After spending the majority of 2016 and 2017 riding high on the top of the Billboard charts, hip-hop producer Leland Tyler Wayne, known by his stage name Metro Boomin, had a relatively quiet 2018, after supposedly retiring earlier in April. Barely seven months later, he’s dropped his debut solo studio album “Heroes Don’t Wear Capes,” a project that defies expectations from an artist who only continues to raise the bar.
Production mastermind for mega-hits such as “Bad and Boujee” by Migos, “Jumpman” by Drake and Future and “Congratulations” by Post-Malone, among many more, young Boomin has commanded a significant influence over the modern popular hip-hop scene in only a few years.
He’s never once lent his voice to a track, but hip-hop fans and casuals everywhere know his name. You’ll hear it chanted by crowds at shows where he never once makes an appearance, said on the radio by an artist likely not even on the track, praised everywhere by music critics and artists alike.
For a producer, trying to release a coherent solo project that truly represents your voice when you don’t have a singular vocalist to rely on creates a complex challenge to overcome. The literal voice on the record isn’t your own and the lyrical content and quality of each artist varies, so how does Metro Boomin make an album that represents Metro Boomin?
Boomin’s approach to this problem on his debut solo studio album, “Heroes Don’t Wear Capes,” is interesting. Artists such as 21 Savage, Travis Scott, Gunna, Swae Lee and Young Thug make multiple appearances throughout the album, sometimes as a prominent lead and sometimes as a secondary role providing background harmonies or a few bars here-and-there.
This interweaving of guest MCs lends the album an interesting and unique sense of coherence. All the tracks here – aside from bonus track “No Complaints” – are brand-spankin’ new Metro Boomin originals, each methodically crafted to create an engaging, coherent experience.
Throughout the project, Boomin creates a very dramatic, almost cinematic atmosphere by utilizing dark soundscapes with a very dramatic flare. Each track feels like danger, like anything could happen at any time.
This is what Metro Boomin excels at: creating dark sonic atmospheres that totally envelop the listener in their unsettling grip. It’s why he so often works with artists like Gucci Mane and 21 Savage, whose lyrics and style pair well with the darkness and grit of his production.
At some points, the album comes across as a little too over-the-top, like Boomin’s trying very hard to make a large statement piece. Still, no matter what the final product ended up as, this project was already predestined to be received as a statement piece by the hip-hop community at large; and if everyone is already expecting big, why not give them big with style?
The featuring artists continually raise the bar for their contemporaries from track to track. 21 Savage drops some of the best bars of his entire career on tracks like “Don’t Come Out the House” and “10 Freaky Girls;” Swae Lee adapts to a moodier, more low-key space on “Dreamcatcher” and Travis Scott breaks out some of the angstiest growls accompanied by dramatic pianos and string instruments since the 1990s.
“Don’t Come Out the House” in particular is a fantastic track, on all ends. Co-produced by frequent collaborator Tay Keith, currently riding a high from his work on Travis Scott’s number two hit “Sicko Mode,” the track is a brooding and ominous soundscape lurking with danger. 21 Savage’s whispers cut through the 808s like knives.
All the elements of this track work so brilliantly well in tandem to create one of the best pieces of both Metro and Savage’s respective discographies.
“Up to Something” features Travis Scott and Young Thug, and marks the first time Metro’s worked with the two since “Skyfall” from Travis’s 2014 mixtape “Days Before Rodeo.” The melodies on the track allude back to that track as well, a small detail that further showcases Metro’s growth as an artist throughout all of his success.
Still, the question of what’s to come next for him lingers in the back of everyone’s minds; does this release mark the beginning of a new era, or is it back into retirement for the living legend? As corny as the title may be, “Not All Heroes Wear Capes” is an extremely solid project through and through, one worthy of the Metro Boomin name.