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Media Club: Remembering the time 21 Savage whispered through a song

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Y’all really thought he was gon’ whisper the whole time huh? You can find out a lot about a person — even yourself — through taking one look at their music library. Mine reminds me of the many phases I’ve been through in life. (stares directly at the angsty Black Flag punk filled playlist.) A music library is a peek into someone’s mind, demonstrating how specific sounds can influence personality, style, and attitude. On the latest quest to find myself through music, I hit the shuffle button and stumbled upon Metro Boomin and 21 Savage’s gem “Don’t Come Out The House.”

The clearest way to describe this song is as an ASMR trap track. 21 does what he does best – delivering lines about the struggles of growing up in East Atlanta, how nobody better try him and his gang, and of course flexing his wealth and how everyone else is comparatively broke. It’s just that he’s whispering these bars over an ominous production from Metro Boomin and Tay Keith.
During my first ever listen, I vividly remember checking to see if my speakers had short circuited because of the hushed tone 21 Savage was rapping with, until he interjected mid verse with the line, “y’all must thought that i was gon’ whisper the whole time”. The delivery is more than a gimmick. It’s a well executed segue into the rest of his verse.
Whispering vocals have been done before in hip hop, so 21’s move was nothing out of the ordinary, especially compared to classics like the Ying Yang Twins’ “Wait (The Whisper Song).” It’s just intriguing to hear 21’s content, which typically involves him detailing murderous escapades, delivered so softly.
As Savage switched up from his whispering tone to a normal speaking voice, he also showed his strength of playful wordplay. He goes on to deliver comical one-liners like: “Levi jeans, low self-esteem, he on BlackPeopleMeet,” completely stripping the confidence of Black men who wear the affordable, beloved jeans. After painting that image as he describes his dreams with the line: “Who want smoke ’cause I want smoke, I had a wet dream about beef.” Which is to say that 21 Savage isn’t at all afraid of being himself in his music, and if that means whispering on a track so be it.
In an interview with Genius, Savage explains how the whispering came about, saying, “Every time I rap, I always whisper. I just whisper while I’m thinking of what I’m going to say next. It just so happened Metro was like, ‘Say it like that, how you just said it.’ And that’s how that came about type shit.” It’s a technique he would go on to use again in his song “ASMR,” from his sophomore album I Am> I Was. Music artists, especially rappers, are often quick to take themselves too seriously. 21 Savage has found a way to perfectly walk the line of being authentic to his rhymes, but also make room to have fun within his songs. So when I can tell that Savage is having fun on the song, I can’t help but to smile as he whispers whatever the opposite of sweet nothings are into my ears.

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