Future Dances With the Devil on ‘DS 2′
There is a song towards the business end of Future's third solo album, DS 2, called "The Percocet & Stripper Joint." Rarely has any artist so effectively and outwardly summed up their own level of hedonism and self-destruction in a single song title. And right now—five years, nine mixtapes, three albums, two compilations and a reissue into a prolific and influential career so far—Future has little to hide.
That's the running theme of DS 2, framed within the context of a failed relationship with Ciara that went up in flames last August, a disappointing sophomore album in last April's Honest and the ceding of his position as Atlanta's most exciting MC to a combination of Rich Homie Quan, Young Thug and the field. What does Future have left to hold back? After a string of three increasingly excellent mixtapes that rehabilitated his career, if not his health—a run that began with last October's Monster and extended through January's Beast Mode and 56 Nights in March—Future has delivered his proper comeback LP, a dizzying descent into madness and masochism, a breakup album for the self-medicated, a styrofoam double cup overflowing with strippers and Xans. It's brutally beautiful. It's unrelentingly hard. It's his best work in years.
The production picks up where his mixtapes left off as Metro Boomin and Southside handle the bulk of the beats with assists from Zaytoven and Sonny Digital. The result is a heavy drone baseline propelled forward by keys, 808s and some of Metro's typically-haunting aesthetic, a supportive canvas on which Future paints his tale of woe and excess. Sprinkled throughout the album's tracks—18 songs, counting the three mixtape joints included on the deluxe edition—are the reasons for Future's headspace. "Tried to make a pop star and they made a monster," he spits on "I Serve The Base," rebelling against fame and celebrity; "Where your ass was at, dog, when niggas wouldn’t feed me?/Where your ass was at, dog, when bitches didn’t need me?" he repeates on "Where Ya At," taking aim at fakeness around him; "She put me off and it was ugly I made a million dollars, say she love me The way she did me, it destroyed me I kept it real with lil' shorty," he raps on "Blood On The Money," bemoaning his troubles with keeping a woman around who he cares about.
These are interspersed with near-constant references to lean, pills and groupies, all of which he openly uses to cauterize his wounds. "I'm feelin' way better," he exclaims on the hook to "Slave Master," ostensibly spouting positivity by masking inner anguish. From the listener standpoint it serves a double purpose, as both an easily-repeated mantra and a window into the underlying issues. DS 2 is not a happy album by any means. Instead of using his music to celebrate, like a DJ Khaled might, he uses it as a form of self-therapy. It's both excellent and heartbreaking.
DS 2 is the type of album that fans expected Future to finally produce, one that he had no chance of making in the mindset that led to last year's Honest. Gone are the radio-baiting features from Pharrell, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Wiz Khalifa, with only a single guest spot from Drake (who, it should be noted, was also on Honest) remaining, which at the end of the day isn't crucial to the record's success. In its place is a coherent, consistent album—both thematically and sonically—that captures where hip-hop's resident astronaut is residing these days. "I know the devil is real," he says, then says again, on "Blood On The Money." After spinning DS 2, it's easy to believe him. —Dan Rys