For the first time in a decade, it sounds like Future is tired of being a savage. Over the years we’ve been introduced to the many personas of the Atlanta rapper: Astronaut Kid, Super Future, and Future Hendrix, just to name a few. Now, we’re getting acquainted with The Wizard, a moniker he said in MTV News interview he needed to tap into after 2016’s Purple Reign. In that same interview, Future suggested there’s a level of sorcery required to attain his rock star status. “[The Wizard] is like my crystal ball and [I] come up with these different ideas and brainstorm,” he says. So, to members of the Future Hive it should come as no surprise that the man of many aliases is refocusing his efforts after 2018, which with only one solo project in July, could be considered a quiet year for an artist who has a reputation for dropping multiple albums and mixtapes in the span of a few months. Last week, Future released The WIZRD, his seventh solo album, which feels like a last-minute attempt to purge every brutal thought lingering in his mind as he enters the next decade of his career and is forced to examine his most important identity of all: Nayvadius Wilburn. The album is confirmation that Future’s blueprint would always work, but also indicates staying in his comfort zone could stunt his growth. He seems to agree.
The rollout for The WIZRD included a press run that could debunk the idea that the celebrity profile as a journalistic endeavor is dead. There seemed to be a new interview everyday, and something new to glean from each of them. In one, he christened Lil Baby and Gunna as the “new goats of trap.” In another, he considered the ways he exposed preteens to promethazine. But, the most shocking tidbit came from an interview with the Fader: “[I] misunderstood the fact how much I love love. I love the thought of finding real love.” It was a record-scratch, freeze frame moment. Was this the same Future who said, “Got my dick sucked, I was thinking about you/I was fucking on a slut and I was thinking about you?” For much of his career, Future let the music do the talking. Outside of his music, he rarely shares the details of personal life and has a habit of wiping his Instagram clean of any glimpses we catch. But now, he was engaging in a way that seemed cathartic for him, trying to shed the skin he’d grown over the years. We have never seen Future mature, and as fans, we expected more of Nicki Minaj at 35 than we did of Future, who is the same age. Now he’s quite literally at the end of an era; The WIZRD is Future’s final release in his ten-year deal with Epic Records. We can only hope it’s the beginning of a more transparent Future, one we’d seen in spurts on HNDRXX, now on full display.
At 20 tracks, The WIZRD is ephemeral in nature with brief moments of Future’s best qualities: pain, arrogance, and downright cold-headed mantras. It quashed any doubts as to whether or not Future still has it. The hour-long album satisfies the bittersweet idiosyncrasies many of us look for in Future. But was it enough? There is an element of The WIZRD that feels like the artist hit a plateau. He considers The WIZRD his “close out chapter,” named after his forward-thinking alter ego, but there is no glimpse of a new Future tucked between its lengthy tracklist. In the eponymous Apple Music documentary, Andre 3000 reflects on Future’s legacy in trap, a genre he says is rooted in pain. “Future has a certain pain behind what he’s doing. You can call it soul, […]but it comes straight off as pain,” he said in the documentary. And now it’s, ‘I’m gonna let y’all watch me balance this pain.'” The WIZRD suggests the balancing act is getting harder to manage.
Future’s niche is best suited for high energy, dizzying tracks and “Crushed Up” and “Jumpin on a Jet,” The WIZRD’s lead singles, aligned with that tradition. Future puts a harrowing touch on “Crushed Up’s” production and its tinkering lullaby is distorted by the throaty repetition, “Diamonds in the face/Crushed up, I can see it.” He is incredibly skilled at bragging in the most succinct way possible. “Krazy But True” has the same vitriol as his viral “I’m good luv, enjoy” moment, but this time, he’s taking digs at rappers on the rise. “Call the Coroner” and “Talk Shit Like a Preacher” fulfill the above-the-law bravado the Atlanta rapper drapes himself in, but “Stick to the Models” and “Promise U That” hit a groove that feels reminiscent of his Dirty Sprite 2 era with a fraction of the energy. He is getting older after all. “Told my bitch to find us a bitch we can fuck on together tomorrow,” (“Stick to the Models”) doesn’t have the same sting as “I just fucked your bitch in some Gucci flip flops” (“Thought It Was a Drought”). But, it doesn’t stray far from the shock value of a raunchy opener that has become Future’s signature. “Promise U That,” produced by Memphis’s Tay Keith, is a testament to Future’s hustle. It’s the same hustle that’s allowed him to create seven studio albums and too many mixtapes to count in ten years. “Came in a car, you gon leave in a jet, I can promise you that/Came by myself, I’m gon leave with your friend I can promise you that,” he sings on the chorus. The song is a reminder that he’s able to maximize his output regardless of the input.
Some of Future’s most memorable projects are the result of the chemistry between him and a chosen producer. We’ve seen the fruit of his labor with Zaytoven (Beast Mode) and Metro Boomin (DS2, What a Time to Be Alive). Now, 20-year-old ATL Jacob, an in-house producer for Freebandz, has his hand on seven songs from The WIZRD’s tracklist. There’s rattling that hides in the background of “Rocket Ship” but you may not notice it over Future screaming “I been poppin since my demo, bitch!” But on The WIZRD, the chemistry between Future and Jacob is not yet solidified. Two of the producer’s standouts are the only songs with features and they appear 15 songs in, long after fatigue starts to set in. Gunna and Thug tag team “Unicorn Purp” and Travis Scott assists on “First Off,” two songs with outlandish (but relatively normal lyrics for Future) one liners. “After I made her tie my shoes, I made her my favorite,” he raps on “Unicorn Purp.” He manages to one up that on “First Off.” “I should pee on this bitch and make her pay me,” which is surprisingly not Future’s first line about peeing on someone. Unsavory lines aside, he drags his voice across the track, slinking like a zombie. It’s a completely different approach than he used on “Overdose,” a frenetic display of energy which a sinister chuckle punctuating each bar. This is a clear performance of the balance Andre 3000 mentions in the documentary, one that Future takes a little more time to develop on the album’s closer.
Future resolves Beast Mode 2 with “HATE THE REAL ME,” a song that analyzes the way drugs have altered the relationships with some of the women closest to him. He ends The WIZRD similarly with “Tricks on Me,” an interpolation of the Geto Boys’ “Mind Playin Tricks on Me.” “How she gon' take my love and give it away like it ain't nothin' to her?” he raps. On the track, he explores the pain he’s felt from losing love, both romantic and platonic. There’s an internal battle he’s fighting on “Tricks on Me,” one preventing him from putting his pride aside (“I’ma feel weak if I tell you sorry”) and pushing past these obstacles altogether. “Maybe my mind playin' tricks on me/Could it be my ex playin' tricks on me?/Someone that's jealous playin' tricks on me.” This level of paranoia is enough for anyone to want to start anew.
The Atlanta rapper opened Pluto, his debut studio album, with a spoken word piece performed by Big Rube, member of Atlanta’s Dungeon Family. “But if you can’t remember the who, what, when, or the how/Remember one thing I said: the future is now.” Seven years later, we’ve witnessed Future grow from searching for commercial hits to shaping them. He’s growing weary of the balancing act necessary to maneuver in the lawless game of rap and is ready to move forward. Sure, he could make a dozen more projects stuck in this sound, but what’s the fun in that? The Future is now.
Correction: An earlier version of this post stated Tay Keith was from Atlanta.
Kristin Corry is a staff writer for Noisey. Follow her on Twitter.