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The Drought is Over: Future’s Dirty Sprite 2

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There are some artists who spend years putting a project together, intellectualizing and agonizing over every last detail. There are others for whom music seems to just happen. I imagine these kinds of artists suddenly think up a song or two while waiting at a stoplight, or perhaps they mysteriously black out when they enter a recording booth and wake up a few hours later having made an entire album.

Regardless of how it’s even humanly possible, it’s exciting to see someone go all-in with their craft and refrain from being too discerning when it comes to showing their audience the results.

Atlanta’s own Future is currently in his zone, and it’s been a marvel to behold. Uninitiated listeners might easily mistake the sort-of-rapper/sort-of-singer for a T-Pain type that every big artist gets to perform their hooks for a few years then promptly tosses aside when the next crooner comes along. But Fewtch has always been a cut above that. The guy is a member of the Dungeon Family, an ATLien collective that includes the likes of OutKast, Goodie Mob, and Killer Mike. And while he’s certainly nowhere near his cohorts’ levels of lyrical prowess, he certainly upholds the collective’s spirit of developing music that is at once singular and accessible.

Future proved himself to be more than a passing fad with his surprisingly good major label debut, Pluto — the heavily altered reissue of which, Pluto 3D, I will say completely unironically and unabashedly is one of my favorite pop-rap CDs, hands down. His follow-up, 2014’s Honest, was largely a try-hard attempt at mass appeal and was neither here nor there, but his recent output has taken him from being a solid, unique voice in hip-hop to one of the most prolific and consistent powerhouses in the genre today.

In the past ten months or so alone he’s delivered a bevy of great features (the highlights being A$AP Rocky’s “Fine Whine” and Travi$ Scott’s “High Fashion”), and a staggering three mixtapes. Last fall’s Monster is one of his most varied releases, featuring everything from the spaced-out and lovelorn to the hypnotic and anthemic. January’s Beast Mode is a lavish collaboration with Zaytoven, an Atlanta producer who’s developed one of the weirdest signature sounds in all of modern rap music. And I’ve listened to 56 Nights an ungodly number of times since it released in March. All come highly recommended.

Future could have easily coasted through the rest of the year on the buzz generated by these three projects, but he’s at it again with Dirty Sprite 2, a studio album that serves as the sequel to his 2011 mixtape. A full-length project that carries with it a price tag inherently indicates a greater level of ambition, and Future doubles down on that fact by making DS2 a whopping 18 tracks long. Yet despite having absolutely nothing to prove at this point, he still delivers on every single track.

Dirty Sprite 2 doesn’t see Future altering his style very significantly — but why should he? This record isn’t an experiment, it’s a masterclass. Future’s sound is at once catchy and pummeling, eccentric and no-frills, and he’s in more control of it than ever.

The album gets off to a ridiculous start with the one-two punch of the spacey “Thought It Was a Drought” and the muscular “I Serve the Base.” The latter is particularly great, an infectious banger carved out of a hellscape of grimey synths and tortured vocal stabs that might be found on a sampler tucked away in the Overlook Hotel. Future’s flows and lyrics are fittingly dark and defiant as he writes off his bids at mass appeal (“tried to make me a pop star / And they made me a monster”) and delivers some hazy, drug-addled imagery (“I inhale the love on a bad day / Baptized in purple Actavis”).


The third and fourth cuts are equally great. On “Where Ya At,” Future proves his trap-rap expertise by inviting Drake to the proceedings, who sounds lost and confused in comparison. “Groupies,” meanwhile, is driven by an instrumental that sounds like pure evil, and features some great vocal acrobatics from Fewtch, who whoops, hollers, and yells as the top of his lungs one moment only to dive into a ow, ldemonic growl the next.

Dirty Sprite 2 mostly retains the same level of excitement from there. There’s not much in the way of conceptual ambition to be found here, but pretty much every song is top-notch in its own right. If I have one complaint, it’s some of the track selections. Future lifts the track “Real Sisters” from his Beast Mode mixtape, and while the song is fine enough, it wasn’t that project’s mindblowing standout. Why superior cuts like “No Basic” or “Just Like Bruddas” weren’t used instead is beyond me. Meanwhile, his most recent single, the excellent “News or Somethn,” is nowhere to be found. Still, it’s not a big deal; DS2 isn’t exactly hurting for good songs.

The ante gets upped on the record’s last couple of tracks. On “Kno the Meaning,” Future gets surprisingly introspective as he reflects on the turmoil he’s faced in the last year, including breaking up with Ciara, dealing with collaborators getting jail time, having hard drives full of his music seized with the arrest of said collaborators, and having to go on tour just as his kid was born. He rather poignantly ties his troubles back to his incredible output, depicting himself as a sort of (platinum-selling) underdog who relies on music to guide him through: “I ain’t holding this back, I ain’t holding this / The music way ahead of its time, and I notice this / Get back in the studio, give them what they was missin’ / They didn’t know I knew the game and I know how to reinvent it.”

Dirty Sprite 2 comes to a close with the colossal “Fuck Up Some Commas,” which is a pretty old track at this point, but it’s also a dose of steel-melting fire that’ll have staying power for a long time to come, so what does it matter? A hypnotic piano melody proves the perfect match for Future’s instant-stick chorus, and the fact that the song’s volume seems to increase 1000% by the time that hook hits only makes it that much more raucous and triumphant.

2015 has been the best year in rap music in a very long time. A few years ago, people who denied the genre was in another golden age may have had a solid argument, but at this point, that stance is almost delusional. It’s odd indeed to realize hip-hop has entered another truly remarkable era. It’s doubly strange to think that, once the dust settles on this unbelievable year, a purveyor of weirdo trap anthems will stand tall with hip-hop’s biggest names as one of the genre’s most critical creative forces. Strange, but well deserved.

Oh, and Future’s next mixtape, a collaboration with Atlanta producer Metro Boomin’, is due out within the next few months. Get ready.