Arts, Music

Metro Boomin Reasserts His Dominance in Hip-Hop With New Album

★★★★☆

Despite being one of hip-hop’s biggest hitmakers, Metro Boomin is starting to prove that he is more than just a successful producer.

In his Instagram profile, Metro lists himself as a “filmmaker,” and his music demonstrates this, as his use of hi-hats and samples create a cinematic and memorable listening experience. Like many filmmakers have in recent years, Metro chose to try his hand at the superhero trope in his second solo studio album HEROES & VILLAINS, the second installment of a trilogy, which began with his 2018 album NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES

In 15 tracks, Metro provides a collection of layered beats to support his star-studded cast of featured artists. Much like many superhero movies, the album’s entertaining quality compensates for its lack of lyrical meaning. 

After Metro enlists John Legend for the opening song of the album, Future establishes the album’s ominous tone with the second track “Superhero” and asserts himself as one of the album’s villains. In the lyrics, Future drops a number of his signature boasts. 

“Stacking these hundreds up, like coupons / Told you from the begin‘, upper echelon,” Future sings. 

Notwithstanding its questionable Chris Brown feature, “Superhero” is another strong entry in the long-time collaborators’ extensive catalog. 

Metro taps Don Toliver as one of the album’s lead performers, featuring him on three songs. Despite being one of the least established artists on Metro’s guestlist, the Houston native does not disappoint as he frequently outshines rap’s brightest stars throughout the project—including his mentor Travis Scott. Toliver’s only solo track, “Around Me,” kicks off the album’s intense second act. 

Metro’s sharp attention to detail is most obvious in his transitions, as the seamless switch from Young Thug’s “Metro Spider” to Future’s “I Can’t Save You (Interlude)” marks the album’s thrilling climax.

Metro then gives listeners a chance to catch their breath with the slow track “Creepin’.” Starring the unlikely pairing of The Weeknd and 21 Savage, “Creepin’” samples Mario Winans’ 2004 R&B hit “I Don’t Wanna Know.” Metro’s decision to mix unlikely collaborators—as he later does again with A$AP Rocky and the late Takeoff’s “Feel the Fiyaaaah”—serves as another one of the album’s strengths. 

On the following song, Scott turns in his best performance and pens one of the catchiest choruses of his career on “Niagara Falls (Foot or 2)”—which lives up to the lofty expectations Scott set for the song when he first teased it over two years ago. At the conclusion of the spacey track, Morgan Freeman’s iconic baritone voice makes a cameo appearance. 

“Villains are made, not born / Most times, the villain and the hero’s beginnings, unlike their endings, take nearly identical shape and form,” Freeman says, in one of the album’s rare attempts to provide a philosophical message. 

Aside from the music itself, Metro’s promotion of his latest album is also worth appreciating. Metro began his album rollout with a six-minute promotion video that is visually and thematically reminiscent of recent Batman films. It featured Uncut Gems star LaKeith Lee Stanfield and Freeman. On social media, the 29-year-old also revealed his album’s features through personalized comic book covers

HEROES & VILLAINS clocks in at 48 minutes, and Metro makes most of those minutes count—a refreshing change of pace from the unimaginative music released by artists such as like Lil Baby and DJ Khaled this year. And though the album occasionally struggles—as sequels often do—to escape the shadow of its critically acclaimed predecessor, Metro’s latest work highlights his ability to push his genre forward, and cements his status as rap’s premier facilitator.

December 12, 2022
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