Epic Records
Epic Records

When it comes to self-titled albums, rappers usually save it for their first major release -- using it as an eponymous introduction to their sound and the overall starting point to build their brand. But Future is unlike his rap game counterparts for a multitude of reasons, one of those being that he decided to title his fifth studio album after his rap moniker. Future’s sound, style and narrative has already been well absorbed by the masses, which begs the question: why do this now? The rapper answers that question tenaciously throughout the hour long trap-a-thon, which can be best summed up as a return to “mixtape Future.”

Future was heavily bigged up during his string of near perfect mixtapes, including Monster, Beast Mode and 56 Nights back in late 2014 and early 2015. His dark rasp, splattered across hauntingly sharp production, was duplicated perfectly three times in a row, four if you include his magnum opus, DS2. He has since taken his foot off the gas with Purple Reign and EVOL getting less than favorable reviews. Now he’s back with 17 tracks on his fifth self-titled LP, sans a single featured guest, with production exclusively from those who know how to elevate his performance best.

As talented as Future is with quick wit lyrics and outer space vocal execution, a lot of his success can be attributed to the production he chooses to rhyme on. The best part about Future is how good his voice sounds smothered on top of those blood-pumping trap beats. On this project, he keeps a tight circle with roughly six producers handling the 17 tracks. Metro Boomin, Zaytoven, DY, Southside, Tarentino and DJ Spinz are the core that holds this album down with some minor assists from Jake One, Tre Pounds, DJ Tate, The Beat Bully and even DJ Khaled. The combination of one voice and one like-minded production team makes for a very clear, concise body of work, which FUTURE definitely is.

“Rent Money” sets the abrasive tone of the LP and will prove wrong any listeners who think Future isn’t the same venerable trap lord he was three years ago. One of the early standouts along those lines is certainly "Draco," a bouncy, spacey number produced by DJ Spinz. Of course, the Atlanta native raps about his trusty Draco AK-47, women and a "couple of pills and I got my soda filled."

In fact, the first part of the album is a full force Future firing squad that indirectly puts the crosshairs on all the newcomers jacking his illustrious style. The best part about the rapper's bravado isn’t necessarily his direct discrediting of other rappers but his display of elevated trap rap that few can duplicate. Although, a skit at the end of “Zoom” would seem as if he’s taking shots at carbon copy trapper Desiigner.

As the album flows along with songs like “POA” and “Mask Off,” it becomes clear that Future has somehow created sub-genres within the already subcategorized trap rap. “POA” is a fast-paced, tire-burning heater that sounds like Future is rapping while in the middle of a shootout during a luxury car chase. However, “Mask Off” is the syrupy trapper come down that has Future literally pulling off the mask of confidence he just committed unspeakable crimes in. All of which comes from the same man’s psyche but in two different extremes.

The proceeding few songs still pump energy both lyrically and sonically but take a break from the adrenaline overload heard at the top of the album. It’s not until “Poppin Tags” where we see Future come back with an arsenal of rapid-fire lyrics about the life of self-indulgence he feels he deserves given his rags-to-riches come up. “Feds Did a Sweep” concludes the trap marathon in a less than optimistic way. Zaytoven pulls out the harmonious Asian bamboo flute that allows Future to walk listeners through a trapper’s worst nightmare -- a federal police raid. Lines that are rapped with such harsh emotion like “I don't fantasize, I make movies/I don't tell lies, I tote Uzi's” and “Pay a price for this gang gang shit/You should wanna remain nameless” make you commiserate with Future’s drug dealer afflictions.

His broken trapper aspirations have turned him into the neighborhood villain that you begin to really sympathize with. The first instinct is not to feel bad that the police are getting illegal drugs off the street but when Future raps about how detrimental it is to him and his people, a listener can’t help but root for the criminal. It’s a complex chronicle Future has maneuvered fans to buy into.

Perhaps that’s why he chose to name this album FUTURE. Even though he continues to talk about lavish guns, drugs, clothes, girls and more drugs, he somehow captures very average human emotions that can connect with many listeners regardless if you “slang” or not. If he continues to focus in making projects of this caliber and lacing his beats with plenty of Kill Bill sirens, it may not be a stretch to start putting Future Hendrix in the GOAT category.

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