I’m Strictly Stressing Dirty Dirty: Future’s ‘DS2’

Obey your thirst.
By    July 28, 2015


Just the other day Paul Thompson called me from school.

I’m in Sedona, Arizona, and everyone in my hotel hates me. That’s because my lovely girlfriend and I are eating up the entirety of the resort’s bandwidth downloading our two (2) legally purchased, fully paid for, Counts Toward Billboard copies of Dirty Sprite 2. Because hasn’t Future given us enough? In six months, the Atlanta soft drink advocate dropped enough great music to rule an entire Presidential administration. So if the couple in the room underneath us have to stop arguing and take their shitty kids to the pool, so be it.

How did we get here? Future is the fulcrum on which all of your Twitter hyperbole hinges, and that’s probably how it should be. Nearly everyone who gave his 2012 debut, Pluto, the time it deserved loved it. But Future was thrust into the mainstream as a perpetual singles machine. It worked for Magic City (and their perpetual singles machines), but not for Nayvadius the artist. By the time the long-delayed, woefully underrated Honest came out last May, fans were tired. The slow creep of the album’s middle section and its happy monogamy didn’t fly with a public that couldn’t pull the trigger on buying Styrofoam stock.

That would be the low water mark before a quick rush toward universal acclaim. A highly-publicized breakup from Ciara, Future’s fiancee and the mother of his child (named Future), was the catalyst. Monster spun the split into divorced-dad revenge fantasy, where the angry guy at the bar is drinking codeine and checking out cowboy hats on Etsy. He was Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling’s characters from Crazy Stupid Love rolled into one guy who was fine catching felonies. Both Beast Mode and 56 Nights are on the running short list for the year’s best rap record. And as his cousin would tell you, he deserves it.

At his very best (“Straight Up,” “March Madness,” “Shit“), Future has been able to leverage bizarre stylistic bents in the service of pointed, potent emotions. These usually come in the form of those intense outbursts or, on an “Honest” or a “Turn on the Lights,” a sort of reflection that’s frenzied, but righteous and forward-moving. In other words, a good Future record articulates one feeling, fully and completely. If the engine of a song is something that’s bothering him, the problem is crumpled up until all that’s left is a single thought that can be spit out through a sneer. “I spent a check on that pussy.”

There’s a sense that Future’s life has come unraveled, that this wonderful tear is a midlife crisis blown up in Technicolor and (barely) cut with soda. That’s only partially true. If you look at his creative output and ignore for a second the Seahawks, you’ll notice the Dungeon Family’s weirdest and most deserving torch-bearer has actually been bearing down, narrowing the scope of each release. (All you need to know about Monster is that Future calls “Fuck Up Some Commas” a “feel-good song.”) Think about it: In 2015, whether Future is headed to a funeral or to a bathtub full of strippers, how often has he sounded confused?

Now, that honing mechanism is put to the test. Dirty Sprite 2 is an exercise in form that, while it sounds familiar at first pass, throws Future’s songwriting playbook out the window. For the first time, the guy who this weekend claimed the devil is jealous of him is rapping around the issue, trying to make sense of what’s eating at him. The first four lines are:

“I just fucked your bitch in some Gucci flip-flops/
I just had some bitches and I made ’em lip-lock/
I just took a piss and I seen codeine coming out/
We got purple Actavis–I thought it was a drought?”

Dirty Sprite 2 has two prevailing moods, and they often overlap to the point of confusion. They’re ‘profoundly sad’ and ‘bemused.’ “Thought It Was a Drought” is the latter–Future’s always enjoyed being rich and famous, and instead of wading into the woe-is-me-waters, he’ll still enjoy cuckolding you, but now he can step back and smirk. “They don’t like it when you tell them the truth/ I’d rather be realer than you.” On the rattling “I Serve the Base,” the opening question–“You would fuck a rich nigga for the fame, won’t you?”–is less scathing than it is slyly understanding.

(It’s important to note that there’s a counterpoint to Future’s cackling at the fourth wall: “Kno the Meaning” is relegated to bonus track status, but it speaks soberly about the rapper’s closest friends, especially DJ Esco’s stint in a Dubai jail that birthed 56 Nights.)

But for the most part, Dirty Sprite 2 is acutely unsettling. Danny Brown’s 2013 opus, Old, split itself in two, the drug-fueled party songs pitted against what Brown knew from years of experience to be the fallout. Future makes the two inextricable. On “Slave Master,” he cries, “I pour two zips, nigga, I’m feeling way better,” and you don’t believe him. “Blood on the Money” catches him “in the laundromat all day,” stacking money, but the stacks don’t get any higher. “I’m finally in the mood to fuck your bitch on the beach,” he raps, and it’s biting enough that you can tell he means it, but labored enough that it’s not exciting anymore. Rinse, spin, rinse, spin, rinse, spin.

Metro Boomin–whose work on the album would be Grammy-worthy if that were a compliment–laces “Stick Talk” with the kind of foreboding music you hear before the antihero dies.  On the surface, it’s a song about buying cars. Is this how Future feels when he buys cars? Is there a creeping sense of dread that swallows him whole as he drives off the lot? The “Fame Is Empty And Illusory” angle doesn’t quite fit, since the consumption seems to be the only thing anchoring Future’s moods, both on “Stick Talk” and elsewhere.

To wit: “Rich $ex” is, on its own, a perfectly good song about fucking with lots of jewelry on. But in context, it’s eerie, mechanical, flat. Maybe it’s all the minor keys in “Colossal,” which comes directly before, or maybe it’s that he hasn’t made a “Turn on the Lights” since he made “I Won.”

(Disclaimer: I don’t think I’ve ever had rich $ex, but the towels in Sedona were very expensive.)

None of this is to imply that Dirty Sprite 2 is anything less than a great rap record. It’s corrosive, but it’s supposed to be. In fact, it might even be a public service announcement: drugs can be invigorating; drugs can also be part of a destructive cycle; OG Maco will be working at a laundromat in seven years, taking the bus home and praying to the Nancy Reagan shrine in his closet.

There are moments, of course, where Future’s Future-ness cuts through the dark cloud he’s in. “Groupies” is positively vicious and should be played only at the most crucial times, like when you are waking up or are awake or are afraid you might fall asleep. “Where Ya At” is just menacing enough, and Future’s contribution pairs nicely with Drake’s verse, which was written by Emilio Esteves on the set of D2: The Mighty Ducks in 1993.

Dirty Sprite 2 isn’t a collection of all-purpose bangers, nor is it a careful study of Future’s psyche. What it is is his third genuinely great LP in four years, complete with the best song ever about fucking a famous woman (but not only that famous woman, and not too many times in a row) and a bonus cut that sounds very much like an Outkast Outtake. It also runs Future’s list of great songs released this year into the mid 30s. I thought it was a drought?

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