Future continues his destructive path and plays it safe with ‘Purple Reign’

By Kunal Khunger

(Courtesy of Offical Future Facebook Page)
(Courtesy of Offical Future Facebook Page)

No other hip-hop artist dominated 2015 like Future did. Arguments can be made for Drake and Kendrick Lamar, who both released high-quality projects and enjoyed a large degree of critical acclaim. But only Future was able to release multiple records and maintain high album-quality.

Rebounding from the 2014 commercial and critical failure “Honest,” Future came back with a vengeance, dropping the mixtapes “Monster,” “Beast Mode,” “56 Nights,” his album “Dirty Sprite 2” and finally his victory lap with Drake, “What a Time to Be Alive.” All describing his drug addiction and hedonistic lifestyle, Future pivoted from his attempt at R&B ballads to strictly grimy street anthems and bangers. Now, looking to bring forth his dominance in 2016, Future released his mixtape “Purple Reign.”

“Purple Reign” doesn’t try to significantly rewrite Future’s style and plays it relatively safe­ – both sonically and lyrically. What has been hugely evident throughout his ferocious comeback is that Future’s lyrical capabilities have improved dramatically. “Purple Reign” showcases a more mature artist who consistently makes steps to perfect his craft with every release. Described as being a “warm-up” for 2016 by its creator, this mixtape still manages to showcase quality music – even if it doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of his previous releases.

Metro Boomin and DJ Esco, Future’s right-hand men, executive produced “Purple Reign” and sonically, it returns to Future’s trap roots. Compared to the lush and extravagant sounds of “DS2” and “What a Time to Be Alive,” “Purple Reign” features a more stripped back sound that harkens back to the mixtapes from early in Future’s career. Typical producers like Metro Boomin, Nard & B, DJ Spinz and Southside dominate the project, which does not take any risks and plays it safe. But as always, Future has a strong ear for instrumentals. “Inside the Mattress,” which was produced by Nard & B, sounds like a trap house enclosed in a private jet five-thousand feet up in the air. “All Right,” produced by Metro Boomin, features a snarling beat while Future belts, “You know I’m getting that mulah on a daily basis.”

Future’s lyrics still contain the same darkness and pettiness that characterized him in the past. On “Never Forget,” Future states, “I had to take a loss so I could cherish this s***,” showcasing his self-awareness and that the failure of “Honest” is what really increased the momentum and propelled his aesthetic to the forefront of hip-hop. As always, drugs are a big topic. He characterizes his girlfriend as “lean” on the album-closer “Purple Reign” and moans “I’m drankin’ on my lean/I swear to God I would quit,” on the highlight track “Never Forget.” “Perky’s Calling,” another highlight, features the hook “I can hear the purple callin,” showcasing Future’s subtle hints to his constant struggle with drug dependency. Future has perfected the ability to make pleas for help sound like absolute bangers.

Is “Purple Reign” as good as “Beast Mode” or “56 Nights?” No, not really. The same level of quality is not really present, making this fall more under the “mixtape” category than most of his 2015 releases. Despite that, this “warm-up” is still worth a listen. Future proved himself able to engage an audience’s attention for the long haul and I, for one, cannot wait for Future Hendrix to follow up this mixtape with a more cohesive body of work. Is Future still Codeine Crazy and commanding our attention? Only time will tell.

Kunal Khunger can be reached at [email protected]