Reign Check: Future’s latest a misstep

By Nick Mullen / Staff Writer

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After collaborating with Drake on the popular track “Jumpman,” Future’s latest solo venture won’t be jumping over anybody.

Future released his latest mixtape, “Purple Reign,” on Jan. 17. As his thirteenth mixtape,  the 40-minute collection is 13 tracks of recycled trap motifs and thumping beats, neither of which prove particularly interesting or new.

After finding some recent commercial success with Drake collaborations “Jumpman” and “Big Rings,” Future has established himself as one of the standout voices in mainstream rap. Following his features on popular singles “Bugatti,” off Ace Hood’s 2013 “Trials and Tribulations,” and  “U.O.E.N.O.” off Rocko’s “Gift of Gab 2,”  his public affair with Ciara and a song with Miley Cyrus, Future quickly rose from underground artist to mainstream phenomenon.

“Purple Reign” is Future’s first mixtape since his trilogy of album-quality mixtapes, released in 2014 and 2015. His sophomore release, “Dirty Sprite 2,” found Future musing on his relationship with Ciara, and “What a Time to be Alive” was a grandiose collaborative spectacle by Future and Drake, which even drew tepid comparisons with “Watch the Throne,” the collaborative album between Kanye West and Jay Z.

“Purple Reign” finds Future attempting to return to his roots in the trap life, but his journey home isn’t over yet.

For the violent and fast-paced reputation of trap music, though, this mixtape is a slow burner. “All Right” is one of his most nuanced songs Future, and the ones that follow get progressively more aggressive and hype. “Purple Reign” touches on familiar tropes of trap music, including bleak images of life in harsh urban environments, where street crime and violence are not only common, but a celebrated part of everyday life.

As a genre, trap’s heavy bass, melodic synthesizers and lyrics glorifying drugs, flashing guns and getting money have enjoyed a recent revival, thanks largely to Future and Fetty Wap. The latter’s “Trap Queen” has occupied Billboard Hot 100 for an entire year, and still sits at No. 39.

Future’s rising profile and collaboration with prominent producers Metro Boomin and DJ Esco don’t make him immune to mediocrity, though.

On “All Right”, the first song following “Purple Reign’s” intro, Future starts the mixtape with distant synths, rattling hi-hats and his auto-tuned growl, repeating “all right” twice before launching into the hook. The song then drags through familiar territory, with lines such as, “You know I be gettin’ that moolah on a daily basis, all right,” and “we been on molly, yeah, we been on Xans.”

In the quasi-piano ballad “Perkys Calling,” dedicated to Future’s drug addiction, the rapper speaks honestly about his addictions and the things he’s had to do to fuel them, rapping, “Thinkin’ about them licks I hit I had to/ Thinkin’ about the viewers here, I had you/ Thinkin’ about that cash like it’s fast food.” More than anywhere on the album, Future lets his vulnerabilities show, the cash as empty and fruitless as a hamburger combo.

Future’s lyrics come as a hidden bonus, shadowed by his muffled, auto-tuned voice and party-polished production.  Fancy production doesn’t make “Purple Reign” Future’s best work, though, or close to it.

Despite the star-studded production team, none of his beats come off as memorable bangers, nor do any of the songs on the mixtape rival “Trap Queen” as the genre’s next big hit. While this trap star shows no signs of slowing down, he is definitely coasting.

And with mixtapes in the rap industry coming nearly as often as polished records, an artist’s reputation is seemingly only as good as their last release — a verse, collaboration or otherwise.

In many ways, Future is attempting to return to his past, searching to regain his “Dirty Sprite 2” form— but if “Purple Reign” resembles any kind of soft drink, it’s a flat one. 

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