Future’s Toxic Return
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Future is the king of Trap music. As one of the genre’s leading pioneers, he has ushered in dark, sludgy beats, melodic flows, and the heavy use of autotune, all of which are now mainstays of modern Hip-hop. As a result, he has garnered respect from the entire industry, with Kanye West calling him “the most influential artist of the past 10 years.” His discography speaks for itself, with classic albums and mixtapes such as “Monster” (2014) and “DS2” (2015). Future’s newest project, “I Never Liked You” (2022), was dropped nearly two years after his last solo outing with “High Off Life” (2020). Leading up to its release, Future teased two singles, “Hold That Heat” and “Worst Day,” which garnered even more hype for the album. While neither of the tracks made the album, the album became Future’s eighth chart-topping album, selling 222,000 units within the first week of its release.
Another one of Future’s defining traits is his toxicity. His irreverence for maintaining relationships, narcissistic belief of infallibility, and mistreatment of women is highlighted by tracks like “My Collection” (2017), in which he sorts the women he sleeps with into his collection. Future has grown to embody toxicity, bashing partners on social media and releasing merch playing into his image. Countless memes have been created referencing his reputation. The new album’s title, “I Never Liked You” (2022), and the project’s devious one-liners enforce toxicity once again. While the toxic persona makes Future more one-dimensional, it’s still quite entertaining. For instance, on the intro track “712PM,” he raps, “Stepped all in mud, this [EXPLETIVE] can't wait to tie my shoelace,” referencing the now-iconic image of a woman tying his shoe in the street. While some might scoff at the objectification and misogyny, fans of Future’s toxic lyrics recognize their hyperbolic nature and see them as part of a mirror into Future’s ultimate dissatisfaction with the hedonic life he leads.
While Future doesn’t reinvent himself on this album, he successfully recreates his typical style with haunting, nocturnal beats and crisp vocals. His lyrics detail his descent back into his destructive lifestyle of substance abuse. He effortlessly flows on “Chickens”: “I was leanin’ and stopped all the Xanax / I been meanin’ to cut back on ecstasy / I been thinkin’ ‘bout findin’ an exit.” It seems that Future is fighting a losing battle. He reminisces on his formerly violent lifestyle on other tracks. On “Holy Ghost,” which has one of the darkest beats of the album, Future pierces through, describing his street life over rapid, hard-hitting 808s, wicked bells, and eerie chants. He sounds hungry, like he has an appetite for violence. He maintains complete control over the production. On the album’s standout track, “Puffin On Zootiez,” Future floats over the lush, layered instrumental and its soft, entrancing melody. While Future doesn’t say much of substance in the song, the hypnotic atmosphere and his insistent yet laid-back delivery make it addictive. “Wait For U” with Drake and Tems is a guaranteed summer smash, on which the three artists explore their various romantic issues. Tems’s background vocals provide a perfect backdrop for this secluded track. On the final track, “Back To The Basics,” Future’s voice is aged and heartbroken as he raps about his diamonds and the Mercedes-Benz he uses to fill the emptiness inside of him. The lyrical content, lack of hook, and weary sample make it a somber and effective closer to the album.
“For A Nut,” which features Gunna and Young Thug, should have been a banger. Instead, some of the most prominent Atlanta Trap artists opted to provide boring verses, a mediocre chorus, and cringey lyrics. The streak of phoned-in verses continues with Drake on “I'm On One.” While the track is listenable, its repetitive hook and lackluster feature make it seem like an effortless throwaway track. The production disappoints, failing to reach the heights of Future’s previous albums. ATL Jacob had the challenging task of living up to the work of Trap masterminds Metro Boomin, 808 Mafia, and Zaytoven. Unfortunately, many songs have a backdrop of generic Trap beats. While there are standout beats on “Holy Ghost” and “Puffin On Zootiez,” parts of the album use the same basic, spacey Atlanta style that Future popularized from the last five years. It’s hard to evolve while rapping over the same generic production.
While this album suffers from a lack of experimentation, it encapsulates Future’s strengths in a solid effort. While Future might be using a rote and overdone style, he does it better than most, adding to his decorated legacy with “I Never Liked You” and proving once again that he is a pillar of consistency.