Epic

Future is on a hot streak like few artists in the history of hip-hop can claim. Not only is he releasing consistently brilliant projects, he’s doing them at a ridiculously fast pace. Since October 2014, he has released four solo mixtapes, two studio albums and a collaborative tape with Drake. There isn’t a hotter rapper alive right now. Future might be on the greatest streak of combining quantity and quality since Lil Wayne in the mid-2000s.

The Atlanta rapper surprised fans by announcing the release of EVOL in the almost-immediate aftermath of dropping his great Purple Reign mixtape. It’s his second release of 2016 and it’s barely even February. Even more shocking than the quick release is that with such little turnaround, EVOL is easily one of the best things he’s released yet.

EVOL features what may be the most consistent usage of Future’s gift with melody. Auto-Tune-heavy, melodic vocals have been a staple of his music since he first came on the scene, but rarely has it been used as wonderfully as it is here. “Xanny Family” showcases his ability to infect listeners’ ears with his hooks, and “Lie to Me” is one of the best examples of his vocal talents we’ve seen. Through all that he still also manages to switch up his flow all around, going from depressive and brooding to braggadocios and aggressive at the tip of a hat.

Future’s output, especially what he’s released since 2014’s Honest, has always been laced with a feeling of melancholy. EVOL captures that feeling more than just about anything he’s put out in his career. Future’s world is dark, and this album is his bleakest yet. The EVOL cover art of black, burning roses is apt.

Not everything on EVOL feels quite so dark; Future still knows how to craft a banger (“Maybach,” “Lil Haiti Baby”), but everything here seems more atmospheric. It’s no surprise that the only guest vocalist to show up on EVOL is the current king of dark, brooding pop, The Weeknd.

The pitch-black ambiance of the album not only comes from Future, of course. His crew of producers continue to do shining work on each of his projects. Metro Boomin, Southside, DJ Spinz and more craft sinister, layered beats that serve as desolate landscapes over which Future drops his rhymes. You could use beats like the one Metro and Southside provide for “Xanny Family” as the score of a horror film and it wouldn’t be out of place.

The highlight of EVOL comes on its final track, “Fly Shit Only.” Future’s bragging about “Recognizing I’m the only, only, only one that’s ballin’ / Only one that’s ballin’ / Only one who’s going out the country / Gotta keep a translator for the models," is backed by a somber guitar loop that keeps the ominous feeling under even the strongest of boasts. It’s only fitting that a forlorn project like EVOL finishes with such a melancholic feeling.

The rhymer's music has always sounded like it was out of this world. One of his breakthrough mixtapes was called Astronaut Status and his debut was titled Pluto. His alien nature was defined by his spacey sound and the fact that he was experimenting with his sound in ways more traditional rappers would scoff at. Future may very well be an alien, but that's because what he’s doing at this point in his career is unreal.

No ordinary human should be able to release so much quality music at such a fast pace. Future's work ethic is nearly unmatched, which is a reminder he's truly doing otherworldly things right now. EVOL is only the latest building block on one of the most impressive runs from any rapper we’ve seen, and Future shows no signs of slowing down for anything.

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