People seem to be arguing a lot about Future’s hot streak: when did it start, when did it end, or even when – if ever – will it end? Well, it’s safe to say that it started late in 2014 with ‘Monster’. After a messy split with Ciara, Future decided to become a caricature of his new public persona, creating a project typified by three things: desperation, punishing low-end and crushed auto-tune.
The upshot: some of the most emotionally compelling hip-hop in a while – somehow managing to convey despair at 95 bpm. Following this came a slew of albums and mixtapes, namely: ‘56 Nights’, ‘Beast Mode’, ‘DS2’, ‘Purple Reign’, ‘What a Time to Be Alive’ (with Drake) and ‘EVOL’, all of which stuck to that same aesthetic more or less – and all of which were homeruns in their own right. With his latest album, then, the streak’s still intact; ‘FUTURE’ doesn’t reinvent the wheel, however, it’s an excellent demonstration that the Atlantan has his particular brand of punch-drunk trap down to a fine art.
So, this is Future’s fifth studio album, and roughly his eighth project P.C. (that’s Post-Ciara). It’s safe to say, then, that Future knows his way around a trap project by now and, consequently – has the license to make a few risky exec decisions. And he does. Firstly, the thing is featureless, over an hour long and lacks any obvious singles or big hooks that sound remotely chart-friendly. Although this may sound like some serious label austerity measures – it isn’t: this is Future saying he’s still got plenty of gas left in the tank and, at this point in his career, he’s not pandering to anyone. It definitely pays off as well – just take the first track, ‘Rent Money’. Over a simple choral line and a particularly heavy 808, Future goes off for around four minutes – no hooks – just pure hunger. Ten projects deep, then, Future hasn’t become lazy at all – he is a steward of the trap scene.
The risks don’t end there, however. What really sets this project apart from the other P.C. projects is Future’s use of melody, and also – what this abundance of melody indicates: Future’s happy. Well, actually, that’s still pretty difficult to determine, but he’s certainly happier. A bit like one of his most frequent collaborators, Drake, Future will rap for a few bars before trailing off into a melodic vocal flutter. In fact, some of these tracks (like ‘High Demand’) contain so much singing that you could pass them off as R&B numbers – and that’s not an insult at all, it’s refreshing. However, these type of cuts hit their zenith when matched with equally melodic production; ‘Draco’, ‘Might As Well’ and ‘I’m So Groovy’ all do this very well, and prove that Future doesn’t have to be at the trough of a particularly unpleasant crisis for us to enjoy his music.
You can’t talk about a Future album without waxing off about the production – specifically Metro Boomin and Southside. Metro Boomin in particular has reached demigod status in the modern hip-hop world, and deservedly so. However, this one’s definitely a team effort: the production cast is constituted almost entirely by members of 808 Mafia, with their duties spread pretty evenly, and bolstered by a sprinkling of other Atlanta stalwarts, namely, DJ Spinz and Zaytoven. With this melting pot of talent in place, some of the quirkiest trap beats to ever hit the ear drums manifest. So, let’s get into some of them. The main noise in ‘Zoom’ which, for all intents and purposes, sounds like a distorted, flanging steam train, is layered with some funky bass stabs and Southside’s signature drums, and could quite possibly be the best trap beat I’ve ever heard (Future’s adlibs take this one above and beyond as well). And then you’ve got ‘Mask Off’; I don’t know where Metro’s getting all these crazy flute samples from recently (listen to ‘Tunnel Vision’ by Kodak Black which dropped the other day), but he keeps finding ways to take his sound further.
So, the take-home point is this: as far as I’m concerned – Future’s streak isn’t over. Modern hip-hop/trap is a particularly fickle genre, and perhaps the only one whereby someone who’s barely out of their teens can already be labelled ‘irrelevant’. But Future isn’t barely out of his teens, he’s in his thirties, and so far down the trap rabbit-hole that kids and critics alike could have shunned him years ago for a younger model, yet they haven’t. This a testament to his consistency, determination and, above all – his talent. ‘FUTURE’, then, his self-titled Futurathon, isn’t just another project where he doesn’t derail, but rather a project that anoints him as the king of a sub-genre that could have died almost as quickly as it began.