‘Without Warning’ Proves a Testament to the Value of Collaboration
Issue   |   Tue, 11/07/2017 - 23:26
Photo Courtesy of fashionably-early.com
The dark, eerie sounds of “Without Warning“ exhbited a mood fitting for its Halloween release still allowing the artists to maintain their styles.

Collaboration between hip-hop artists has often led to the creation of unique and original albums. Working with another artist, regardless of their style, can elevate both parties’ performances. Artists who have similar styles can feed off of one another to create a cohesive work, while artists with contrasting styles either stick to their own approach or conform to their collaborator’s style.

In theory, stars should be able to combine their respective abilities and fame and work well together. In practice, however, these artists face difficulties in composing and creating a collaborative album; they must learn to work in a new environment and accommodate others’ egos, creative processes and ideas regarding the music. If both parties put their egos aside, however, they will bring out the best in each other and fashion a work that features both their individual and collective talents.

This held true for 21 Savage, Offset and Metro Boomin as they contributed to the recent trend of collaborative albums with the surprise Halloween release of “Without Warning.” The 10-track album is the paradigm of a cohesive collaboration and a testament to Metro Boomin’s abilities as a producer.

The three architects of “Without Warning” are far from obscure. 21 Savage has already released hits such as “Bank Account,” “No Heart” and “X.” Metro Boomin is arguably the hottest producer in rap. He has produced both albums and singles for superstars like Drake, Future and Kanye, as well as released collaborative albums with up-and-coming rappers such as Nav (“Perfect Timing,” 2017). Offset has spent the last year stepping out of Quavo and Migos’ long shadows through a series of features on songs like Juicy J’s “Flood Watch” and Future and Young Thug’s “Patek Water.” On their own, the three are formidable, but on “Without Warning” they complement each other well, allowing each artist the opportunity to be himself.
On the album’s opening track, “Ghostface Killers,” Offset comes out firing with rapid-fire flow. After an unrelenting chorus (“Ghostface killers, Wu-Tang, 21 news gang / Drug dealers in the Mulsanne, at the top of the food chain”), 21 Savage enters with slow, snarling verse.

The album’s second song, “Rap Saved Me,” begins with 21 Savage threatening his rivals (“And I’m dangerous / Smith & Wesson, and it’s stainless”), before Offset relentlessly flaunts his wealth over a string sample (“A-list status / His and her Pateks.”) The aforementioned songs include features from Travis Scott and Quavo, but their verses are almost afterthoughts, a rarity for rappers of their caliber and a testament to 21 and Offset’s newfound gravity.

Next comes “Ric Flair Drip”, an ostentatious display of wealth by Offset, and the hazy “My Choppa Hate N*****,” which reaffirms 21’s affinity for his firearms. Although each of these two songs feature only one of Offset and 21 Savage, they belong in the album because of the thematic homogeneity of Metro Boomin’s beats and production. The beats vary in tempo and sound from song to song but they’re all dark and eerie. Offset contributes to the Halloween theme of the album via the chorus of “Nightmare,” which, along with “Still Serving”, contains ominous xylophone and chime samples to complete the eerie effect.

Metro Boomin’s signature style holds “Without Warning” together conceptually. Regardless of the pace of the lyrics, the album maintains its nefarious, gloating energy. His bass-heavy, sinister beats permeate every song on the album and provide continuity. Many reviews have described his beats as reminiscent of a “haunted house,” lending the album a spooky ambience. With the beats as a constant, Offset and 21 Savage have the freedom to maintain their artistic selves; 21 keeps his slow, almost sarcastic drawl, while Offset displays a quick, stop-and-start flow. 21 Savage plays the role of the mobster peering down at his challengers from his throne while Offset jumps on and off of the beat, employing his signature alliteration that hearkens to his work with Migos.

Lyrically, “Without Warning” might not ascend to the level of other collaborative albums, such as Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “Watch the Throne.” However, it certainly proves that all three artists can sustain their respective styles while making a coherent album.