Before even getting into the contents of Future’s Beast Mode, his first release of 2015, it’s important to note that he’s setting a trend for the year that other rappers should deign to follow: This mixtape is only nine songs long. There are no boner-wagging freestyles and no egregious skits. But one can’t help but wonder, does the Free Bandz head honcho have some repenting to do?
After a messy axing of his engagement to R&B crunk luminary and baby’s mother Ciara, he released one of the most subtly homoerotic, misguided rap songs of 2014, ‘Pussy Overrated’. The Mike Will-produced Wiz Khalifa collaboration came on the heels of the breakup, as well as the dissolution of Wiz’s marriage to model Amber Rose. While the track didn’t target these two women specifically, the track was overwrought with misogyny. (But, frankly, those two weed-heads might think pussy is overrated because they’re too blunted to know what’s going on in bed.) If this were Future’s only misstep of the year, it might be ever-so-slightly forgivable, but his sophomore full-length Honest was lacking.
He is the kind of rapper who gets into your soul, and the cuts he delivered on Pluto were both ferocious party-bangers (‘Tony Montana’, ‘Same Damn Time’) and emotional (‘You Deserve It’, ‘Turn On the Lights’). Though he tried to achieve the same thing with Honest, the romance of ‘I Won’ – where he refers to his partner as a trophy and employs Kanye West, more believably, to do the same – and ‘I Be You’ had a sense of translucence that foretold the end of CiBandz. He had some scores with posse cut ‘Move That Dope’ (the kind of thing he and Mike Will should be making) and ‘Benz Friendz’ with Andre 3000, which brought Future back to his Dungeon Family roots, but it was, ultimately a muddled project and the end of 2014 demanded a refocusing for the rapper.
He has found it in Beast Mode – and not just because of its brevity. The project, which is solely produced by Zaytoven, is a reminder that the producer has a deft control over the ivories and southern-fried twinklers. His ability to bring out some of the fiercest vocals from Atlanta’s finest is brought to light here, especially after the shine on those skills has been dimmed for some time. This is particularly apparent on mixtape opener ‘Oooooh’ featuring Young Scooter (who we need more from this year), and on ‘Peacoat’; the latter, however, is more Zaytoven’s place to shine than Future’s. More mumbly than Gucci Mane in Spring Breakers, Future name-drops Hermes, Burberry and other high-end designers to let you know he “spent a check on the pussy” – it is, apparently, not that overrated – before launching into a stream-of-consciousness pseudo-rap about outerwear and spilling booze on girls’ twats. He may be known for Auto-Tuned crooning, but Future has always had a certain grip on enunciation. To have him sound so uncommitted on a track about sex is a bit of a head-scratcher and supports the fact that he is probably in a place of hurt.
The following track, ‘Just Like Bruddas’, is another mealy-mouthed affair but, with a careful listen, it sheds light on some of the internal pain Future is probably going through. It starts with the tired trope of deconstructing the toll of fame on your relationships, namely with your friends, but there is one line that hits the hardest: “Shit ain’t been the same / They talkin’ about me on the ’Gram / Saying I turned my back on my baby mama.” This is where Beast Mode’s sense of brevity fails, though. Future could have gone in harder, explored more of his personal anguish or his mistakes. He has been open about love so often in the past, so it’s a strange choice to not keep that going, one he’ll hopefully ameliorate in time.
Another odd moment on the tape appears earlier; along with Juvenile, Future remakes Clipse’s kinetic Hell Hath No Fury threat ‘Ain’t Cha’ into the syrupy and slinky ‘Aintchu’. There is something to be said about paying homage to the classics. He’s accentuating a time before Kanye gave Pusha T his second pair of wings and brings in Juvie to remind you that some of the greats still got it, but this was not a song that needed to be touched; nothing from Fury does. It’s just another place to hide emotion and for Zaytoven’s glimmering production to take center stage.
Future: let the floodgates open. The people love you when you punch them in the gut with your feelings. It’s not there yet, but Beast Mode is an excellent place to start. No need to hide anymore.