Future’s longevity in the hip-hop world is undeniable. The Atlanta rapper has crafted melodic chart-topping hits for years, confidently propping himself up alongside some of the best to do it: Drake, Kanye, T.I and Rihanna. Although he’s never been hailed as a great lyricist, Future’s wordplay throughout the years has been low-key excellent, even if it’s generally been channeled into anthemic, stuttered-triplet delivery on tracks about money and lean.
On his latest release, ‘The WIZRD’, it’s not much different. And that’s the record’s issue: it sounds exactly like everything else he’s made. The 20-track album is, to say the least, over-long. There’s clarity in Future’s voice and he’s more introspective than we’ve ever known him, addressing addiction on ‘Krazy But True’ and ‘Tricks On Me’ (“I was lettin’ the shit I can’t control destroy me / it was goin’ too deep for you, baby, pardon me / I tried to treat that shit just like a party / Ima feel weak if I tell you sorry”). However, for the most part, Future’s still rapping about money and partying. Make no mistake: we’re still a long way from the startling emotional resonance of Earl Sweatshirt and Travis Scott‘s skewed reporting from inside the fun house of fame.
Yes, this record showcases growth from Future’s first album, 2012’s ‘Pluto’ – but ‘The Wizrd’ is his seventh release, and both albums share the same formulaic appeal. Future made a name for himself by redefining what the club world would crave in hip-hop bangers; alongside Young Thug and Migos, he crafted coke-rap anthems that are canonised in rap history. Blown out mids; stuffy, booming bass lines; fast-paced triplet hi-hats; smashed out snares; autotuned choruses – ‘The WIZRD’ has the same, repetitive patterns we’ve heard on his previous work. The well appears to have been tapped dry.
On his promotional press run for the project, Future’s candid nature came through. In interviews with The Fader and Rolling Stone, he talked openly about his debauchery and decadence – especially in his consumption of drugs and lean. His honesty in confronting his addiction, and his relief at no longer partaking in that behaviour, was refreshing. He stated that this album is the “end of a chapter”, but that chapter arguably already closed with a double-header of solo releases (‘FUTURE’ and ‘Hndrxx’) in 2017. Too often, this new album sounds like editing room cuts on the floor.
His candidness hasn’t really found its way onto ‘The Wizrd’. There’s something to be said for creating music exclusively for the club or to be bumped in car stereos in the summer, but with a bland, out-dated musical architecture, ‘The WIZRD’ doesn’t even offer that. In an era where rap and hip-hop’s sound is changing, rapidly, with introspective and socially conscious flows the norm even in the mainstream, Future seems to be mired in the past.