Atlanta native, 21 Savage has just come out with his long awaited commercial debut, Issa Album and… issa flop. Over the past two years, 21 has made a name for himself by taking a bare bones, more sinister approach to trap music. 21’s bleak descriptions of gang life are brought to life with his signature snarl, over minimalistic trap beats, putting his lyrics to the forefront. However, these lyrics as gritty and merciless as they are, tend to be underwritten, underperformed, and overused.
The song “Bank Account”, produced by 21 Savage himself, has the most laughable hook on the album. “I got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 m’s in my bank account/in my bank account”. While most wouldn’t feel the need to question the amount of money 21 has in his bank account, a hook like this can guarantee not a single cent will be added to it. 21’s production on the song is just as, if not more, uninspired than his hook writing. The very basic guitar loop and trap drums feel slapped together and redundant. The mix sounds compressed and unbalanced. The song almost sounds like a Slaughter King leftover.
“Bad Business” takes a page from the Vince Staples Guide to Hook-writing, in that it takes the title and repeats it ad-nauseum. The repetitiveness of the hook wouldn’t be as big of a gripe if it weren’t sandwiched between 21’s lackluster verses. The hook doesn’t even make sense in the context of the song. “Bitch I’m bad business”. For whom? Is 21 a bad customer? Does he rob people so much that he’s bad for business? Does he sell so many drugs that he puts his competition out of business? 21 hardly ever addresses his bad business practices. He only references selling drugs and robbery once in the song. With the amount of times 21 references spending money erroneously in the song, the only person 21 is bad business for is himself.
Despite the lackluster performance, Issa is not without his moments. The track “Famous” is a promising intro to the album. 21 talks about his come up, the effects of success, and staying true to his roots. The song’s instrumental, produced by Metro Boomin and Zaytoven, has a quiet energy that builds in its chord progression.
Another gem off the album is “FaceTime”, 21’s poppiest song to date. This song one of the best hooks on the album. The beat is fun and bouncy with plenty of summer vibes to go around. The song sticks out not just on the album, but in 21’s discography. The song is enjoyable, but it’s an obvious cash grab. If 21 wasn’t sold this beat, it could’ve easily went to more radio friendly artists like Khalid or Lil Yachty. However, 21 injects the track with enough of his own personality to make it his. These two songs give the listener a taste of 21’s artistic potential, which makes it all the more disappointing when confronted with the messy, lazy, and uninteresting rest of the album.
The frown jewel of the album has to be the self-indulgent finale, “7 Min Freestyle”. If “Famous” built up the hopes of the listener, “7 Min Freestyle” mercilessly dashed them. The track, for starters, is entirely too long. In fact, it is seven minutes too long. 21 continues to lazily rehash the same topics ad nauseum over a generic trap beat, produced by Southside. The only reason why a seven-minute freestyle track would be on an album this anticipated, would be because 21 is trying to flex his muscles as a rapper. The song has absolutely nothing that your average lunch table cypher doesn’t have.
21 Savage as a rapper has potential to be a good artist, but he continues to squander it in exchange for an album that serves more as a promotional tool. Issa doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, but it doesn’t have to be schlock. The flaws of this album are less apparent when tracks are being played in cars and at parties. However, this will not put a damper on 21’s rise to popularity. His unique persona and contemporary sound will keep him in the limelight until the public moves on to the next trap sensation.