Epic Records
Highsnobiety

4.5/5.0

Future is one of the most influential artists of the decade, with his trap-tinged blues showing us that rappers could make it a rain at the strip club while suffering an existential crisis. His distinctive sound has directly influenced everyone from Gunna, Young Thug, and Lil Baby to more melodic emo-rappers such as Lil Peep and XXXTentacion, with anthems such as “Codeine Crazy,” “Perkys Calling,” and “Mask Off” among modern rap’s greatest moments.

Yet there’s also a sense the emotional layers present in Future’s music haven’t fully translated to everybody, with some taking his drug-referencing lyrics at face value, seeing them as a glamorization rather than a deconstruction of an opulent, lean-heavy lifestyle. The reality is Future’s music does both, it’s about being on top of the world and in hell simultaneously. As a songwriter, he understands that drugs can bring out both the very best and very worst in human beings, and that referencing both, sometimes even in the same song, is a valid perspective.

The WIZRD, Future’s seventh studio album, unapologetically continues in a similar vein. Take introspective, dream-like opener “Never Stop,” where he admits he’s been “trying to shake the devil, on promethazine” – a bold line that hints at an artist who is perhaps growing up and moving past his addictions. Despite this admission, the head-nodding “Overdose” presents a completely different narrative, as Future proudly boasts about turning the whole world onto Xans and being “too rich to be sober.” This juxtaposition might be jarring or even confusing to some, but it’s what makes him so compelling; the more contradictions we hear, the more Future sounds relatable and human.

We often put too much pressure on artists to evolve or change their sound, not taking time to enjoy what made us fall in love with them in the first place. Artists such as Future are criticized for not stepping outside of their comfort zone yet chastised when they try something different musically, but we should celebrate the fact they have a signature sound and remain consistent voices in a industry full of chameleons.

Even if Future doesn’t completely rewrite the formula on The WIZRD, there’s still plenty signs of artistic growth. It’s obvious, for example, he has been paying close attention to the sporadic nature of the beats artists such as Travis Scott enjoy rocking, with “Baptiize” and “F&N” each containing beat transitions just as bold as anything on Astroworld. On the former, Future samples his own track “Slave Master” (from classic LP DS2), using its haunting strings to notch up the intensity of his flow. You know an artist is confident when they sample their own songs, and the abundance of one-liners (“I got so many white bitches, klu klux klan” on “F&N”) on this record, show he is still at the peak of his powers.

Future smartly finesses his sound on this record, with new producers such as ATL Jacob lending the Atlanta rapper heavier beats which inspire more frequent moments of introspection. The bass on songs such as “Krazy But True” is hefty, the music weighing you down a lot like his familiar guilty conscience. For this standout diary entry, Future raps that “the ecstasy is the only reason my heart beating” – the kind of baller melancholy that will haunt you long after the song ends. Bars such as “I lost the feeling of drinking on sizurp” on “Stick to the Models” feel similarly brave – attempting to push in a different direction then what we’ve become accustomed to (something he admitted in a recent interview with Genius, where he pledged to quit drinking lean).

Sure, some will criticize the fact that Future hasn’t drastically reinvented the wheel here, but when the music sounds this good, what’s the point? The WIZRD has enough to show its creator is tweaking his formula and growing as a songwriter, implementing lessons learned from other artists while continuing to use his trademark croaky voice to intricately separate syllables (check “Ain’t Coming Back”) like just about nobody else. It is likely his most consistently engaging album since DS2. There’s no glaringly weak songs and the album has an arresting continuity that will keep you engaged throughout its 20 tracks; an impressive feat given the fact there’s only three features (courtesy of Young Thug, Travis Scott, and Gunna). It has something for everybody, with bass-heavy bangers (“Faceshot” will remind you of the brilliant “I Serve the Base”) and catchy hood anthems (“Jumpin on a Jet”) sitting alongside grown-up songwriting that references heartbreak (“Tricks On Me”) and the hope of being drug-free but still respected like a kingpin (on “Call the Coroner,” Future tellingly says: “I want to look like a drug lord, but be glorious!”). It’s another great album to add to a discography bursting with them.

On “Never Stop,” Future boasts “You can feel the pain when I’m rapping,” and this remains his greatest strength. The WIZRD is a record designed to make you feel first and think second, and understanding this will be key to determining how much you enjoy the ride.

Future’s ‘Future Hndrxx Presents: The WIZRD’ is available to buy or stream. For more of our album reviews, head here.

Words by Thomas Hobbs
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Thomas Hobbs is a freelance journalist / Tupac-obsessive based in London. He also writes for the Guardian, Pitchfork, NME, New Statesman, Dazed, Noisey, Time Out, and Crack Magazine.

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