On his new album, I Never Liked You, Future toes the line between staying in his line and outright self-parody, to mostly positive effects. Over the course of his 12-year career, Future has developed a half-joking reputation for being one of hip-hop’s pettiest practitioners. He’s been glorified by fans as the “toxic king” whose gift for switching between genuinely wounded crooning to juvenile insults snarled at exes has become his calling card, the biggest draw to his music, and the biggest knock against him by critics.
With his latest, he gives everyone exactly what they want. Fervent fans will find plenty to love and detractors will find plenty to complain about. He remains one of the most versatile voices in rap today; in one moment, he’s “been in the field like the childrеn of the corn,” while in the next, he admits “every time I sip on codeine, I get vulnerable.” Both missives come on the same album standout, “Wait For U,” which features both longtime collaborator/fellow toxic bro Drake and intriguing newcomer Tems.
Future is far from the only rapper who can go from crediting his grandmother with making him a gentle lover when he cares on “Love You Better” to boasting that women faint when they get close to him on “Massaging Me.” He is the one who can do so in the space of one song without losing a beat, wearing both faces as naturally as some rappers brag about their street cred. He’s got plenty of that too, slangin “Chickens” alongside rising trap star EST Gee – although admittedly, 12 years into his career versus EST Gee’s two or three, the latter sounds much more convincing here.
By sticking to well-worn territory like his time in the trenches and his honestly baffling effects on women (there are times he sounds about as amazed as the rest of us that they’re willing to put up with his passive-aggressive antics), Future frees himself up to stretch out within his comfort zone – an underrated luxury for someone so deep into an already storied career. That he’s mostly able to continue to sound fresh on tracks like “Voodoo” after dropping similar tracks for so long is a testament to his skill and charisma. It’s not for everybody, but what Future (and Drake, or for that matter, any rapper who’s made it past the 10-year watermark) has figured out is that you don’t need to do everything for everybody.
Just like Pusha T, who recently released his own well-received, near-one-note effort, It’s Almost Dry, Future knows that his customers come to him for very few specific items, so he makes sure to have plenty of them in stock and packages them well. And because he’s so well-practiced, there are no real missteps, just tracks that don’t work as well as the others – “Holy Ghost” falls into this category. Something about ATL Jacob’s discordant beat just doesn’t highlight Future’s gritty voice as well as tracks like the soulful trunk rattle of “The Way Things Going.”
Sure, if you wanted to, you could turn up your nose at a track like “For A Nut” and lines like “f*cked her in the ass, made her pee-pee” from “I’m Dat N****.” But the over-the-top sexuality isn’t for you. If Future truly regretted unwittingly putting the late Juice WRLD onto lean and pills or ever actually feared losing fans for admitting his own sobriety, he’s shaken off those shackles and fully embraced the character. If rap is wrestling, this one is for the marks, the ones who fully accept the inherent silliness of the premise and suspend their disbelief anyway. If you never liked Future, he never liked you back, and he’s not doing a single thing to win you over. So far, it’s proven to be a winning strategy.
I Never Liked You is out now on Freebandz/Epic Records. Get it here,