Last December, Pigeons & Planes published a retrospective tracing 2017’s most successful hip-hop producer based on various metrics. Across every category—singles sales, Hot 100 charts, album sales, and Billboard album charts—Metro Boomin dominated his peers. Smino wasn't lying when he tweeted, “The biggest producer in the world rn is from Saint Louis, Missouri.”
In early April of this year, Metro Boomin posted a photo on his Instagram Story with the caption, “Retired from rap.” The story circulated through the blogosphere; there was no further context given or attempts to dismiss the rumor as a misunderstanding. DJBooth’s editor-in-chief Brian "Z" Zisook wrote, “Metro's decision to enter into retirement is startling, that is until you remember that nobody ever really retires from hip-hop.” Surprisingly, with all the music released this year, only a handful of artists—Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Gunna, A$AP Rocky, Migos, and Rich The Kid—received a behind-the-boards assist from the hip-hop super-producer.
Metro Boomin was absent. He was missing from album credits, the charts, and even tours. The biggest hip-hop producer in the world in 2017 was nowhere to be found.
Seven months after his retirement announcement, Metro has returned with a new album. The 13-track full-length project is titled NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES. The artwork depicts an airborne silhouette of a man with a massive explosion behind him. It’s the perfect image to mark Metro Boomin’s reemergence. After an extended silence, I’m happy he’s back.
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
1. "10AM / Save the World" ft. Gucci Mane
Gucci is batting leadoff. The build-up is soft. Some nice The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker strings. Gucci is talking about waking up and looking out at the water. From a rock star lifestyle to a tranquil one. Hey! A nice, eloquent knock. The East Atlanta Santa brought his charm. I love how layered Metro’s beats have become. There’s a lot to appreciate here. This is going to cause the ground to shake like an elephant stampede. This is what you would call a calm banger. Gucci’s energy is early morning breakfast with the slippers on. A vocal sample. Metro has been in the crates. OH! This is angelic. Beautiful. There’s a halo hovering over me now. I’m excited.
2. "Overdue" ft. Travis Scott
Sped up vocal sample. Not sure what it’s saying. OH! A great build up. The drop was gorgeous. Travis has arrived and is dancing smoother than Carlton doing the Tom Jones on this beat. How this beat is arranged is incredible. Incredible. Damn, this is what Metro was making in the cave? More strings. The Travis hum is sounding otherworldly. He’s creating such an engrossing atmosphere. I heard a 21 ad-lib. They were tucked in. He’s on the next track...
3. "Don’t Come Out the House" ft. 21 Savage
The transition was NASTY. Seamless. This is The-Dream levels of sequencing. He just suddenly appeared like when you unlock a new character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. This sounds like Savage Mode 2 music. WHISPER FLOW! Oh, oh, oh. This is scary. Frightening. It sounds like 21 is coming through my headphones. The keys are hopping out of the pot like grease when frying chicken. Thank God he stopped whispering. 21 is committing murder on this beat. The flow, the wordplay, whoa whoa whoa. “I had a wet dream about beef” 21!!! This is a trap banger. “I greenlit hits I don’t make jingles.” He's back to whispering and it’s really more frightening than any horror film I’ve seen this year. Tay Keith co-production! Metro and Tay Keith are the Piccolo and Gohan of producer collabs.
4. "Dreamcatcher" ft. Swae Lee & Travis Scott
Metro slowed things down. It’s sunnier, music that’s sweeter than a chocolate factory. Swae Lee has a voice that could soothe a raging Tyrannosaurus. Metro has a great selection of drums. Two wet dream bars on back-to-back songs, lol. Travis is here; this is the duet I didn't know I needed. It’s a change of pace—a sudden one—but this is a really good record. The beats have been stunning. Everyone is treating Metro’s project like they were recording for their personal albums. This could’ve easily been a record on Swaecation or Astroworld. Damn, Swae Lee and Travis have been a better combo in 2018 than Travis and Quavo.
5. "Space Cadet" ft. Gunna
Gunna has gotten incredible looks all year. OH! Yes. Yes. I’m already mad this wasn’t on Drip Harder. Feels like floating on an asteroid. Gunna’s 3D glasses line was great. “Alien feel like I’m living on my own planet.” I’m not mad at all. Gunna is running across this beat with all the charisma in his soul. It’s wavy. Is that still Gunna? Sounds like a Travis hum. We need Metro beats on everyone’s album next year.
6. "10 Freaky Girls" ft. 21 Savage
Another 21 feature. This sample! Loving what this is foreshadowing. It went from sensual to snaring. I’m certain 21 spanked the doctor who delivered him. Spongebob line! Into a Moesha bar. I can’t wait for this new Savage album. His rapping has stepped up with each feature verse. The trumpets that just came in are so triumphant. We need trumpets on the next Savage album. This is East Atlanta rap. “I came out the womb I was thugging.” I won’t say I told y'all, but I told y'all. Metro Boomin is to 21 Savage what DJ Toomp was to T.I.
