Morgan Freeman on the Track!!: How Metro Boomin’s “Heroes & Villains” Complicates the Superhero Archetype Through Trap Music

I was 0.25 miles away from the finish line. One lap around the track. A 400. I had already pushed my body through 12.85 miles of running, and this was my final effort. My legs burning from the seemingly never ending hill that I encountered on mile eleven, I knew that I needed something special to give me that final burst of energy to finish this race. I knew what needed to be done: glancing at my phone and turning my headphones to full volume, I began to blast the song “Superhero” by Metro Boomin.’ When I tell you that I had never run faster in my life… 

Metro Boomin’ (aka Young Metro aka Metro aka Lil Metro aka Leland Tyler Wayne) is a trap music producer originally from Atlanta, Georgia. He has worked with a star-studded cast of rappers including Migos, Future, Drake, The Weeknd, and 21 Savage. Some of his most popular song productions include hits such as “Jumpman,” “Bad and Boujee,” and “Mask Off,” along with countless others. Most recently, he released his second studio album entitled “Heroes & Villains.” And this album is epic.

The album features a plethora of A-list artists, like John Legend, Future, Chris Brown, Don Toliver, Travis Scott, The Weeknd, 21 Savage, A$Ap Rocky, Takeoff, Gunna … the list goes on. But it’s not the artists that make the tracks so great, it’s the production: Metro expertly crafts tracks that are both fresh but also stay true to the trap genre, which is often defined by prevalent hi-hat and kick-drum combinations. He also samples and remixes older R&B and rap songs, alluding to past artists who helped advance these important genres that preceded and led to the rise of trap music. For example, Metro’s most popular song from the album, “Creepin,” is a remake of the 2004 song “I Don’t Wanna Know” by R&B singer Mario Winans and rapper P. Diddy. 

While the verses and the production of the songs on “Heroes & Villains” are excellent, another aspect of the album that makes it so genius is its thematic consistency. “Heroes & Villains” is the second album of a planned trilogy, following his 2018 album “Not All Heroes Wear Capes.” Before dropping the album, Metro released an epic comic-inspired short film narrated by none other than the iconic Morgan Freeman, who goes on to narrate much of the album itself. To the backdrop of the songs featured on his album, Metro (following some wise words from Freeman) heroically decides to put on his chain and fight a villain destroying the city of Metropolis. The video is over-the-top, ridiculous even, but nonetheless awesome. It employs classic archetypes of hero and villain but complicates them by adding imagery specific to rap and trap music: Metro, the hero, does not wear a cape (perhaps a reference to the title of his first album), but instead a chain. And this motif tracks throughout Metro’s whole album. 

While the verses stay true to classic trap imagery like drugs, sex, and other activities that would occur in a “trap house” (hence the name of the genre), all of it is filtered through the narrative of superheroism. For example, here are the first two lines of the song “Superhero:”

“Drankin’ dope turned me to a superhero, yeah, yeah / Hit that pill, turned me to a superhero, yeah, yeah.” 

While the idea of a Superhero connotes greatness, moral conviction — maybe even some sort of holiness — Metro complicates that by asserting that it is drugs and alcohol that create the superhero. In fact, the song ends with the line “Live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” which then again twists this idea of a hero archetype and implies that maybe the binary between heroes and villains is a bit less binaric than we tend to think. 

And consistently in this album’s songs, Metro toys with the question of the differences between what makes a hero and what makes a villain. In the track “Niagara Falls,” Morgan Freeman voices this verse in the outro:

“Villains don’t perceive themselves as wrong

And all heroes do not wear capes

Villains are made, not born

Most times, the villain and the hero’s beginnings

Unlike their endings, take nearly identical shape and form”

This powerful verse really encapsulates the heart and the essence of Metro’s “Heroes & Villains.” By exploring the classic concept of hero versus villain through trap, Metro successfully upsets the archetype and invites his listeners to critically question the classic narrative. 

But on a lighter note, I want to reiterate that this album is simply just awesome. Yes, its production is insane and it’s thematically rich, but the real takeaway from this article is that Metro Boomin’s “Heroes & Villains” contains great music. Seriously, you’ve gotta listen. It may just push you to the finish line. 

The Pre-Release Video:

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