be directed by Donald Glover (better known as Childish Gambino), however, he later confirmed that it was just a parody and not a real film. But, instead of an elaborate joke, it would have been incredibly interesting to witness first-hand the story of such a strange character, and it feels like a massive missed opportunity to create something that could have revolutionized 21 Savage’s image.

The 5-year interlude between Savage’s full-length solo LPs has also been highly eventful, unlike Travis Scott’s absence from the radar. His immigration issues became public following the release of the music video for “a lot,” where he was taken into custody by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which made public his British citizenship. A missed opportunity on this record was to expand on the troubles that Savage faced regarding his citizenship status in America (and perhaps even his status in the United Kingdom), and while the case is still technically ongoing, even some extra commentary on this situation would have been much appreciated.

Following a very expedited album roll-out on Instagram (where he posted the baby photos of the features on the album, akin to the album cover), “american dream” hit streaming services on Jan. 12, 2024, to mixed reviews.

The album begins with a short monologue by 21’s mother, who reflects on her cross-Atlantic journey to provide the best life for her son. However, less than 15 minutes deep in the album on the track “redrum,” all previous glimpses of a UK-inspired track or storytelling are completely dashed in favor of Savage’s all too familiar Atlanta trap anthems.

21 Savage

The production on this record is unlike anything 21 Savage has ever rapped on before. Vocal samples stacked with heavy trap drums are the main formula that is recycled throughout, highlighting the influence that long-time collaborator, producer, and friend Metro Boomin has had on the creation of this record; nearly a third of the record is produced by him.

Nonetheless, the rest of the record is notably devoid of the St. Louis-raised producer. After not one, not two, but three album collaborations with Metro, it is quite a relief to see some sonic diversity on “american dream,” especially after he essentially dominated mainstream hip-hop over the past two years, managing to land a contract to create the soundtrack for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Even after countless plays, “american dream” never ceases to amaze with its dizzying number of unique samples and vocal loops. While this is certainly a unique sound, it does have one glaring caveat: the amount of repetition throughout a nearly 50-minute run time. This is not an issue when the production is so nearly perfect, but it does tend to drone on, especially during the tail end of the record.

On the topic of the tail end of the project, this may just be one of the most impressive holistic performances from a group of featured artists this year. Lil Durk and Doja Cat make guest appearances, with Doja only assisting with the ad-libs and an all-too-short verse on “n.h.i.e.”, which is very similar to Playboi Carti on the song “Popular” by The Weeknd. Summer Walker was an unexpected yet greatly appreciated feature that made “prove it” a dreamy, almost heavenly experience. Mariah the Scientist also appears in the outro “dark days,” and sets the gloomy mood of the final track. One feature notably missing is J. Cole which was quite a shock, despite having been featured each other on past projects (in hindsight, it may have been a perfect opportunity for Savage to comfortably open up about his foreign roots, seeing as J. Cole was born in Germany).

In fact, “dark days” may just be the most interesting song on the album; at face value, the track is a chance for 21 Savage to speak to a younger generation of rappers and teenagers, and convince them to “just stay in school” because “they got a place that they put people who don’t follow rules.” Normally, this kind of attempt at creating a sense of peace would be laughable, but at the end of such a violent and dark record, it seems like Savage finally found a chance to be vulnerable and create a better version of himself.

After nearly an hour’s worth of muscular loops and threats of violence, “american dream” leaves a great deal of excitement for the future of the Atlanta rapper, who now has the opportunity, for the first time in history, to decide on his terms his definition of “home,” even if there were a few missed opportunities.

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