Metro Boomin – HEROES & VILLAINS

A larger-than-life return...

Metro Boomin is one of the most influential producers in Stateside hip-hop, constructing an epic, trap-indebted sound that took his music in darker directions. 2018’s ‘Not All Heroes Wear Capes’ displayed his breadth, even if the results were uneven. Aptly titled follow-up ‘HEROES & VILLAINS’ levels up once more, and while the record can be scattergun at times it’s a bold work of sonic largesse.

Opener ‘On Time’ sets the tone for the record, swinging between gospel-indebted songwriting and trap braggadocio. The cinematic opening segment gives way to a song of yearning led by John Legend, before this in turn moves stage left, replaced by a Morgan Freeman sound-alike. “You know what they say… if young Metro don’t trust you, motherfucker you’d better run…”

An intensely collaborative artist, the St. Louis figure’s curatorial nous gives ‘HEROES & VILLAINS’ a broad framework. Recurring appearances from Travis Scott and Future form the crux of the record, however, with Don Toliver also becoming recurring voice amid Metro Boomin’s sonic arsenal. Indeed, Don provides one of the early highlights, with his epic verse on Future team-up ‘Too Many Nights’.

Travis Scott revs up ‘Raindrops’ adding an almost punk-like energy to the song, while the swaggering ‘Metro Spider’ utilises a capable, if hardly classic, Young Thug feature. A run of 21 Savage collaborations marks the final third of the album, and while it can be hit and miss – ‘Niagara Falls (Foot Or 2)’ is a real highlight – it’s never less than entertaining.

Indeed, one faultline on the record is that there is simply too much going on. ‘HEROES & VILLAINS’ bursts with ideas, not all of which land. A record that revels in contradictions, it grasps towards the light while framing itself in darkness. Indeed, closing track ‘Feel The Fiyaaaah’ seems to encapsulate it’s over-the-top ambitions, while a feature from the late, great Takeoff is swathed in a sense of loss. It’s all too soon.

A bold artist statement from Metro Boomin, ‘HEROES & VILLAINS’ progresses his arena-level sonic tapestry, while also leaving space to grow. A statement of intent, he utilises one of the finest contact books in American hip-hop to build his rogue’s gallery.

7/10

Words: Robin Murray

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