Album: Purple Reign
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: 17th January 2015
Increasingly massive Atlanta Rapper returns to his same old shallow, inconsistent and rather dull stomping ground on his new mixtape
Despite the amount of musicians who attempt it, creating a narrative or character for oneself in musical form is stubbornly difficult to define and achieve. It's possible to argue that all in-depth, organic song-writers create a vision that slightly extends reality for effect, but to create an entire identity is usually left to the purview of the novelist, or the poet. Read any interview with Atlanta, Georgia rapper Future and he'll come across as articulate and deeply passionate about the music he makes. As is the case with anything creative though, there's a disconnect between perceptions of what is and isn't art.
On his new mixtape Purple Reign it's certainly true that Future somewhat succeeds in creating an aesthetic. Bass heavy, rhythmic trap sensibilities are fronted by airy, atmospherics synths throughout the twelve tracks on offer here in a way that, for half the record anyway, is cohesive and en vogue if not unique. The smooth and reserved but layered groove of 'Hater Shit' and the noisy, glacial clangs that swoon in and out of 'Salute' are two production highlights. Like a handful of other tracks on the record, they allude to something that transpires as a vision, occasionally a real creative endeavour. Ultimately though, one's enjoyment of any hip-hop LP should largely boil down to how much they buy into the artist's fervour, and unfortunately this is where Future leaves this reviewer cold.
Following his tumultuous break-up with r'n'b singer Ciara last year he displayed a surprising level of vulnerability and introspection to the press for a man constantly writing about depraved shagging and codeine highs. On his last full-length album DS2 he exploited that sensitivity further, allowing emotion to resound as he battled against the ongoing heartbreak. Whether Future feels as though the dirty laundry has been aired or he's saving more personal soul-searching for his next album, on Purple Reign he's back to his old stomping ground; debauchery. The crux of it is this; not only is his lauded approach to auto-tune not THAT creative, but so uninspiring is his cadence on the majority of the tracks here that if one doesn't feel the need to wash one's soul clean of trap completely for two weeks then 808's and hi-hats must be the new punk rock.
It would be slightly churlish not to point out some of Future's attention to detail. "I was trying to tell you I was losing, I was gonna tell you I'm improving" he offers over Nard B.'s glitzy, wholesome beaton 'Inside The Mattress', before going on to assert that "If I did it for you it came from the heart". He taps in to a modicum of remorse on closer 'Perky's calling', a 3-piano-chord led track that rounds things off hazily.
But for the most part Future positions himself (deliberately perhaps?) as the poster boy for the irony-ridden self-construction of modern mainstream hip-hop. "I can pay your bills right now, how you love that?" he quips in 'Drippin (How U Luv That?)'. And besides one moment of personal candidacy about his uncle's jail sentence the Rick Ross-pimp-mafioso style story-telling on 'Never Forget' is both formulaic and worryingly patronising as at one point he indulges "these Jewish lawyers and accountants, that's the life I know".
Ultimately though the glossy appeal all starts to fade into a blur and Future's acid-drenched sex raps start to become flavourless so quickly that you wonder whether those rare moments of soul-mining were of any consequence in the first place.
The problem with Purple Reign is that, if all of this excess is him playing a role then the lack of fluid consistency leaves more of a sense of confusion than any sort of tangible personality. The questions it poses are far less about how much of an enigma he is and more about whether or not his music makes sense. Self-belief is a dodgy tool if you're not surrounded by anybody prepared to say "no".
Key Tracks: 'Inside The Mattress', 'Hater Shit'
For Fans Of: Migos, Travis $cott