21 Savage has come a long way since being the terrifying street rapper from Atlanta, whose lyrics told no lies of his early torment. He's lost his brother, friends and been shot himself 6 times. From all this, i am > i was finally shows signs of the artist growing up and away from all the trouble.

A reflective 21 comes through on the first song 'a lot'. Looking at both the blessings and curses in his life. Featuring J. Cole, whose lyrics have come with speculation, as he raps about the troubled Tekashi 6ix9ne who was arrested on fireams and racketeering charges last month. “Pray for Tekashi/ They want him to rot/ I picture him inside a cell on a cot/ Reflecting on how he made it to the top/ Wondering if it was worth it or not.” This is the first feature from J. Cole for a while, not sure focusing on Tekashi was the right decision. Another below-average feature comes from Post Malone on the track ‘all my friends’. The collaboration feels forced, like they’re trying to recreate their previous hit single ‘Rockstar’, and you’re left waiting the whole song to feel some sort of emotion.

The rest of the album features other high-profile artists from the likes of Childish Gambino, Offset and Schoolboy Q, who all make their own mark. However, it’s on tracks without any features where 21 Savage flourishes. Particularly in the track 'letter 2 my momma', where you see another side of the rapper that he’s not expressed on tracks before. Furthermore, 21 shows his more vulnerable side on 'ball w/o you', speaking of heartbreak and disappointment in love: "It don't take much to love/ You can love somebody just by being attached/ See loyalty is an action/ You can love or hate me and still have my back,” 21 considers love to be artificial, whereas loyalty demands a higher level of mutual respect. True or not, there’s bitterness in his words.

Savage Mode, the menacing EP with Metro Boomin from 2016 put the Atlanta rapper in the public eye. Over dark and experimental ambient sounds, 21 managed to bring out a murky side that was a shock to most. Never has a rapper spoken so calmly about such dark subjects, but it did almost pigeonhole him as someone who can only rap about fetishizing violence.

Although 21 has distanced himself from this previous lifestyle of endangerment, he still recalls it in songs. On the track ‘4L’ he raps “All black ski mask, pull up on your street fast/ Bodybag a n*gga ass/ throw his body in the trash.” Whether these lyrics are there to titillate the fans that want more of Savage Mode 21, or that his past life is more of an obsession and something difficult to move on from, is debatable. Presumably, it's both. Either way, without a banging Metro Boomin beat you are left with his macabre words that talk of a dark trauma.

There’s a resemblance in 21 Savage to rappers like Chief Keef and Bobby Shmurda who basically sold their life and stories as an exchange into the music industry. 21 did the same with his gruesome stories but has managed to come out the other side more settled and falling into no trouble, unlike the former. Overall, it’s a massive improvement on the disappointing Issa Album, with 21 Savage showing maturity whilst keeping his dark humour and persona.