7. "Up to Something" ft. Travis Scott & Young Thug
The Southside sirens. Oh, this is menacing. The drop just broke my rib cage. It’s an explosion. Southside has the Chun-Li kicks. Thug sounds great. The “Skyfall” squad is back and I’m elated. This sounds like vintage Thug. Production is nasty, just nasty. “Your money little like a Yorkie.” Thug just said he’s getting back to the “old me” and it sounds like it. Travis provided more background vocals than anything. Another one.
8. "Only 1 (Interlude)" ft. Travis Scott
Keys and Travis sounding like he’s making the sequel to 808s & Heartbreak. It’s rather uncanny how his Auto-Tune captures the old Ye vibes. I wouldn’t mind if Travis did a Barter 6 version of 808s, if all the records sound like this. This is heartache. I need the full-length version of this pain.
9. "Lesbian" ft. Gunna & Young Thug
The keys perfectly transitioned. Metro is pulling off tricks. “I fell in love with a lesbian” is a peak Gunna lyric. Another Metro banger. Really enjoying Gunna’s contributions to this album. Metro’s production is so sharp. Thugger! A smooth intro. No drums, loving Thug over the keys. The arrangement is thoughtful. Drums came in but not too heavy. Metro isn’t using the drop to build into moments but to allow the beats to just build, break, and build again. Did this man say two tones like the President? Is this about Trump being both pale and orange? Hahaha, I hope so. Lovely keys. Sharp violins and jubilant keys.
10. "Borrowed Love" ft. Swae Lee & Wizkid
Man, Metro’s sample selection is giving me Kanye nostalgia. I don’t know the source material here but I’ve heard it on a Wu-Tang record. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Swae Lee! Yes! This is lovely. Angelic. It’s as pure as a baby’s first heartbeat. The drums are great. The guitars tucked in the background sounds sweet. Man, Metro knew exactly what this kid needed. He’s tapping into the energy that Swae should’ve dove into after the success of his hook on French Montana's “Unforgettable.” Wiz! This is a HIT. If any record on NAHWC has a chance to be huge, it’s this one. Metro’s string game is reaching Disney levels. He’s going to score Toy Story 4 at this rate. The electric guitar closing is a chef's kiss.
11. "Only You" ft. Wizkid, Offset & J Balvin
The drums! WOOO! He just threw us onto the dancefloor with no warning. The drums are something else. Metro is showing his range. Offset! Man, “Only You” would’ve been a monster this past summer. Offset sounds great. “Cash money baby get your roll on.” What a swing. J Balvin and Wizkid together is a decision DJ Khaled wish he made. Balvin’s Spanish sounds incredible. The way he hovers on this beat is something. This record will have reach. So many markets for it to take over. Metro is coming for the charts. All the charts.
12. "No More" ft. Travis Scott, Kodak Black & 21 Savage
Nice keys. Travis came in with the melodic flow. Metro’s production has been the perfect fit for every feature. Kodak! This is good, really good. “I tried to pray and it didn’t work,” sheesh. Man, someone get this man a therapist. I might have to do a list of the most alarming rap verses of the year. SAVAGE! “Told myself I wasn’t gonna drink no mo, it’s like the styrofoam is glued to me though.” Man, this entire song needs to speak with a specialist. Savage is three for three! He hasn’t missed. I love how this record is structured. Haunting. Metro switched it up. Soulful sample. “Lord save the world.” What is this outro skit? Hahaha.
13. "No Complaints" ft. Offset & Drake
I don’t remember this one. I feel like there's a reason I don’t remember it. Is that Offset? He sounds like a drunk Juicy J. Metro tag. Metro had one or two tags on the album. The beat is as dreary as a cloudy afternoon. Yeah, Offset is taking off. I hope Metro has the bulk of the beats on his upcoming solo album. Drake is here. I’m not in love with his flow, but this isn’t bad. That’s probably why I don’t remember this record well. Not the most shining moment of Drake’s feature run.
Final (first listen) thoughts on NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES:
NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES is the ideal comeback for a renowned producer who took the better part of a year to further hone his craft. Rather than manufacturing a bloated project in an attempt to garner streams, Metro went slim and concise with a collection of songs that display his creative growth and range.
For an album that serves as a compilation of talent, there’s an artistic foresight that's apparent. Every record seamlessly flows into the next; music that compliments the song that came before and the song coming after. This is what happens when a producer considers the overall listening experience and doesn't simply stockpile potential hits.
The Metro Boomin touch is far more refreshing after an extended absence. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by a popular producer when their sound has reached the point of worldwide dominance. NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES is the kind of reintroduction that feels familiar but also shows growth. How Metro uses strings, samples, and seamless sequencing adds a sophistication to his trap production. Instead of giving away these beats to be placed on various albums, Metro uses NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES as a sonic art gallery specially curated to allow listeners to absorb all that his development has to offer in one sitting.
NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES is what a compilation album crafted by a popular DJ or producer should be. It's focused, thoughtful, and brings out the best in every artist who contributed. What’s most impressive is how, without saying a word, Metro Boomin’s voice has a presence.
Metro is moving on his time, and it’s far from being up.
By Yoh, aka Not All Yohs Wear Capes, aka @Yoh31
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