1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 383

Not All Heroes Wear Capes, by Metro Boomin
Suggested by Alfie Bennett

I thought I’d found a way to enjoy modern Rap albums.

I was wrong.

It’s a conundrum, if I’m honest. I want to give everything the good old college try, an ears-perked-mind-open listen, with a frank, fulsome and forthright review to follow. But when I fire up Spotify and hear the same drums and strings and groove, and the rapper peddling the understated mumblewhisper delivery, my heart hardens and my blood fizzes black.

The issue is primarily communicative, with my approach to music in general taking a slice of the blame. Put simply, I like a fine lyrical performance and a strident vocal delivery. Rap should be fine, right? The lyrics are fire, their content incendiary, and the rapper supplying the art has the opportunity to dazzle at every step.

Except it’s not that easy. This album, and countless others, sees the rapper imparting his wisdom with a shoddy and lacklustre shrug. It’s quiet and unassuming throughout, mutterings with little force, or heart, or vigour. There’s no sense of theatricality, which to some may be a blessing but, to me, is a colossal misstep. It’s a wasted opportunity, as it presents itself as thoroughly uninterested whether you listen or not, so it’s no surprise when I feel like the wisest choice is the latter.

Metro Boomin is lauded as the most influential rap album producer of the last eight years, a stalwart of the modern rap sound that’s driven the sound and career of a plethora of superstars. So, this Rap sound, articulated above? It’s all his fault. Not All Heroes Wear Capes is his first solo album, and each track features a guest artist. Does Metro Boomin actually rap on his album? I have no clue, despite my investigations.

I mentally switched off early, in truth. The lyrics and subjects were as impenetrable as usual, so I just drifted away. Which led me to the alluded epiphany I mentioned earlier. I found I could groove to the sound, a little, if I simply didn’t care about what was being said. I began hearing the vocals as an instrument, a gibberish noise akin to urban yodelling, assigning no meaning or mental effort to interpret the message. It was quite soothing, and not unpleasant. Here’s where I thought… is this how other people stomach swathes of this stuff?

Alas, it couldn’t last. While I was enjoying the ambient groove of songs like Space Cadet, Lesbian and Borrowed Love, I felt a niggling at the base of my skull, a yearning to engage and interpret. That’s one of the things I like about music, and this project. I want to know more. When I wilfully flick the Idiocy Switch, I feel impotent, lobotomized. I want to engage, to embrace. When I can, like in my standout 10 Freaky Girls, it’s almost fun. But it’s hard work with what’s presented. Sure, I enjoy lines like “Keisha eat the molly like it’s candy / Bodyslam a n*gga like I’m Randy” for the (wrestling) references I understand, but I have to research “molly” to discover it’s MDMA. Without extensive crib notes, I flounder. And this is an easy song.

Not All Heroes Wear Capes gets 5/10. Like others of its type, If I don’t care, it’s pleasant, but if I do care, it’s exhausting.

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