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Metro Boomin - Not All Heroes Wear Capes Music Album Reviews

The Atlanta producer returns with a guest-filled album that builds on and creates a bigger version of the dark, hard-hitting production that has turned him into rap’s definitive producer.

Fake retirements are hip-hop. Can an artist even be considered a rap icon if they have never bowed out of the game, and then come back months later with a new album? Metro Boomin, aware that it was time for this rite of passage, called it quits in April after remaining mostly silent since December’s Double or Nothing with Big Sean. But the rap world knew Metro would return, they just didn’t know how or when. Would it be on a new Future project? Would he hit the swerve button and release an album with a pop artist? Maybe a Perfect Timing 2, one could only hope? Instead, Metro dropped Not All Heroes Wear Capes, a high-profile guest-filled album that builds on and creates a bigger version of the dark, hard-hitting production that has turned Metro into rap’s definitive producer of the last five years.

Since 2013, when Metro established himself with 19 & Boomin, the St. Louis-bred producer flew through the beat-making ranks. From the jump, he impacted the genre with his, “Metro Boomin want some more, nigga” tag, all but making the producer tag a necessity. But where Metro really shined was an ability to elevate the artists he collaborated with—like so many of the beat-making legends. Metro’s beats would become the key in unleashing the creativity in some of rap’s greatest talents: He helped Future tap into his lean-drenched emotions on DS2, transformed Travis Scott into our Auto-Tune overlord on Days Before Rodeo, and managed to scratch one of the last great musical moments out of Kanye West on “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1.” Not All Heroes Wear Capes doesn’t just broaden Metro’s sound, it’s a showcase for artists relieved to be working with Metro again, because that’s when they are at their most creative.

Right now, there is no better case for Metro bringing the most out of an artist than 21 Savage. The East Atlanta rapper finds himself on three of the album’s tracks with the first “Don’t Come Out the House,” using a sinister half-whisper flow to reciprocate the horror score energy felt by Metro’s piano keys and the drums of Memphis’ Tay Keith. The track feels like a pump of adrenaline as the melody cuts out leaving only the rumbling bass of Tay Keith and 21’s villainous whisper. But 21 smartly doesn’t overuse the flow, returning to his standard creaky-voice when Metro’s keys kick back in. He then spits a hurtful bar that will crush the hearts of all of his denim-wearing supporters, “Levi jeans, low self-esteem, he on BlackPeopleMeet.”

Then, on “10 Freaky Girls,” Metro shows off how he refined his sampling skills during his hiatus, flipping an ’80s R&B song into a two-stepper spearheaded by 21. He manages to be both comedic and chilling, as his personality feels free, flexing his Ubereats account and using the song’s harmonica outro to speak about the pleasant experience he had when he ran into a guy he robbed from way back.

Metro extends his life-giving to guests throughout the album. “Up to Something” with Young Thug and Travis Scott is an instrumental that could fit into an older era of Metro, and Thug and Travis comfortably let their vocal quirks loose. On “Space Cadet,” Metro ushers Gunna into “The Twilight Zone” with a twinkling instrumental, and Gunna responds with one of the album’s bounciest hooks. The “Space Cadet” instrumental, like so much of the album’s production, feels cinematic but thankfully not far removed from his Atlanta-built sound.

Metro stumbles a bit when he deviates from that Atlanta sound. “Only You” is a desperate swing from Metro, aimed for the thriving Afrobeats and reggaeton markets, handcuffing WizKid and J Balvin to a beat. Metro remedies that slip up with “Borrowed Love,” a crossover attempt that creates a muddy dance track for the calming vocals of Swae Lee to levitate and WizKid to show why he has become the must-know name in Afrobeats.

When rappers hear that Metro Boomin tag, it’s like they’re possessed. It’s why Not All Heroes Wear Capes doesn’t feel like the typical producer album, filled with mixtape leftovers and owed favors. This is Metro Boomin laying the groundwork for his next phase, which at times feels like it could be film scores. When you’ve done it all at 25 years old, some may lose the motivation, but Metro seems ready to keep going, continuing to define the new sound of hip-hop.

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