The timing of BEASTMODE 2’s release couldn’t be more immaculate. Fresh from KIDS SEE GHOSTS and its fixation with stripping the celebrity trauma from Kanye West and Kid Cudi (not to mention a welcome breather a week out from Drake’s Scorpion), BEASTMODE 2 continues Future’s romantic dance with problematic affairs. Both a spiritual and thematic sequel to 2015’s Beast Mode, it’s a little more blunt and brooding. It’s like a trip to the bar with an alcoholic who is content to wallow in their misery with an upbeat smirk as they relay you their troubles. With a balance of languid, relaxing ambience and Zaytoven’s jejune flair, BEASTMODE 2 is Future standing out by sticking to the script, delivering a bleak blender of messages worth revisiting – numerous times.
Future’s been (arguably) rap’s most dominant figure for the better of four years, beginning with the release of the tender 56 Nights in 2014. His legendary three tape trilogy of 56 Nights, Beast Mode, and Monster rewrote the rap rule book and placed an emphasis on melodies as the genre’s currency. His warbles were stripped of simile or metaphor and grafted with free-thought that happened to rhyme, often touching past relationships in ways that resonated with a primarily male audience, inciting the “toxic masculinity” memes from wounded egos with similar viewpoints. With a hungry Metro Boomin on the production front determined to force his name into the best beat-maker conversation, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at each beat, Beast Mode was a different beast altogether. Executive producer Zaytoven has never been a complicated producer — the running joke being that he sells each artist the same beat pack — and his work on the album consisted of whirls around a piano, heavy-handed snare snaps, and rattling bass. The simple stuff.
The same simplicity that enabled Beast Mode to stand out is found here in its sequel. The boom, boom, tap, boom, tap cyclical nature permeates this entire cut, with Zaytoven’s easy-going elegance enabling Future to do what he does best — explore the shitshow of celebrity and tie it into his past, druggy habits. “WIFI LIT” is a strong opener that catapults into daring territory with a seemingly mundane contribution from Zay. But Future’s daring inflection and seeming carelessness enable him to go buck wild without a care in the world, letting him face the prospect of failure with breathless abandon. “CUDDLE MY WRIST” follows suit and trades in red-faceD wonder for a softer, soothing invitation to female companions. Zaytoven may keep it simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less expansive. Here especially, the juxtaposition is apparent. He goes to the opposite end of the spectrum from the macho huff of the first towards a more vulnerable shtick reminiscent of Beast Mode’s “Just Like Bruddas.”
Out of all of the emotionally distraught rappers that decorate this rap circle, the most realistic has to be Future. No one’s yodeling as effectively as he is about the pitfalls of fame, in such few words. For what Kanye and Kid Cudi can spend an album trying to bare all about their notability troubles, Future can do in five words on “RED LIGHT” (“All this fame gettin’ terrible”). What makes it even more resounding is the fact that it’s often sandwiched in or carelessly piled on top, like he’s cleaning his room and throwing socks into an already-full hamper. “RACKS BLUE” is passionate and another mere reflection of fast wealth, but the icy shelf is penetrated with the subtle admission on the chorus with “I shoulda never got caught up with a cougar” (possibly referring to the Larsa Pippen fiasco).
Perhaps the most morbid song of all comes in the form of “WHEN I THINK ABOUT IT,” which has him thinking more about death than wealth. Not the violent, sudden kind of death that often plays a central figure in modern rap music, but death in the sense of it being problematic for his namesake. He’s thinking beyond it, what his kids will get long after he’s gone. It’s not groundbreaking material, but for Future, this goes a little further than his usual tongue-in-cheek references to old flames.
According to Zaytoven, BEASTMODE 2 was whittled down from more than a hundred songs over the course of four years. You can hear shades of its age in the first half’s traditional trap musings, but HNDRXX-era Future bares his face in the second half, with long drawn out choruses and a rhythmic tinge that came from a sprout in confidence after being shown that for so long, he could do no wrong. That the package manages to combine both sides of Future — we’re basically getting FUTURE and HNDRXX together — without feeling forced (in only nine tracks at that) is cause for celebration. It feels spontaneous and unexpected, and, most importantly, tempered.
BEASTMODE 2 isn’t flawless, but it holds its faults close to the chest. “DOH DOH” with the reticent Young Scooter sounds a little too dated, from Scooter’s airy voice to the nigh forgettable one-note production. This is when the car’s ignition doesn’t turn over that one time, for whatever reason. It just sticks out so far because of how cohesive the rest of the project is in the Nayvadian mythos. Even the moldy stench of drug-peddling, pre-Honest Future manifests and, while it’s cool to see him return to a version of his older self, it just doesn’t fit with the guzzling-the-bottle-down-with-head-in-hands Future that has managed to become the heir apparent we see now. What makes it even worse is that because of the way it’s sequenced, it comes right between two of the project’s strongest cuts – “RED LIGHT” and “WHEN I THINK ABOUT IT.” It could have been removed to add a little more flow to it, but maybe shades of Mafioso Future still exist somewhere in the recesses of his brain. While a surface level drug pusher record may seem below his brand, it could have been therapeutic to get out onto wax. At least, one would hope so.
But now, the question of stagnancy may become a hot button topic when discussing Future’s legacy. Recently, a whirlwind of social media conversation centered around Nicki Minaj’s lack of growth in her career. Nicki, incensed by the ordeal, chewed out someone in their DMs for criticizing her for what she felt was without merit. But there’s some truth in the buzz — on YG’s “Big Bank” she raps, “Tell T.I.P. Rubber bands in my bankroll/Show my ass like a stank hoe.” Yeesh.
Incidentally, Future’s going on tour with Nicki this fall. He’s only a year younger, and, aside from transitioning to the warble that’s redefined rap circles, he’s largely been the same schmuck over the few year’s worth of compilations. Undoubtedly, the reason that he escapes this conversation is because of the fact that he’s, well, a guy. It sucks, but we need to sit down and hold Future accountable. BEASTMODE 2 sounds like the kick off for another trilogy of surface-level introspective trap raps that may sound strikingly similar to the stuff he released years ago. This one aside, how will that fair when the sequels to Monster and 56 Nights inevitably come out? Will he have more to talk about?
In the end, the best part about BEASTMODE 2 is that Future sounds like there’s not a speck of dust on his vocal chords. He sounds ready to go; angry, of course, sad, and vibrant. While he journeys into well-trod territory about his past lady conquests, and the drug-peddling rap that invokes a yawn or two, his bubbly work with Zaytoven transcends the simple drum patterns that the legendary producer creates. Together, their work is symbolic of the continued union between paragons that helps to push the culture forward. You don’t just hear BEASTMODE 2 — you feel it in the bones. And then, you’ll play it again.
- Words:Trey Alston