Album reviews: Versatile trap and reggaeton from Bad Bunny and high-profile cameos on 21 Savage's I Am >I Was

Puerto Rican trap and reggaeton singer Bad Bunny's debut album X 100PRE is a stylised way of spelling "forever" in Spanish.
Puerto Rican trap and reggaeton singer Bad Bunny's debut album X 100PRE is a stylised way of spelling "forever" in Spanish.PHOTO: PHOTO FOR THE WASHINGTON POST BY KYLE GUSTAFSON

LATIN TRAP/HIP-HOP/REGGAETON

X 100PRE

Bad Bunny

Rimas

4 stars

HIP-HOP

I AM >I WAS

21 Savage

Epic/Slaughter Gang

3.5 stars


In 2018, Puerto Rican trap and reggaeton singer Bad Bunny broke out in a big way, making the jump from the Latin to the mainstream pop charts.

In true modern fashion, he did it not by amassing his own solo hits, but by featuring on chart-toppers by other pop stars, most prominently on chart-topper I Like It with Cardi B and J Balvin.

With debut album X 100PRE, the title of which is a stylised way of spelling "forever" in Spanish, the 24-year-old comes into his own.

Sure, there are heavy hitters who collaborate with him, like Drake on the Top 5 hit Mia and marquee electronic producer Diplo on trap track 200 MPH.

But on the whole, Bad Bunny takes centre stage, even taking on production duties on tracks such as synth-heavy Otra Noche en Miami (Another Night In Miami), throwback track Como Antes (Like Before) and the perky Estamos Bien (We Are Good).

The album testifies to his versatility and displays the breadth of genres covered on his previously released singles.

On Caro, the swagger in the early verses gives way to a tender and full-blown ballad featuring guest vocals from fellow Puerto Rican Ricky Martin.

There are a few surprises too - the driving guitars on Tenemos Que Hablar (We Have to Talk), for example, veers into pop-punk and indie rock while La Romana is a seamless and intriguing meld of trap and dembow.

Like Bad Bunny, Georgian rapper 21 Savage also found much success as a collaborator in the past year, most notably featuring in Post Malone's Rockstar, a song nominated for both Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance in the upcoming Grammy Awards.


Georgian rapper 21 Savage's sophomore album I Am >I Was features high-profile collaborators are not credited in the titles. PHOTO: REUTERS

It is not surprising that he piles on the star cameos in his sophomore album I Am >I Was, a No.1 chart-topper on Billboard, but what makes it interesting is that his high-profile collaborators are not credited in the titles.

But they are there. Fellow rapper J. Cole gets a whole verse and an interlude on opening track A Lot, a vivid track that sees 21 Savage ruminate on his turbulent past, referencing the murders of his brother and best friend as well as the experience of getting shot six times on his 21st birthday.

Malone sings the earworm of a chorus on the somewhat wistful All My Friends, rap stars Migos' Offset raps on braggadocio track 1.5 while multi-hyphenate Childish Gambino drops cautionary verses on Monster.

Still, there is no doubt that 21 Savage is the star of the show, and that his style can be pretty dynamic.

4L and Gun Smoke are legitimate bangers, Out For The Night shines with its soulful guitars, courtesy of a sample from Carlos Santana's Samba Pa Ti (1970), and Pad Lock is a genuinely touching track in which he details his tumultuous upbringing.