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The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.

The Wildcat Tribune

The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.

The Wildcat Tribune

21 Savage’s ‘American Dream’ Leaves a Lasting Impact

21 Savages American Dream layers poignant lyrics on infectious, catchy beats.
Courtesy of 21 Savage
21 Savage’s American Dream layers poignant lyrics on infectious, catchy beats.

On Jan. 12, 2024, the Atlanta-based rapper 21 Savage released his third solo album, “American Dream,” quickly topping the Hot Billboard 100 chart with infectious beats and meaningful lyricism. Following his infamous 2018 album “I am > I Was”, the album consists of 15 tracks with a total run time of 50 minutes.

It features a variety of renowned artists such as Travis Scott, Doja Cat, Brent Faiyaz, Young Thug, and more, addressing themes of street gangs, drug usage, gun violence, relationships, and self-reflection. The set debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and all 14 chart-eligible songs entered the Billboard Hot 100, including two in the top 10.

During the poetic prologue of “American Dream,” 21 Savage’s mother, Heather Carmillia Joseph, explains that the album guides listeners through 21 Savage’s experiences with resilience, sacrifice and the pursuit of an “American Dream.” As she speaks, the piano melody provides an emotional sentiment, hinting to the audience what to expect. His mother ends the opening track by stating “The mission is as it’s always been, for my son to become a man and live free in his “American Dream”.

Similar to his previous albums, “Savage Mode I” and “Savage Mode II,” created in collaboration with record producer Metro Boomin, “American Dream” delivers a dark and eerie atmosphere while conveying authenticity through its raw lyrics. This can be seen in songs such as “all of me,” “neè-nah” and “redrum”, the three most popular tracks on the album, summing up over 91 million plays on Spotify.

Sampling Rose Royce’s 1977 “Wishing on a Star,” “all of me” expresses the determination and perseverance 21 Savage experienced throughout his formative years, despite the violence and struggle he encountered. The artist explains how God has guided him through evil. During the second chorus of the song, he says: “I know Satan down that path, but God walkin’ with me.” 

Featuring American rapper and producer Travis Scott, “neè-nah” explores the musical dynamics of the two artists with production from Metro Boomin, featuring aggressive drum patterns and bass. The song samples the blues artist Malcolm McLaren’s “About Her” and takes inspiration from the infamous African-American singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone, hence the song’s name. 

While the track opens with Scott’s smooth flow, it later transitions to 21 Savage’s faster and more assertive tone. The track unfolds hard-hitting verses referencing Slaughter Gang that pertain to cultural and street references as well as the baller lifestyle. During the opening verse, Travis says: “Til she reached in the trunk and found a nina, I told her, ‘Baby, that’s Nina Simone’.”  A “Nina” is a 9mm handgun, which is then compared to Nina Simone, which was meant to show the power and impact of her work. 

Inspired by the 1980 horror classic, “The Shining,” and the gritty touch of wordplay, “redrum” (“murder” spelled backward) references AK 47s and a lifestyle on the streets filled with danger, as well as his hard-earned wealth and credibility that “establish a menacing mood,” according to Genius. To further the murderous and haunting melodies throughout the song, the outro samples the “Here’s Johnny” scene from The Shining, and Serenata Do Adeus by Elza Laranjeira, a piece created in the 1900s consisting of various string instruments such as violin with a pleasant opera. 

Proving that cultural commentary can still be weaved into modern music, “redrum” sets itself apart from the thousands of rap songs in the industry by depicting the intensity of the gangster mindset with verses like: “G Block, all we know is redrum”. Songs in the music industry nowadays lack emotional and meaningful content, as they have become repetitive and boring. Many times the audience feels unentertained because the bar for some artists is set so far high that when they release new music, they oftentimes fail to fulfill the expectations their fans had set for them.

While the album quickly rose to be a rap sensation on several top charts, certain tracks such as “dark days,” featuring Mariah the Scientist, “just like me”, featuring Burna Boy and “letter to my brudda” were not developed to their full potential, and therefore, did not receive nearly as much recognition as its top tracks. Fans believed that the features of certain songs were not impressive. 

During an Apple Music interview with American rapper and songwriter Offset, he kept it simple by stating, “rap is getting boring, and there’s nothing new being brought to the game.” Many fans agree with this statement, as they had expressed how the vocals on some of the artists in “American Dream” were not particularly interesting. 

However, from the unique samples featured in the intros and outros to the meaningful messages hidden in the lyrics, 21 Savage did not fail to make jaw drops.

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About the Contributor
Janisha Potipireddi
Janisha Potipireddi, Journey Manager
Janisha joined the Wildcat Tribune so that she could let her creativity flow and craft articles that engage and inform readers. She was previously in J1. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, painting, running, reading, or taking her dog on walks. Janisha's goal for this year is to write as many articles as possible and meet all deadlines. If she could be any other person on the Tribune, she would be Ananya M, because she is a great and talented writer.

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