Every week, we tell you about a new album we think you should spend time with. This week’s album is Future's Purple Reign.
Purple Reign, the new mixtape from our one true savior Future Kilmister, is his fifth in 15 months, and that doesn’t account for the full length LP he put out in between there too (Dirty Sprite 2). The guy’s been busy, and if you’ve listened to one of these tapes over this span, you’ve heard them all. You could interpret that as being a bad thing, but Future has been consistently great over the last 15 months, and across six projects, which is a winning streak that can’t be ignored. And honestly, I’m of the opinion that Honest has been retroactively underrated, so I’m calling the dude’s win streak an entire career streak (though Black Woodstock wasn’t so tight).
Future fans who were onboard circaPluto probably have a tough time seeing that version of Future in the Super Future that’s on Purple Reign. With the partial exception of the Drake-bolstered loosies collection What a Time to Be Alive, Future went from being the tough-talking loverman who released the sometimes hard and sometimes beautiful Honest, to being a guy who rampages through his projects with fistfuls of Perkys and Culligan-sized cups of lean. Future went from the hopeful guy looking for the woman of his dreams on the spacey, still futuristic “Turn on the Lights,” to the guy who churns through groupies on the claustrophobic, spaced out “Bye Bye” here. His nihilism isn’t often read as political, but it could be—what’s a more radical stance than saying you’re not going to make pop music anymore, and instead you’re going to make pissed off music about fucking and taking drugs?
Which isn’t to say that Future has abandoned all hooks for those who enter here. This is, after all, the guy who turned “Jumpman” into a hit, and I’m not sure there are even lyrics other than “jumpman jumpman jumpman.” “Inside the Mattress” rides on a Nard & B beat, virtually ensuring you will never be able to say “mattress” again without saying it in Future’s cadence here. “Hater Shit” is the “Where Ya At” of Purple Reign,the song destined to be a Tweet construct in the next two weeks.
Purple Reigndoesn’t make its play for the best recent Future tape, non 56 Nights division, until the last two tracks. “Perky’s Calling” serves as a streets-to-stages road warrior tale, where Future wonders how he went from standing over stoves to being on tour, and shows remorse at how he’s made his money. “I can hear the purple callin’” he sings in his faded robot voice over plaintive keys here, before comparing his money to fast food. Things get even more introspective on the title track, where Future bellows “I just need my girlfriend” on the hook.
Through circumstances beyond his control—and I’m sure he’s not even aware of any of this—Future has become the nexus for a lot of our arguments about rap music in 2016. Are the #hives that surround certain artists “sincere”? Is Drake wack? Is meme-ificiation a scourge or a laugh? Does the person who runs the Hamburger Helper company aware their social media team is dropping rap references in tweets? What is “real hip-hop,” and what does it mean that Future is more popular in New York than any New York rapper? And do rappers only engage in “street journalism” or are they dramatizing their own lives for their songs?
That last one is especially important re: Future and his use of drugs in his songs. He basically admitted on Friday that he was dramatizing his drug use in order to be more entertaining.
“I’m not like super drugged out or [a] drug addict. My music may portray a certain kind of image and I know it’s some people that might be super drugged out and they listen to the music like, ‘Ay thank you, you speaking for me’ and then some people that’s not [super drugged out] that feel like, “Man I don’t have to do drugs, I can listen to Future and feel like I’m on something’ and don’t have to try [drugs]. I don’t do it for you to really have to live that type of life.”
So, when someone comes across your feed with a piping hot take about how Future is glorifying lean abuse, or is a monster for rapping about having sex with groupies, remember, it’s all stories. Your opinion of Purple Reign will probably depend on where you fit, rank-wise, in the #FutureHive,and that’s okay. But it’s hard to think of any rapper, or musician for that matter, who is pushing things forward, changing idioms, and making better music than Future Hendrix right at this moment.