Future sells us one thing every same damn time
Recording: Future Hndrxx Presents: The WIZRD
Rating: ★★★ (3/5 stars)
Nayvadius Wilburn is every bit as consistent as his shockingly attentive cult insists: Give something from his rabbit-like output an 8 and you’ll be in paradise with the others.
Or maybe you found his always-sticky melodies and inoffensively moody atmospherics to be rather one-note, especially one after another after another. If they sound like 6s or struggling 7s to you, the others won’t convert you. There’s one exception: DS2, short for Dirty Sprite, earned rightful coronation in 2015 after an admittedly impressive mixtape streak. And before hip-hop slowed to a crawl, you can enjoy this depressive sounding utterly elated on his 2012 debut Pluto. But he is not a great artist. And even the audience that regularly awards him with 8s has been slipping him 7s over the last couple years.
Future’s famed streak of such well-regarded stopgaps as 56 Nights or Beast Mode 2 or 2017’s back-to-back pairing of FUTURE and HNDRXX or 2016’s less lauded one of Evol and Purple Reign does not make him peak Lil Wayne, to whom he’s often compared. About all they have in common is their prolificacy, their taste in deadly beverages, and their career choice. These collections have big highlights (I’m myself partial to “Purple Reign,” “Inside the Mattress,” “March Madness,” “Feds Did a Sweep” and “Hate the Real Me”), little sonic variation, and often upwards of seven tracks too many. They’re also often preoccupied with so much pain and pleasure he makes it hard to tell the difference.
That’s what his core audience loves about him, and he’s certainly not alone in a world where the Weeknd, Lana Del Rey, and of course, Future’s onetime co-headliner Drake rule the charts. Future is considerably darker and less repentant than the above-named, though, and warbles about his addictions so often that fellow chart-toppers Alice in Chains would make a more apt parallel. So the good news is that the new Future Hndrxx Presents: The WIZRD, the final installment of his deal with Epic, is another 7, and he didn’t need need lean to do it this time. Says he’s kicked it, in fact.
You wouldn’t know that from the usual parade of model-fucking and psychedelic imaging (“Diamonds in the face, crushed up / I can see it,” goes the primary single) on The WIZRD, though “Overdose” indeed refers to his dangerous levels of swag. Comfortably pretty beats (“Goin’ Dummi”), outlandish cameos (Young Thug’s exuberant hype-manning on “Unicorn Purp”), highway-hypnosis mantras as hooks (“Jumpin’ on a Jet”) are nothing new for Future albums and check in dutifully here, along with the requisite highlights that do in fact break the mold.
“Call the Coroner” is a flow that peak Buju Banton would’ve killed for, and the funhouse-mirror flex “Krazy but True” (“penthouse got a living room with a garage in it”) belong on anyone’s infinite Future playlist between “March Madness” and “Mask Off” without distinguishing themselves from his last, oh, seven releases in any noticeable way. Well, he does look back a bit this time. “Jumpin’ on a Jet” has a rote numbness to it, one of the most workaday things he’s ever released and yet it may be the quintessential Future song, bored enough in his own layers of excess that every day feels like Groundhog Day simply because how much sex, drugs, and mixtapes can you have?
There’s a boast on “Servin’ Killa Kam” about getting a “new toy” that sounds like he said “toilet,” or maybe the oversaturated ear just begins to imagine something outside the claustrophobic dimensions of a standard-issue Future album. Consistently melodic, imagistic, confessional as the man is, the thought of sitting through these 20 tracks (or any 20 Future tracks consecutively, really) makes one long for the days of terrible comedy skits, ill-advised Lenny Kravitz collabs, or just about anything interesting to puncture the risk-free veneer of the so-called coolest man in the genre. And you could say the same to varying degrees about all nine(!) projects he’s unleashed on the public since DS2. The theme song there was called “I Serve the Base,” though the strange, distorted beat made for the most unconventional track he’s ever offered. If only he risked his reputation for consistency and threw us anything at all like it every time out.