PURPLE REIGN by Future
Genre: Trap Rap, Southern Hip Hop
Favorite Tracks: “Salute,” “Run Up,” “Perkys Calling”
Although he still remains a polarizing and acquired taste, 2015’s hip hop scene belonged to Future despite whatever those memesters listening to “Hotline Bling” will say. Regardless of what you think about his technical proficiency, it’s an inarguable fact that the man born Nayvadius D. Wilburn is a hard worker, producing two solid mixtapes (BEAST MODE and 56 NIGHTS), a stellar album that made our Best of 2015 list (DS2), and a collaboration with the most talked-about rapper of our time where he clearly emerged triumphant (WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE). Fighting for a hard-earned place on both pop radio and cultured party playlists, Future returned early in 2016 with PURPLE REIGN. For fans that were left with just enough goodwill from DS2 to overlook some of WATTBA’s more obvious shortcomings, this latest effort will remain a disappointment.
To Future’s credit, it’s not that he’s churning out recyclable content. In fact, PURPLE REIGN will remain an acid test of sorts for listeners, defining whether someone comes from the prowess or the pop sensibilities. In the past, Future produced party music that took a risk (just listen to the harsh, alienating sounds of DS2’s production), but on the first half of PURPLE REIGN, there’s nary a memorable hook to be found. Seemingly in an effort to dissuade naysayers, Future elects to flux and flow his way through more atmospheric backing tracks, without discernible riffs or melodies that can be hummed along to afterwards. In addition, the Auto-Tune that has become his (rightful) calling card is largely left by the wayside for the first half of the tape, not really emerging until it’s turned up to 11 on “Drippin (How U Luv That).” Unfortunately, it posits Future as a rapper that needs to rely on an overbearing aesthetic, as his attempts at more free-form verse just get lost in the murk (“Never Forget,” “Hater Shit”). However, there are some daring attempts present, and it can’t be said that Future’s tied to his comfort zone with the digitally crushed alienation of production such as that on “All Right.”
At first, the second half of PURPLE REIGN will strike the listener as immediately more impressive. And how could it not, with “Salute”’s arctic snippets of synth that sound ripped from an IDM-indebted Alternative R&B track and “Run Up”’s no-nonsense, Jeezy-like slink? Future continues to untether himself and indulge in the inebriated croon we’ve come to know and love on “Bye Bye” and “No Charge,” but the sad realization that slowly reveals itself is that even at their best, these are tracks that would have been buried in DS2’s already lengthy track list. The last two tracks are lyrically and thematically engaging (especially “Perkys Calling” wherein Future offers a comparatively level assessment of the good and bad that his [allegedly] drug-addled lifestyle has brought him, but the fact that we’re forced to rely on Future’s lyrical abilities for a happy ending will leave a sour taste in the mouth of many.
Quite simply put, the inescapable impression is that this is something we’ve all heard before and will likely hear again. Whereas someone like Gucci Mane (or even Lil B, though not recently) can exist on producing troughs of copy-paste content, Future’s attempts at experimentation and slight rebranding are unsuccessful and therefore rather frustrating. Although nowhere near approaching the swandive that Chief Keef is experiencing, Future would do best to spend an extended period of time in the booth, focusing on delivering something that will surprise.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend