A question that might come to mind when analyzing trap music is whether the lyrical content is in fact an accurate representation of the rapper's selves and their views. With this question in mind, what can one make of Future? As his life fell apart in recent years, his music has receded further and further away from human decency, with fugue-like beats and gruesome lyrics depicting himself as drugged out, violent, almost criminal. But as his music tumbled deeper into the abyss, the acclaim and success he found skyrocketed. Future's character is both enthralling and disturbing: The content of his drawling verses will shock you—if you manage to pay attention. He is the super-villain incumbent of trap: Dark, brooding, and dangerous.
In 2015, Future managed to put out a universally acclaimed album (DS2), catch the interest of pop-star/Internet-meme Drake, release a mixtape with him, sell over 300,000 units of said mixtape in its first week, and somehow bring Kanye West—an artist known for influencing others—to scrape up a track (“FACTS”) that was clearly inspired by Future’s sound. He had a spectacular year, and it’s clear how good he feels about that on EVOL. The concerning lines are still around (“I wanna fuck the DA lady in her mouth, though”), the beats are still drone-heavy, but here Future moves past his lean-infused sound to something much more triumphant: On EVOL, he becomes a real super-villain.
Tracks like “Maybach” display Future mixing classic braggadocio with his corrupted, drug-abusing persona. Desperate grasps for more confidence, like “I get better and better with time, don’t I?” sound natural. “Lil Haiti Baby” expands on this, putting Future on a beat Lil Wayne could’ve rapped over on Tha Carter IV. Booming bass underscores Future’s raspy boasts, before the song collapses into a darker, familiar tale of violence and addiction. “Xanny Family,” with stripped down beats and surprisingly clear vocals, is a sobering break between the two, almost reminding the listener that the rapper Future is an actual person, and he might be suffering—the title of the album is LOVE spelt backwards. There are more than a few moments within songs where that thought wanders to the forefront, before retreating back into the darkness.
As the second half of the album descends into more generic tracks, including “Lie to Me,” a strange almost-love-ballad, and a weaker rehash of better songs from previous albums, like “Jersey” or “Jumpman,” with “Program,” Future grows more removed from our world. The Weeknd provides the only feature on the album, and practically blends into the overall flow out of Future’s mind, since he is essentially his R&B counterpart. The lingering introspection of “Fly Shit Only” rounds out the album, and it’s unfamiliar, striking production leaves the listener confused and wondering who exactly the real Future is. EVOL is entertaining, disturbing, and enthralling at times, but the true emotions, beliefs, and motivations of its protagonist remain a mystery.
Future, but louder than usual.
I did what I had to do, I ran in that bitch I didn't have a mask / I did what I should have did, survive through the trenches and look like a man