Six-plus months without a project from Nayvadius Wilburn somehow feels like a lifetime. The rap icon known simply as Future has a history of staying in the limelight year-round for the past half decade or so. His commitment to the studio and knack for creating emotionally driven bangers have made him one of the most consistent rappers in the game today. Although his subject matter of drug trafficking, blatant misogyny, and ballerific boasting can be redundant, Future’s greatest skill lies in his ability to manipulate his vocals uniquely from track to track. By no means an articulate, tier-one lyricist, Future uses an emotive, synthesized delivery to carry his songs to the pinnacle of contemporary trap music. One could argue he is the king of modern trap. Whether you agree or not, what isn’t up for debate is Future’s influence in the rap game and his mastery of the croon-and-goon album.
Upon first discovering that Future’s fifth studio album would be self-titled, I was kinda bummed out. Self-titled releases past the debut or sophomore point in an artist’s career feel a bit lackadaisical from a creativity standpoint. However, one thing I’ve come to realize about Future is that he has made an incredibly successful career on staying true to himself. He has not once sold out (unless you count that recent single with Maroon 5, which is fair) in an attempt to become more globally friendly or pop relevant. Future remains true to form even when he’s paired with polar opposite artists such as Usher, Miley Cyrus, and, to some degree, Drake. However, with a grueling 17-song track list, FUTURE becomes a flash in a pan rather than lightning in a bottle the more times it’s played front to back.
Are there tracks on here that I love? Absolutely. The album starts off strong with a 100-mph fastball in “Rent Money”. I still cannot get over the line “Your baby mama fuck me better when the rent’s due.” You can’t get any more savage than that. From “All Right” to “Ain’t No Time,” “Digital Dash” to “Thought It Was a Drought,” Future knows how to introduce his projects in the right way. The production heard throughout this album is brooding, melodic, and cutthroat. Unfortunately, the extensive track list makes these production styles grow tired from repetitive similarity. The same goes for Wilburn’s songwriting. At times, these hooks are infectious and wavy, but 12 songs in, my attention span lessens due to his recycled lyrical content. In spite of that critique, when the songs are good on this album, they are high-quality trap anthems that will indeed be cloned in the near future (no pun intended).
“Mask Off” is a hit record disguised as a filler track. The Power Ranger-meets-Zelda backing flutes float out of the speakers like a crane wading through oriental wetlands. The soft, tranquil piano on “Might as Well” is a breath of fresh air amidst all the percussion and bass-heavy cuts laid across this album. It ages well, baring more of its soul with continuous listens. Only Future can make a diamonds-and-Percocets ode sound like a love ballad. Also, the podcast/radio skits presented here are borderline hysterical. They function as sufficient transitions and hardly overstay their welcome while also taking aim at any and all of Future Hendrix’s copycats. The primary target seems to be G.O.O.D. Music’s Desiigner of “Panda” fame. Needless to say, he deserves every bit of this taunt.
All in all, this album is a comfortably entertaining trap effort. But five albums deep, I expect more ambition from a Future album. Many of the production styles sound rehashed rather than reinvented. And much of the writing does little to separate this project from a handful of previous Future releases. I know he is proud that there are no features here, but, man, does this need some. Even one would shake things up considerably. Additionally, this album sees the Atlanta emcee fall into his usual tendency of over-stuffing his track lists with similar-sounding songs, minimizing cohesion and maximizing superfluity. Nonetheless, if you’re a Future fan, this album will not disappoint. Conversely, if you only dabble in his music or have a distaste for it completely, this album will neither change your mind nor truly satisfy.