However, Freeman thought working with the two artists was the perfect fit. In a new interview with GQ, the actor explained that he seized the opportunity because he wanted to work on a project that didn’t present him as the “nice guy” that he usually portrays.
“What happens is you sort of get locked into a position,” Freeman explained. “Henry Fonda was in it, Spencer Tracy was in it, James Stewart was in it, even though he played a couple of bad guys. You don't really don't want to be cast into a mold, but after a few years, it's bound to happen. Every [offer] that’s outside of what you consider [your] mold is fun to do. I got to jump at it.”
Savage Mode II’s theme wasn't that much outside of Freeman’s purview, sans the interludes about the differences between being a snitch and rat.
“I read the copy and was like, ‘Wow, there’s some wisdom in here,’” Freeman told the publication. Upon reading the script, he simplified the monologues to their central themes and values. “I think this is the way I think. It’s basically saying don’t suffer fools and when you want something go for that,” he said, adding “If [Savage’s music] is a young people thing, then this is stuff they need to be aware of. So it’s a good thing to do.”
When asked what young people’s access point is to his work, Freeman said that it’s likely his film Shawshank Redemption: “It’s Shawshank,” he said. “Or it’s just, a lot of people call [my voice] the ‘voice of God.” Freeman recorded his monologues at home, on his iPhone, and with no improvisations.
Savage Mode II’s album cover was inspired by iconic Houston-based design company Pen & Pixel, whose graphics, for a time, were identified with southern rap, working with rappers and groups like Juvenile, the Hot Boys, No Limit, Cash Money, and more.
21’s photographer and creative director, John Canon brought the rapper’s ideas to life. “[Most details] were inspired by the Pen & Pixel style, but [I added] the engraving on the dagger, the six bullet holes represent the six times that he was shot. I felt like that was something powerful, and I felt like the engravings were things that really mean something to him,” he explained.
“When [Savage] first said that he wanted to do the cover like that, I knew people weren’t gonna understand. But, at the same time, I wasn’t afraid to still do it. At some point somebody is gonna pull together an article of all these covers and make it make sense,” he continued.
21 Savage and Metro Boomin also recently graced the cover of The Source, with 21 discussing how he changed musically between his 2018 effort I Am > I Was and Savage Mode II.
“I just care more about my craft. I don’t like just throwing music out, I never have, but especially now, I want my music to stick. A lot of artists just throwing music out and the fans forget about it a week later, so focusing on making quality is something that I focus hard on.”