Future Pledges Allegiance to Highs & Lows of Self-Medication on 'Dirty Sprite 2': Album Review

Future
Album Review
3.5
Courtesy of Epic Records
<p>On <em>DS2</em>, the third major label album from Atlanta's <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/302577/future" target="_blank">Future</a>, the rapper makes things clear from the outset: "I just f---ed your bitch in some Gucci flip-flops," he announces on opener "Thought It Was a Drought." He then admits to drinking so much codeine-laced "dirty Sprite" that it colors his urine, declaring, "Bitch, I'm a choose the dirty over you/ You know I ain't scared to lose you." There's no civility to be found here. A year after splitting from singer <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/299324/ciara" target="_blank">Ciara</a>, his ex-fiancee/son's mother with whom he's still publicly feuding, Future is defiantly marking his allegiances -- and they're not to any genteel sensibilities. <em>DS2</em> is a heavy dose of medication as entertainment, and it's not for those with a low tolerance.</p><p><em>DS2</em> is short for <em>Dirty Sprite 2</em>, his 2011 breakthrough mixtape, but it's not a sequel as much a course correction. Future's first two studio albums -- 2012's <em>Pluto</em> and last year's <em>Honest</em>, recorded during his courtship of Ciara -- were thick with A-list guests and songs that vied for crossover success, pushing shiny, happy roles he played well but never quite relished. He even released a gleaming love song ("Real and True") with <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/311278/miley-cyrus" target="_blank">Miley Cyrus</a> in 2013. But now? "Tried to make me a pop star and they made me a monster," he rhymes on "I Serve the Base," a droning oath of fealty to street life. "They should a told you I was just a trap n----."</p><p>In the past few years, Future has become one of the most influential, recognizable voices in rap, singing hooks for <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/307264/lil-wayne" target="_blank">Lil Wayne</a> and <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/312259/nicki-minaj" target="_blank">Nicki Minaj</a> and paving the way for artists like Fetty Wap with his starry-eyed, Auto-Tuned warbling. But here, following the lead of his recent mixtapes (<em>Monster</em>, <em>Beast Mode</em> and <em>56 Nights</em>), Future retreats back into lean-filled Styrofoam cups, eschewing pop duets and focusing on internal monologues of regret, ultra-conspicuous consumption and a grinding work ethic. Future's delivery, which drunkenly swings in the dark spaces between <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/310352/meek-mill" target="_blank">Meek Mill</a>'s urgent yelp and <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/419413/weeknd" target="_blank">The </a><a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/419413/weeknd" target="_blank">Weeknd</a>'s forlorn balladry, is put to discomforting effect.</p><p>When he repeatedly intones "Now I'm back f---ing my groupies" on "Groupies," it encompasses nearly everything that he's about now -- meaty chunks of atavistic earworms, glassy stares at objectified women, a detached desire for fame and absurdist egoism. Like <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/301284/drake" target="_blank">Drake</a> (the only other rapper to appear here, on "Where Ya At"), Future has a gift for distilling songs into loglines that speak both specifically and universally. When he confesses that "they got blood on that money and I still count it" on "Blood on the Money," he sounds as broken as anyone who's ever compromised their morals to make ends meet.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fPTJLHjzyEo" frameborder="0" height="315" width="500"></iframe></p><p>Produced by a handful of trusted Atlanta trap producers, <em>DS2</em> is gothic, narcotic and full of overcast skies: The glimmering synths of Zaytoven's "Colossal"; the mutating, minor-chord flourishes of Metro Boomin's "Where Ya At"; the fearful twangs and muted squeals of Southside's "Stick Talk." "Rich Sex" strives to be a sexy, lush R&amp;B song -- but Future sounds more turned on by his own jewelry than his "number one freak in the sheets," as if he's selling a happiness he doesn't believe in.</p><p>Such is the effect of downers -- the pain is real, but the joys ersatz and the escapes empty. Yes, Future started this album off by having sex with a girl while wearing designer sandals. He said it as a boast, but he never said he enjoyed it.</p>