21 Savage returns with his “American Dream”

After a solo album hiatus since 2018, endless features and even a deportation scare, 21 Savage returned with his third studio album on Friday, Jan. 12, “American Dream.” While this album is set to be the soundtrack to the dramatized, autobiographical film under the same name, it holds as a standalone release.

The album raises its curtain on Savage’s mother poetically speaking about the tribulations she overcame to support her son. This speech sets the overarching tone that, some songs more than others, carries throughout the listening experience.

Going down the album, the next two tracks can easily be defended as some of Savage’s best of all time. The song, “all of me” seamlessly continues the theme introduced as Savage reflects on his new perspective on life that has come with his success. With a soulful sample, a catchy flow and his iconic laidback voice, this is my personal favorite track. The following song, “redrum,” a clear allusion to “The Shining,” is an aggressive fan favorite as well.

The Doja Cat feature on “n.h.i.e” has been a hit or miss for listeners, and as a proudly biased Doja Cat fan, I say it’s a clear hit. Her breathy voice along with her one adlib being “adlib” is undeniably memorable, and is my personal favorite feature on the album.

It’s on the fifth track where the album has its first dip. “sneaky” begins to feel repetitive and uncreative. The decline continues to rock bottom with “pop ur s***.” Unfortunately, there’s no context needed for the summarizing lyrics of, “It smell like gas, I think somebody pooped.” While I cannot deny that it made me audibly laugh, I could never imagine putting this song in any of my playlists. I might expect to find it playing preceding Ice Spice’s fart song.

Thankfully, completely polarizing the last track, “letter to my brudda” catches your attention again with some of the most meaningful lyricism on the album over a soulful production. “Dangerous” and “nee-nah,” both fun tracks with strong features, continue to pick up the album.

I will give props to Savage for, as a listener, being able to feel the progression of the movie through the soundtrack. As “prove it,” “should’ve worn a bonnet” and “just like me” play, there’s a romantic tone that I can only assume is for a love interest. However, “should’ve worn a bonnet” would have been better off as a Brent Faiyaz solo as his voice handsomely fits the style while Savage’s feels out of place specifically on this track.

Thankfully, Savage went out on a high note. Going along with the idea of feeling out the film through the album, “red sky” would be the climax, and it does so spectacularly. Savage’s trademark of a soulful voice spewing gruesome lyrics is successfully highlighted over the orchestral production. The final song “dark days” is just as strong although it is more laid back, but this is appropriate as it serves as the resolution for the album.

While Savage explores some more unique themes and sounds than he has before, I would not say it’s a masterpiece over “I am > I was,” or even his shared album with Drake, “Her Loss.” However, once paired with the movie that was created with these tracks in mind, I am excited and open for my opinion to change.