Arts, Review, Music

Rap Collaboration ‘Without Warning’ Has Listeners Screaming in Delight

Metro Boomin, Offset, and 21 Savage (21, 21) lit the hip-hop world on fire when they released their album, Without Warning on Halloween. It was dropped without any inkling, and contains 10 songs running for only 33 minutes. While it may be formally titled as an album, the project has much more of a mixtape feel, mostly due to its short length, surprise release, and artistic collaboration (a la D.J Esco’s “Project E.T. – Esco Terrestrial”).  

Metro Boomin is the hottest producer in trap music. After rising to prominence with Future’s smash hits “Karate Chop,” “Honest,” and “Mask Off,” Migos’ “Bad and Boujee,” Post Malone’s “Congratulations,” and iLoveMakonnen’s “Tuesday,” the 24-year-old Morehouse College dropout is undoubtedly at the top of the rap game. Metro’s production has been everywhere, from fast-paced trap bangers to slow, introspective tracks with swelling melodies. This project is different. The nightmare theme runs prevalent in this project, as its release date may have suggested, featuring maniacal laughs, screams, and wolf howls. The production is centered around the trap staple of liturgical bells, but still hits hard with firm 808s, swift kicks, and sharp hi-hats paired with snares. This creates a dystopian feel, with a vibe akin to if the soundtrack of Blade Runner went to a Gospel church with a street bucket drummer.

Offset and 21 Savage are the two main rappers on the record, which includes only two features, Travis Scott and Quavo. Offset, of Migos, utilizes the group’s now infamous rapid triplet rap-style (“Ver-sa-ce-Ver-sa-ce”), and makes sure to fit an ad-lib after every line of verse. 21 Savage, who has the lyrical speed of the Screaming Eagle line, sets up an interesting dilemma for the project: How can Offset and 21 Savage work together, despite their drastically different styles?

Well, if Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg’s cooking show has proved anything, it’s that any collaboration is possible, provided that the setting is primed for success. Metro Boomin has produced a decent amount for Offset and extensively for 21 Savage before Without Warning, meaning that he has the ability and experience to facilitate an instrumental environment that caters to two different styles. The slow church bells fit 21 Savage’s flow perfectly, while the fast-paced trap drums fit Offset’s just as well. In the songs where the two are featured at the same time, you actually focus on the parts of the instrumental that cater to each rapper’s style—you’ll hear the bells primarily and then the drums in the background with 21 Savage’s verses and the reverse for Offset’s.

The two rappers ultimately mesh well. That being said, no project is perfect, and Without Warning certainly has some minor flaws. First, this project needs more features. There are no awards in the trap world for doing something on your own. The trap game thrives on collaboration among producers, artists, and labels to constantly create new content in high volume. While a joint effort among three superstars is certainly a great manifestation of that ideology, much of this project consists of just one rapper spitting over a Metro Boomin beat. In fact, there are only six songs where both 21 Savage and Offset jump on the track together, and on what is supposed to be a collaborative effort, this is simply not enough. Furthermore, the lack of outside features is very disappointing. If another rapper were invited to get on this project in any capacity, they would not have declined because of the star power alone, and it seems like a waste to only have features from Travis Scott and Quavo—the rap community can only imagine if trap kingpins like Future or Gucci Mane had joined up, even for just one song, on this record. 

Nevertheless, the record certainly provided a new avenue for a trap album—that is, sticking to a centralized theme that is not related to Bandos, Magic City, or Heisenberg-grade lean. While these are undoubtedly sprinkled throughout the record, it is interesting to see the Halloween theme takes such a large presence in this project. The listener can now confidently imagine what a trapped-out Scooby Doo episode would look like, and while listeners may not have wanted to picture that before listening, they will not regret discovering what it would be like.

Featured Image by Capitol Records

November 12, 2017