“I’m too consistent,” says Future. “Tell me if I’m too persistent.” In the context of the song, “POA”, he’s rapping about cars and women when he says it, but he inadvertently raises the central issue on Future, his fifth studio album, announced on Valentine’s Day three days prior to its release.
The announcement may have been unexpected, but coming from Future, who has released a steady flow of solid music over the past half decade, it isn’t quite a surprise. Bouncing back from personal turmoil and the disappointing commercial bid Honest, he put out a stellar series of mixtapes, an extended collaboration with Drake, and two albums. The success of those projects was rooted in a back-to-basics approach; he relied on the sounds and subjects of his early career in the Atlanta scene. Future makes a similar offer. It’s an hour of music devoid of features produced by longstanding collaborators Southside, Metro Boomin, and Zaytoven. But where DS2 and Monster felt like confident articulations of a “Let Future be Future” philosophy, this album feels more like a safe play. Why did Future feel a need to release an eponymous album at this point in his career, when no one needs to be reminded who he is or what he does?
Accordingly, the content of Future is just as unsurprising as its release. Future is well within his wheelhouse: the cold, Auto-Tuned delivery, formidable drug cocktails, one song called “Super Trapper” and another called “Good Dope”. “Mask Off” is an excellent sample. Future repeats “Percocets, molly, Percocets” over a hypnotic beat from Metro Boomin and gives a peak at the success and self-destruction underneath the mask. But it’s a little disappointing to be assured that the mask is off when Future’s emotional immediacy has been self-evident in the past. On DS2, by contrast, you could easily share in the concern when Future admitted to drinking enough codeine to see it in his urine. There are familiar themes on Future, but they feel less urgent. “Mask Off”, like much of the album, isn’t a bad song; it’s just far from Future’s best.
The most unexpected song on the record is one of its best. “Might As Well” samples “Owl”, a song Arcade Fire and Owen Pallet contributed to the Her soundtrack. Pallet’s elegant orchestration lends a gentle cadence that stands apart from the rest of the album. It’s a trendy sample and an uncharacteristic sound for Future. One wishes for more songs like it.
The album ends strong on two tracks produced by Zaytoven. “When I Was Broke” and “Feds Did a Sweep” both find Future in a retrospective mood, comparing where he started to where he is now. There’s always been a tacit self-deprecation in Future’s music, but on these tracks he combines that tone with a career-spanning self-awareness that verges on some kind of epiphany.
The realization doesn’t materialize on Future, though, a sixty-two minute exploration of territory that’s already been covered. With some judicious cutting, a quarter of this album could have been left behind.
So the answer is yes, Future is too persistent. In striving for consistency, he sacrifices discretion and intention. One wishes he would take a break—God knows he’s earned it. Some time might allow for a stronger sense of intention. C PLUS