Future DS2

[Freebandz/Sony; 2015]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: trap, confessional, lean
Others: 808 Mafia, Zaytoven, Young Thug, (feat. Drake)

It just might be DS2’s cumulative power (the bonus tracks are mostly culled from the Monster trilogy), commodity status (a physical release, a pricetag), and relative lack of DJ tags that have scored it legitimacy. Or maybe, as Future says on “Kno The Meaning,” “My hard work finally catching up with perfect timing.”

While I’ve been compulsively listening to DS2 in the month (already?) since its release, the critical and popular consensus was reached that it’s one of the summer’s best releases. This obsolete review, then, is for those who haven’t already felt the album drop, swirl, and diffuse into your listening life like the cover’s cloud of silky ink (a stock image filled with movement and depth).

DS2 draws upon you slowly: slithering synth, microphone clicking to life, lowering bed of bass, Future’s “unh,” and his scene-setting intro composed totally of promethazine/codeine, weed, cocaine, and a diamond-covered watch. The misdirect material depravity of opener “Thought It Was A Drought” covers for Future’s own emotional exhaustion, focusing on the temporary euphoria that he then troubles throughout DS2. The Atlanta rapper’s billboard ascent has mirrored well-documented personal turmoil, including his disengagement with Ciara and the imprisonment of his DJ and best friend Esco. At the same time, in the past nine months, he’s released a pre-meditated trilogy of well-received mixtapes that led to this album, his first #1 chart debut. He fucked your bitch in Gucci flip-flops; he can’t give up syrup. He has flashbacks to near-miss blood spatter; he’s taking money showers. And he’s still sipping on discontinued purple Actavis; I thought it was a drought.

In his track-by-track commentary, Future discusses using habits “to be able to overcome certain things in your life that you feel like you don’t want to get to you.” He admits to himself, “So it’s like me copping out — taking the easy route, you could say — by substituting my problems and my pain with codeine or whatever. You know what I mean.” Future will feel better via sheer willpower, circumventing depression with ambitious repetition. On standout “Slave Master,” he repeats “I’m feelin way better” ten times throughout the hook. But these songs cannot resonate as triumphant and instead reveal themselves as a necessary embrace of deadening impulses, like treading water. There’s a harrowing dissonance at the end of “Slave Master” when Future toasts to A$AP Yams with the same codeine drink that killed the rapper at 26.

That dissonance pervades the album and finds a voice in Southside’s Kill Bill-siren that surges throughout (if not as often as it did on the producer’s 56 Nights). The sound takes on new force within DS2’s claustrophobic batch of beats, becoming as much a paranoid alarm as it is a signal to turn up. Its presence is jarring on cooler songs like the pensive and brooding “Kno The Meaning,” where the noise cuts through the atmosphere like a deathshead. It draws a despairing continuity between the club tracks, personal missives, and fucking jams. The album possesses a void-like capacity for riches, highs, and depression.

Future un-/self-consciously leans on habit, a routinized and exhausting glorification of (self-)violence, that on DS2 comes closest to piercing the internal emotional logic of his music. His body and being have been refigured as a montage of drugs and money. He was “baptized inside purple Actavis” and he “came from cocaine.” On the gorgeous, sensuous/desensitized slow jam “Rich $ex,” the first mention of a body is a face, but it’s referring to the big face Rollie on his wrist, not his own face or the face of the woman he’s making a little love to. That song is the closest we come to intimacy on DS2, and its fucking is so bound up in status and the spiteful fantasy of having rich sex with someone who’s not Ciara (who he sadly disses on “Rotation” with, “I just put that famous bitch on rotation”) that the intimacy evaporates quickly.

Over Metro Boomin’s delirious, screaming “I Serve The Base” beat, Future raps, “A nigga was depressed, now my mind back healthy/ A product of them roaches in them ashtrays/ I inhale the love on a bad day,” embracing the contradiction of his rehabilitated emotionality with a dependence on drugs. When he was depressed, he was singing love songs; now that he’s back, he’s delivering himself into a sort of nihilism that manifests in the album’s relentless minor-key production. From the rumbling “Groupies” to Zaytoven’s mesmerizingly jazz trip “Blood On The Money,” the production on DS2 is the perfect vessel for Future’s flow. The music stays in the same affective lane throughout, maintaining a disquieting sense of being (I’ve tried and failed to find another way to describe it) fucked up.

According to interviews and tracks “I Serve The Base” and “Where Ya At,” DS2 is for the day-one fans. I’m not one of them (a better Hive review is probably the one you’ve already read, by the writer who got me to pay closer attention). The first Future full-length I listened to was Honest. Before that, I’d heard his singles and had only especially fallen for his romantic crossover/radio features on “Loveeeeeee Song,” “My Darlin’,” “Where You Go,” and “Real and True.” It’s amazing to me how his melodic genius and lovesick-alien voice can be repurposed as monstrous as this. But it’s maybe not surprising, given how Future is convincingly remaking himself from an astronaut into a monster, reanimating old flows and rhyme schemes to serve a deepening sadness/all-time high/short-term solution. DS2 finds a hellish, motivating power by articulating how it’s possible to have the best time of your life during the worst time of your life. And it all sounds so good.

I’m feeling way better.

Links: Future - Freebandz/Sony

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