Bertrand Russell opens his monumental History of Western Philosophy by describing philosophy as the “No Man’s Land” between theology and science. This straddling of religious fervor and empirical fact should help the uninitiated understand the pull that Future currently has in hip-hop: he exists in the world of jokey “Migos is better than the Beatles” land as another street prophet, but with all the technical flair exhibited by a carefully constructed Cam’ron verse. Following three strong mixtapes that chronicled his descent into codeine addiction, a No Man’s Land is exactly where Future is on Dirty Sprite 2 He’s exactly where an astronaut should be.
Self-mythologizing aside, the music on DS2 is worthy of the praise lauded on Future. His 18-track effort on the deluxe edition is a lengthy advertisement for codeine, but like any substance ad in the 21st century, more time is spent on the side effects and disclaimers than the supposed highs of the substances themselves. His “Future Hendrix” moniker has never been realer, yet without the self-awareness of destructive powers of lean that he showed on the aptly titled “Codeine Crazy” off Monster. Instead, the gleeful ignorance exhibited by fellow Atlantan Young Thug about the drug (most notably, when Thug claimed he was “living that life like Pimp C” on “Treasure”, which is replicated by Future’s “Long live A$AP Yams” chants) paints the album in a glossy purple.
But No Man’s Lands are barren and dangerous, and Future’s habitation provides no different viewpoint. He runs through the standard rap tropes that he built his career around, but never betrays a hint of enjoyment. On “Groupies”, “Freak Hoe”, and “Rich $ex”, the normally-jubilant portrayals of sex achieved via fame are reduced to the begrudging sighs of a decades-deep worker returning for yet another day on the job. Instead of being points of critique, however, they only serve to highlight the honest portrait of addiction conceived on the album. The aforementioned “Codeine Crazy” saw the line “I’m an addict and I can’t even hide it” tossed off, but this album’s “Trying to make a pop star and the made a monster” has been at the forefront of the album’s review coverage. For good reason: his “Monster” persona begun on the titular mixtape drags listeners into the guttural world where nothing but the next high is a priority.
Whereas Bricc Baby Shitro’s “6 Drugs” triumphantly secured yet another drug-fueled turn-up anthem in the same vein as Future, the anthemic moments on DS2 occur in sparse, yet impactful fashion. “Blow a Bag” and “Fuck Up Some Commas” are interchangeable in terms of message, but showcase Future’s cultural reach — “blow a bag” should enter the lexicon in a similar way that “fuck up some commas” has. With predictably guttural production from Metro Boomin’, Sonny Digital, Zaytoven, and Southside, the swampy lake of codeine Future raps from bubbles and looms ever frighteningly in the background.
The ethos and spirit of the first Dirty Sprite lingers over every track on DS2. While many rappers find their best streaks on mixtapes, few translate this hunger over to commercial releases. But on this 18-track affair, the Future who first rapped his love for codeine on the “Lemonade”-esque piano notes of “Dirty Sprite” has reemerged with a new technical flair. No Man’s Land is wrong. This minimal paradise is all Future’s.