21 Savage's "I Am > I Was:" The 5 Best Features
Tis the season where men are made, boys are born, and women are netted in the type of silk reserved for dignitaries. The “featured artists” that appear on 21 Savage’s I Am > I Was are as big league as they come, give or take a few noticeable absentees.
For I Am > I Was, 21 Savage rolled out a plan, and the label complied, covering all the expenses associated with the illustrious guest list. The run-through you are about to read might seem a little spellbinding at first, but hear me out. This is the unofficial “official” list to trump all other lists projecting the most impressive collaborative moments on I Am > I Was, starting with the obvious choice, Mr. J. Cole.
5. YUNG MIAMI
Nobody cared to ask Yung Miami what she thought of all those marriage proposals. That’s why she let the ball slip right out of her hand, letting it fall right into the hands of 21 Savage. “a&t” is a gender-related epithet, you know which one. In view of that, “ass and titties” is always pointed in the direction of the male gaze. But 21 found a workaround to the issue by including a female voice, because when the playing field evens out, everybody and their uncle’s dog likes talking about private parts in giddy fashion.
Yung Miami’s message is clear: she doesn’t mind indulging your fantasy, but the moment anybody including 21 Savage, loses sight of the endgame, the bubble goes pop, and we’re back to square one. By all accounts “Free JT” is a cause, as much as it concerns the evolving City Girls group dynamic, but by God, Yung Miami’s solo exploration did her some good, especially when you add “a&t” to the running tab.
4. CHILDISH GAMBINO
As funny as it looks on paper, Childish Gambino is actually a gel-fit next to 21 Savage on “monster.” If at all conceivable, Glover may have inadvertently fired off his manifesto in a semiconscious spell, illustrated through his efforts to connect with the average American. On “monster,” he finds yet another vessel to string the message along.
On the flip side, Gambino might be forced into a binding situation sooner than later. “Coming from the dirt” could lose its resonance as a tradeable expression as he continues to switch between mediums. Childish Gambino is tactfully playing a high-risk game, where the expectations he places on himself stay with him regardless of his position. But for now, “monster” keep his the hot streak alive, at an impossibly high rate of speed, especially when you consider the constraints he was working with: someone else’s vision.
3. SCHOOLBOY Q
Project Pat wasn’t the only guest performer to shine on the Ice Cube-inspired “good day.” A noted technician like ScHoolBoy had to be egregiously bad to miss out on the shortlist. His intro verse strikes me as the perfect illustration of “dissonance” winning out in close encounters. When different styles collide, it forces a weird middle-ground – which is exactly what occurred when 21 & ScHoolboy shared the same platform for the pre-chorus, giving way to a scathing verse where the TDE rapper warned against the hasty use of “Twitter Fingers.”
Project Pat’s verse may have been more memorable in the broader context of the whole project, but ScHoolboy’s contributions to “good day” are equal to a vital organ running things obsequiously. 21 Savage was wise to let ScHoolboy assume control when and where his touch was needed.
2. PROJECT PAT
Don’t mistake this for Project Pat-inspired heritage moment. His work rate hasn’t diminished over time, and quite honestly, the breakup of Three 6 Mafia probably did him more good than bad – comparable to a dissected specimen that is only discernible under the right light. Project Pat’s ability to make idiomatic language out of nothing is what sets him apart amongst the other A-List guests.
After years of campaigning with the very best in the field, Project Pat holds the secret to making a lasting impression. As a lyricist, precision and language are inseparable. Today they call it “the lingo” – the quicker you latch onto it the better. Project Pat isn’t a novelty pick for the sake of inclusivity, but rather a well-earned effort. Why settle for a Horrorcore reproduction when the unmitigated version is ripe for the taking?
1. J. COLE
J. Cole closing stanza on “a lot,” is by far the most publicized feature on day one, thanks in part to his handling of “trending issues” in 32-bars or less. His message of goodwill towards Markelle Fultz pushed the embattled NBA sophomore into “trending territory,” without any interference. Just before touching on the Fultz drama, he motioned to Tekashi 6ix9ine in a similar vein. As you might guess, Cole’s best option on “a lot” was to tread lightly in fewer words, so the nuances of his message could develop on their own. J. Cole is already an upper echelon lyricist by almost every stretch of the imagination, but on “a lot” he was finally able to master the last missing piece in his repertoire: the art of “less is more.”
With that under his belt, J. Cole was able to convey a new sense of finality for Tekashi, Fultz, and most importantly, for his own self-regard. His insistence on using troubled figures as models of “cognitive therapy” helps to disguise his motives. What are those motives, you might ask? The truth is hard to swallow because his motives are not an imposition. Together, 21 and J. Cole create an ideal moment of suspension within the opening measure of the album.