Future's latest mixtape proves to be the sonic equivalent of a 40-degree day.
"That's like a 40-degree day. Ain't nobody got nothing to say about a 40-degree day. Fifty. Bring a smile to your face. Sixty, shit, niggas is damn near barbecuing on that motherfucker. Go down to 20, niggas get their bitch on. Get their blood complaining. But forty? Nobody give a fuck about 40. Nobody remember 40."
So said the most lovable villain in the history of television, Stringer Bell, during an episode of the greatest story ever told in the history of television, The Wire. It's one of the great quotes the series ever generated: profound, pointed, funny, and about 50,000 other things wrapped into one. He goes on to complain about the amount of 40-degree days his underlings have provided in recent memory. Like any other successful entrepreneur, he can't stand the thought of having too many of them stacked up aside one another.
Atlanta hip-hop wunderkind Future has had his share of 60 degree days in recent memory. 2012's Pluto was the rare major label debut that actually lived up to the hype his mixtapes created leading up to the release, while this year's Honest climbed all the way to No. 2 on Billboard's Top 200. Couple that with an increasingly messy love life that can't seem to keep itself out of tabloid infamy, and what you have is one of the biggest, most recognizable new faces in the game.
Which is why, on some level at least, his latest mixtape, Monster, is a tiny disappointment. Bogged down with the amount of atypical misogynistic tendencies one might expect from the hip-hop community, the set feels more like a rushed attempt at keeping his name fresh and his talent fresher. The problem, however, is the fact that once you get two proper LPs and a slew of mixtapes under your belt, the expectations rise and the revelatory accolades begin to dry up. In essence, the likelihood of temperatures dropping into the 50s becomes far more immediate if you can't figure out how to keep your sun as bright as it once was.
De facto opener "Radical" feels lazy, even by Future's drawl-obsessed standards. On top of a Metro Boomin beat that incites as much fear as it does sleep, the MC falls too deep into a repetitive trap, reciting the line "All this shit radical" in that distinct horror-movie baritone of his about 20,000 more times than he should. Had it been couched by more creative (or, for that matter, longer) verses, the move could have been forgiven. Yet at three and a half minutes, the thing seems more like a waste of three minutes and 15 seconds than it does some type of grand reintroduction.
Maybe it should be no surprise, then, when his impressions of himself waver beyond contradictory and into absurdity. Disgusting incestuous tendencies aside ("It don't fuck with my conscious / I serve my auntie that raw," the guy proclaims in verse one), the follow-up title track devolves into an endless pool of sexist hip-hop ideals that never fail to get real old, real quick. Case in point: "I don't be trustin' these hoes, I just be smashin' these hoes," and, of course, "I'm a monster on these hoes, I'mma monster."
Yes, Future is not the first, last or millionth hip-hop artist to abuse those tried and true tropes, but it sure does it make it hard for the listener to believe anything he says when he comes back a handful of tracks later with the tender "Throw Away". Easily the set's best moment, the song is split into two acts -- a beginning during which the rapper asserts he can't be bothered with going on dates, and an ending during which the rapper want us all to understand how heartbroken he is.
We'll let you guess which section leaves more of an impact.
Actually, that vulnerability is something Future could use more of here, if only because he has the perfect voice to embody it. "Does sexing on the late night mean that much to ya / My love don't mean that much to ya / Fucking these hoes mean too damn much to you/I just hope when you fuck another nigga when you finished, he can say that he love you / Now, do you feel better 'bout yourself?" Ciara's baby daddy spits and you believe him. You really believe him here, because he sounds desperate. So much so that you can even hear his voice crack in the tinniest, most affecting manner. It makes you wonder how the same dude, mere minutes before, offers up some predictable babble like, "Got a black girl and a white one / Call 'em salt and pepper."
But that's the beauty of Future (and, for that matter, all of hip-hop): Even when his inconsistencies grow annoying, you can't help but appreciate the skill level often heard in between the lines. The menacing "2 Pac" is highlighted by the playfulness the MC uses whenever citing the song's namesake. "Mad Luv" dials up the auto-tune perfectly and reminds you why so many other artists have since tried to steal from his blend of trap-pop that's as accessible as it is interesting. And when he talks about taking "away all this damn pain" by washing the "zanny down with syrup" on "Hardly", you can't help but believe him, especially when he allows that tiny crack of self-pitty creep back into his enunciation.
Still, for any fan of Future and his output to date, none of these tricks are nearly as moving as they were the first or fifth time you heard them. Which ultimately, is why you kind of have to wish Monster was better than it is. Less than half a year removed from his major label sophomore effort, it might have done the MC good to step away from the mic for more than a handful of minutes and re-evaluate where he is as an artist and where he wants to go next.
Because for a career previously littered with hot summer days, Monster is far more autumnal than anyone -- and most importantly Future himself -- should ever aspire to be.