Another year, another Future album. The Atlanta trap rap entrepreneur continues to stay on the grind, no matter what time of year it is. In an age where artists tend to come and go daily, Future stays persistent. His impact on the genre is impeccable, and many hip hop proteges credit Hndrxx as a “G.O.A.T,” especially when it comes to modern-day trap music. Ten years ago, when it looked like rap had nowhere to go, Future made it cool again with his autotune crooning and unconventional flows.
Unfortunately, even when he was cranking out hits, Future’s brand became tiresome. As with most trap artists, the window closes if there’s no demonstration of progression. So when the Lil Uzis and Tripe Redds came into the world, Future had to re-establish himself again. And for the most part, he did. He managed another hit song in 2017 with “Mask Off,” and constructed a surprise collaborative project with 2018’s breakout star, Juice WRLD (released at the end of 2018). That alone seemingly introduced a whole new fanbase, mainly because of great timing, and clout Juice had already attained (working with the hottest rapper in the game at the time will help you no matter what).
At the end of the day, Future doesn’t need anybody to help him though. He still released his own mixtape in 2018 (Beast Mode 2), and did an entire soundtrack for the movie, Superfly. Right off the bat in 2019, Hndrxx introduced the world to a documentary with unseen footage of his life from the past ten years, and used it as promo for his newest album, The WZRD (which came out a week after the documentary).
From a first listen, The WZRD album seems to follow the same fleshed-out blueprint as all Future albums; verses containing references to a life filled with excess, ultra-melodic choruses incorporating a lovesick methodology, and of course last but not least, blatant implications about taking a lot of drugs (“fuck a drug test, pass the gas mask,” as he proudly says on “Call the Coroner”). But at the heart of it all, Future seems more focused than ever (musically speaking of course). Unlike other mix-tapes, The WZRD features shorter tracks (meaning shorter time to lose audiences over blandness), and less guest artists. Rather than throwing anything at the wall to see what sticks, Future actually attempts to find a consistent theme.
Sure, he’s still rapping about the same aforementioned luxuries, but he’s doing so with a little bit more of a pulse, and a self-awareness of his influence. He’s braggadocios, but in the most satirical way possible (“I make Yeezy boost moves, in my Reeboks,” as he says on the intro track). He still understands his place in music (“I’ve been popping since my demos bitch,” he raps on “Rocket Ship”), but now fully recognizes his power. It’s gotten to the point where Future had to apologize to Juice WRLD for introducing him to lean when the Chicago rapper was only in the sixth grade. Yeah, the dude’s had an impact on the youth, and now the consequences are catching up to him. He loosely speaks about this on the chorus to “Temptation” with the lyrics, “I was trying to fight temptation…I ain’t trying to hurt nobody.” The stripped-back vocals adds a nice touch to a unusually vulnerable song.
The production, while tedious at times, motivates Future to bring the same energy to each track. There’s 20 of them in all, so it’s definitely a tall task. There’s certainly still filler on The WZRD, but Future chooses his stylistic choices wisely. He still manages to create bangers, as shown with the lead singles, “Jumping on a Jet” and “Crushed Up.” And for once, he integrates a sick beat change in the middle of a later track (“with about a minute to go on “Baptize,” Future’s flow and pace changes for the better). Travis Scott maintains his incredible streak of great music with a proper feature on “First Off.” And of course Young Thug and Gunna bring their own drugged-out technique to the aptly-titled, “Unicorn Purp.”
The protracted length continues to plague Future’s newest project, but the vigorous aesthetic, and sudden self-awareness of an artist who now has to deal with true adulthood, adds a much-needed dimension to the songwriting. Future finds a decent balance between party songs, and introspective rap ballads. Future will never stop working, and now that he’s finally dealing with his real-life scenarios, I’m generally interested to see what’s next for the trap innovator.