Perhaps no other rapper was better in 2015 than Future, who released his new mixtape “Purple Reign” on Jan. 17. Maybe his “What a Time to Be Alive” collaborator Drake, who both won beefs and topped pop charts. Maybe Kendrick Lamar, whose album “To Pimp a Butterfly” won universal acclaim and a host of Grammy nominations.
But no one churned out as much quality and quantity as Future during 2015. Early in the year he released two killer mixtapes, “Beast Mode” and “56 Nights,” the second of which spawned the smash hit single “March Madness.” He followed this with the hit album “Dirty Sprite 2” in July, and “What a Time” in September. Add atop this pile many, many impressive features.
With the release of “Purple Reign,” it’s clear that Future is wasting no time in his quest to dominate 2016. The tape plays things relatively safe sonically, but there is no slacking when it comes to the rhyming and the melodies. This is another well-made project from one of the most consistently excellent rappers working today.
The devilishly clever mixtape title lays out the premise right from the start: Future’s rule will continue, and it will continue to be wrought with lean abuse. “I just need my girlfriend,” he sings on the beautiful, metaphorical title track. “I’m drankin’ on my lean/I swear to God I would quit,” he admits on the introspective showstopper “Never Forget.”
Regret is preset in abundance on any Future project. He opens up about his drug addiction on standout track “Perkys Calling,” which slows down the pace to a few somber piano keys. “I can hear the purple callin,” he laments on the hook, which makes it clear that he remains codeine crazy.
However, the tape is mostly devoid of talk about his previous relationship with Ciara, which Future has spoken of negatively in his previous works. It appears that he has moved on, but remains uneasy when it comes to the topic of loneliness.
It’s a more vibrant affair on “Purple Reign,” which serves as a victory lap of sorts. From the tentative first few notes of tape opener “All Right,” his hooks and verses are focused on stunting. “You know I be gettin’ that moolah on a daily basis,” he states on matter-of-factly on that track. On “Run Up,” a challenge: “Dare you try to run up.”
And with no features around to help him navigate the waters, he sounds even more in control. Future has honed his artistry to a science, balancing the various responsibilities of making rap music with relative ease. It certainly helps that a stable of talented Southern producers, who take turns fashioning the trap-fueled background, backs him.
The production on “Purple Reign” is much simpler than the usual Future project, especially compared to “Dirty Sprite 2” and “What a Time.” There is a distinct lack of detail present in the various beats, though that is not necessarily a bad thing. As a rapper and a singer, has the skill to make anything work.
The most memorable moment is “Inside the Mattress,” a towering construction of synthesizers and skittering drums with a triumphant Future at the wheel. “Came from the trenches and turned into art,” he raps in the second verse, a succinct summation of his journey.
No, the reign is not over yet. On his latest mixtape, Future shows no real signs of slipping from his lofty perch, although the troubles of his personal life continue to eat away at him.
“I dedicated every damn thing to this/I had to take a loss so I could cherish this s--t,” he proclaims on “Never Forget.” Dedication pays off, but victory doesn’t come without a cost.
Tyler Keating is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.