Album Review: Future—”Honest”

By Stuart Oakes

It is April 2014 and Atlanta, Georgia is the center of rap music. Beyond known quantities such as OutKast, T.I., 2 Chainz, Killer Mike, Waka Flocka Flame, and Gucci Mane, a diverse group of burgeoning stars/rap oddities – Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan, Migos, Peewee Longway, and many, many more – are busy establishing themselves on the national stage. Most seem to have bright futures ahead and several are already in the midst of meteoric rises to fame, particularly Thug and Quan. However, a lot of work remains before these prodigies can truly take a place among the greats, mostly because they all sound like different variations of Future, the spaceman/alien at the epicenter of Atlanta rap. Future (real name Nayvadius Cash) is not the first rap weirdo, nor is he the weirdest, but he is the first whose absolute embrace of peculiarity is providing a legitimate shot at reaching the top of the rap world (home of international stars like Kanye West and Drake) and while he is not there yet, his second album, Honest,should serve to quiet many of his critics.

Album art for Honest

Album art for Honest

Like anything off the beaten path, Future has proven divisive among listeners and it is easy to see why. His voice is a ragged croak, draped in Auto-Tune, which alternates between rapping and a sing-song-style warble (like a combination of T-Pain, Lil’Wayne and Kanye West’s 808’s & Heartbreak), while his beats have traditionally rotated between trap bangers and aquatic, weepy ballads. Many do not like Future simply because he is not to their taste and it is something the rapper may never be able to overcome. Nonetheless, a lot of listeners do enjoy his music; his first album Pluto has sold over 365,000 copies, and he has proven incredibly influential, especially in Atlanta.

Honest should expand his fan base if only because it is a better album than Pluto. Future has improved and minimized his use of Auto-tone, saving it for maximum effect, and his sticky inflection and gift for melody ensure the hooks on songs like “Special” or “Benz Friendz” will bounce around inside your head all day. Take him to task over his lyrics if you like, but remember that in the age of A$AP Rocky, flow reins supreme, and in terms of flow, Future is one of the best. Either way, there are more than enough great quotes here; Pharrell delivers arguably his finest verse ever on “Move That Dope,” Andre 3000 is spectacular, as always, on “Benz Friendz,” and Future proves both human and capable of vulnerability, with lyrics like, “I want to live my dream with you” on “I Won.”

Importantly, the rapper is working on a much broader palette of beats than he has previously; connections have served him with twelve astonishingly well-crafted beats from the best in the business. There is no drop in quality. Tracks like Mike Will Made It’s “Move That Dope,” Detail’s “I Be U,” and The Runner’s “Look Ahead” are masterpieces, and all twelve are the kind of events that only happen when someone gives visionaries access to house money (see: The Beach Boys). Best of all, Future leaves us wanting more. At only 47 minutes long, the album is concise and well thought-out. Overall, it probably will not be the best rap release this year, but it is a fantastic record, and the world is a better place when someone like Future is a star. (Freebandz)

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