Heroes & Villains builds upon ideas that disassociate meaning that gets told through thematic perspectives from Metro Boomin and featured artists, where they purport a divide on who they are and what they believe. Or so that is what it wants to get across. You’ll instantly feel that from the album cover, which pays homage to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. Unfortunately, the assignment gets forgotten by all parties when the verses don’t always reflect what is laid in stone by the intro, which poorly contrasts John Legend’s angelic vocals with the cynicism and sadomasochism of Homelander from the Amazon Prime show, The Boys. Similarly, the concept becomes a bit more self-centered, losing focus on how these titles get perceived within the Hip-Hop community; rappers or producers who make it out and succeed gets that vague label of hero while the villainous notations come from their lyrical content. That’s here but refined to be more surface layer, despite the featured artists bringing sufficient consistency to make the production feel unwasted.
After a fantastic debut with Not All Heroes Wear Capes, Metro Boomin’s ascension gets heard behind the boards, and the collection of artists bring their B to A game lyrically. Unfortunately, the inner themes from the content getting spewed aren’t anything impressive, instead trivial with a light of creativity. Fortunately, it doesn’t hinder the individualized appeal of each track – the artists reflect grooves and flows that embolden its focus and lay the groundwork for club heaters – having its own potent gravitational pull that keeps us close to hitting replay instantly. It’s there with “Creepin,” “Metro Spider,” “Trance,” and “Feel The Fiyaaaah,” which engulf you in their style, offering cohesion, though that’s only naming the few that do this effervescently. We hear Metro Boomin’s effervescent production feeling realized as he takes us through these different, at times whimsical, piano keys and lusty drum beats. Though, it isn’t enough to circumvent some of its more unique choices.
For the positives that get laid out in Heroes & Villains, it makes some auspiciously oblique choices that falter the impact one can get from some tracks. It isn’t all Metro Boomin and more so a combination. Sometimes you’ll get these uniquely drab and typical verses that feel too entwined in laying out a style instead of feeling authentic, like on “Umbrella.” 21 Savage is known for his vocal, one-word ad-libs at the end of bars; however, “Umbrella” feels lost with 21’s constant use of “(Pussy),” which barely makes sense, like when raps: “Eastside vet, I’m a general (Pussy)/All my niggas twins, we identical (Pussy).” The ad-libs are him, but it feels more inserted than natural. Similarly, “Around Me” sounds basic as it tries too hard to let Don Tolliver’s vocals mistify you within this luscious Synth-Hop beat that would light up the crowd if it was better written; instead, it feels like any other Tolliver track. Additionally, “Walk Em Down” doesn’t emphasize Mustafa’s beautifully haunting vocals enough and waters down a great start by 21 Savage.
Few instances like this offer little to reflect on unless your expectations straddle a fine line compared to the more standard, apropos lyricists that have a focus beyond the beat. On Heroes & Villains, it meets expectations, especially when the subjects rarely shift from women, drugs, and emotions at the club. There are righteous melodies that hit triumphantly and some fantastic samples that get used beautifully, even if what comes after isn’t so appealing. We hear it in “Superhero,” where Metro Boomin samples “So Appalled” by disgraced artist/producer Kanye West before Chris Brown comes in and continues to diminish the negative connotations of the track, which sort of embellishes drug use. On “Creepin,” none of that is there, and we get this elegant sampling of “I Don’t Wanna Know” by Mario Winan (Feat. Diddy & Enya). The Weeknd makes it his own, and 21 Savage complements him and brings something profound, comparatively. Then there is “Feel the Fiyaah,” the closing track, which samples “pushin p” by Gunna and brings us another incredible verse from the late, great Takeoff of Migos.
Heroes & Villains is a well-rounded album with a few pieces that don’t always connect, but there is a ton to recommend here, though there are a few stumbles along the way. From the quality of many verses and production, there is something here for everyone who has been a fan of Metro Boomin’ from the beginning, and for the new listeners, it’s a solid intro to the kind of music Metro makes and then some.