Future - EVOL Review

In which Super Future plays super villain.

Future EVOL

What a time to be a Future fan.

Future is enjoying a creative peak. At the top of the year, he dropped a solid mixtape dubbed Purple Reign. His status as the prince of trap music was never in doubt. Purple Reign didn't necessarily enhance the argument; it was par for the course.

Three weeks later, the Freebandz leader reloaded with a dark and vicious album, EVOL (LOVE backwards, in case you hadn't work that out within three seconds of seeing the title).

Where Purple Reign struck me as a grab bag of Futurisms, garnished with the type of half-baked toss-offs usually reserved for free mixtapes, EVOL is more focused and refined.

It's also souffle-like--at once forceful and vulnerable. And too many of the songs importune the listener so aggressively that you feel compelled to empathize with Future’s reckless abandon.

Despite the title's romantic play, few songs glance at circumstances around romance. In fact, “Low Life” is the only thing that resembles a love song on EVOL. It's deceptively steamy yet downcast and detached.

Future has made a career of showing strength in vulnerability, while reveling in champagne baths, wild sex and drug cocktails at the same time. And green is a constant backdrop on his albums. “A lot of money will make a b— evil,” he raps on “Program.” Later, on the same song, he testifies: “I’m married to this money, what’s the program?” Future is still discovering his priorities.

Somewhere in the wake of his last album, 2014’s Honest, Future seemed to gain wings as hip-hop’s most prolific album maker. He’s dropped several formidable projects since that last effort, including DS2, 56 Nights, What a Time to Be Alive and Purple Reign.

He also became an anti-hero. The man famous for the sentimental and playful "Turn on the Lights" ended a widely publicized relationship with Ciara ended on allegations of infidelity.

On "Low Life," he doubles down: "If she catch me cheating, I will never tell her sorry." These are the words of a super villain.

The plot thickened when Future teamed up with budding anti-hero Drake on What a Time to Be Alive to quip about, among other things, the annoyance of seeing another man around your daughter.

Future has grown increasingly restless with each release, evidenced by his prolific output over the last two years. He's on a run that rivals 06-08 Lil Wayne. It's as if he's in a hurry to get his thoughts and ideas down on wax.

EVOL is distinct yet familiar. How many different ways can you rap about sippin' lean? How many different ways can you brag about poppin' pills? How many different ways can you rap about poppin' tags?

It hews to the formula Future has perfected over the past two years: a small cast of inner-circle producers (Metro Boomin, Southside), a brief run time (39 minutes), and a lone guest artist to shake things up (The Weeknd).

“Lil Haiti Baby” is a propulsive anthem set to a thunderous, Lex Luger-indebted drum beat (courtesy of Moe Goonie and TeeLow). "In Her Mouth" is Future fantasizing about doing unspeakable things to a district attorney a la Jimmy McNulty and Rhonda Pearlman on The Wire.

The Weeknd is here, sounding like a man who wandered into the hotel bar in gym shorts on "Low Life."

A rapper who has been branded as a druggie responds with an eyeroll on "Xanny Family." If Rihanna made an ANTI rap album, it would probably sound like EVOL. In a sense, this is Future's ANTI.

EVOL thrives on Future's prodigious skill and status as a vital voice in the resurgent trap scene. Its wider significance notwithstanding, it’s thoroughly enjoyable. The content is familiar. The execution is admirable.

Album coda "Fly Sh*t Only" served as the backdrop of a Beats by Dre commercial during Super Bowl 50. As Panthers star Cam Newton worked out in the 30-second spot, we heard Future pray:

"Dear God, people say you should be yourself, but they never considered me. I know you molded me different.

You placed purpose on my shoulders. So now I come to you. Lord, give me the strength to finish this my way.”

Given EVOL’s exercise in power and creative control, Future should consider his prayer answered.