Metro Boomin’s ‘Heroes and Villains’ Is the Ultimate Rap Blockbuster

Making successful blockbusters isn’t easy. In rap, few contemporary architects match Metro Boomin. Here's our review of 'Heroes & Villains.'


Image via Publicist


No matter how formulaic they might seem, making critically and financially successful blockbusters isn’t easy. With its many false starts, Warner Bros.’ jumbled superhero movieverse is a prime example of just how off track a franchise can get when tossing around flashy properties haphazardly. The truth is, big names do not make a good franchise all by themselves, and ambitious projects are only as great as the producers who put them together—whether in the world of movies or music. In rap, few contemporary architects match Metro Boomin. 

Over the last nine years, the 29-year-old St. Louis native has used exhilarating, gothic soundscapes and a knack for general managing to become his own veritable blockbuster franchise. Boomin (born Leland Tyler Wayne) is a creator with the skills and sensibilities to mesh big names with cinematic beats for tracks that often reach heroic proportions. He continues the trend on his comic book-themed new album, Heroes & Villains. Merging his signature ominous, clandestine cool with features from young rap legends in their prime, Metro Boomin puts on his cape for a project that reaffirms his status as both a master curator and a production titan. For this one, he uses a familiar cast of artists like 21 Savage, Travis Scott, Young Thug, The Weeknd, Young Nudy and more as he swerves between overpowering trap, extraterrestrial reflections, and ambient luxury for anthems that make the most of their performers. 

Like Metro’s 2018 album Not All Heroes Wear Capes, Heroes & Villains puts artists where they need to be at the moment they need to be there. On “Superhero (Heroes & Villains)” Future serves up an ode to a trap star’s lifestyle, infusing pummeling 808s and muted horns with his customary, chant-like flow for a mix of menace, rambunctiousness and comically straightforward obscenity. “Do you somethin’ nasty, roll you in a ‘gar/Bitch get graphic, fuck me in a car,” he raps, evoking vintage Hendrix. Meanwhile, sliding across sinister keys, 21 Savage oscillates between bloodthirsty shooter and winking trap idealist on “Walk Em Down (Don’t Kill Civilians).” Using an icy, monotone delivery, 21 unloads a hook that’s simple, yet symbolic enough to be anthemic—think 2016’s “No Heart” or “X” on Savage Mode

Metro Boomin 'Heroes & Villains' cover

While Heroes & Villains is cohesive, there’s almost always a juxtaposition that keeps the sonics from getting stale. In the latter portion of “Superhero (Heroes & Villains),” Future’s stone-faced trap fades into somber synths and distorted melodies from Chris Brown for a transition that’s as theatrical as it is smooth. It phases into “Too Many Nights,” which piles elastic Don Toliver melodies for a track that feels a little like an acid trip—the opiate effect of sounds that become their own experiences. Although songs like “Raindrops (Insane)” (with Travis Scott) and “Trance” (with Young Thug and Travis Scott) can suffer from lyrical blandness, their melodies make them compelling anyways. Tracks like “Around Me” (with Don Toliver) and “Metro Spider” (with Young Thug) make up a sleek, surrealistic vision of trap guided by the expert hand of its director. 

Metro sticks to his strengths on this project while also adding artful splashes of randomness. Unlike Not All Heroes Wear Capes, those experiments don’t force awkward genre-blending collaborations (like “Only You” with WizKid and J Balvin), instead it places artists in territories only slightly removed from their normal habitat. For “Creepin,” Metro reimagines a mid-2000s R&B classic so The Weeknd and 21 Savage can do their best karaoke version of Mario Winans’ “I Don’t Wanna Know;” 21 rarely sounds quite as at home with earnest romance, but it’s Weeknd’s vocals—and the audacity of the re-do—that make it all worth it. It’s like an inside joke that slaps.

Meanwhile, for the “On Time” track, Boomin combines a triumphant violin with a gospel choir, a Morgan Freeman narration and a powerful John Legend refrain you’d never expect to grace one of his instrumentals. On top of all that, there’s a Homelander sample, and he grabs A$AP Rocky for hype man duties. Rocky later returns for “Feel The Fiyaaaah,” where he laces throwback chipmunk soul with an off-kilter melody that works better than you think it would. On the same track, the late Takeoff cycles through much of the alphabet for a wordplay exhibition that will remind you of the massive talent that was lost after his tragic death last month. No one would have these collabs on their bingo card, but they’re executed so well that they feel organic and effortless, a credit to Metro’s curatorial feng shui and production versatility. 

Heroes & Villains is entertaining on a song-by-song level, but it’s also tied together by deft sequencing, clever comic book-inspired artwork and dramatic narrations befitting of epic cinema. Familiar, yet new, seamless, but intermittently experimental, it’s as meticulous as it is fun, and everyone involved seems comfortable. It’s the result of years of collaborations between the artists and Young Metro, who proves he might be the defining producer of his generation. But great production is usually accompanied by elite curation, too; a movie star can only be one if you give them the right roles. 

Following in the footsteps of the MCU, Metro took a deliberate approach to making the most of a shared history, using episodic creations to construct a new universe. Juggling personalities, sounds and artistic approaches makes putting together a box office hit difficult. Making one with artistic merit is even harder, especially if you don’t have the right curator for the job. Luckily, the MCU has Kevin Feige. Trap music has Metro Boomin.

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