WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE

11.11.15 7:20 AM ET

How Future Became the Hottest Rapper of 2015

Sorry, Young Thug. With two acclaimed No. 1 albums, Atlanta rapper Future wins the title of MC of the Year.

“This is death of auto-tune, moment of silence.”

Back in 2009, hip-hop mogul Jay Z declared auto-tune dead on his track “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune).” Despite taking home his eighth Grammy Award for the fiery rap anthem, Hova was taken to task by none other than Lil Wayne, with Weezy saying, “Keep your auto-tune popping. Auto-tune ain’t dead. You’ve got the whole game using that.”

Weezy clearly won this argument. And just this week, the Young Money founder’s blue chip signee, auto-tune MC Young Thug, took some online shots at fellow Atlanta native (and auto-tune advocate) Future.

It all started when producer Metro Boomin, the hitmaker who’s helmed some of rapper Future’s biggest hits, hopped on Twitter to share his thoughts on others in the industry attempting to repeat Future’s recent recipe for success: namely, mixtapes. Lots of mixtapes.

“Everyday I wake up, new mixtapes are falling out of the sky… I think we all know where the trend came from lol,” Metro tweeted (and later deleted). “And for all you internet niggas who like to tweet like you know everything, I’m not saying he’s the first to do it.”

“But artists have not put this much music out in years, now artists are dropping tapes every month. Everyone was holding their music b4,” he continued.

Since October 2014, Future has released the mixtapes Monster, Beast Mode with Zaytoven, 56 Nights, and What A Time To Be Alive, his collaborative project with Drake. Oh, and he also happened to drop his third studio album, DS2, this past July.

Young Thug took exception to Metro Boomin’s string of tweets, with the rapper calling out the producer for “dick ridin”—and he dissed Future.

“A nigga music couldn’t ever sound nowhere near mines.... ((IM MICHEAL)) he’s ((TITO)),” Thug tweeted. “It’s ok to ride a nigga dick, but don’t agitate another one lil nigga.”

Young Thug released his Barter 6 album back in April, and with his Slime Season and Slime Season 2 mixtapes coming within six weeks of each other this fall, he does seem to at least share Future’s productivity. But the biggest difference is that Future has managed to deliver the goods consistently over that stretch. Thug’s stuff has been well-regarded, but he hasn’t matched Future’s string of releases in listenability or acclaim.

After his initial burst, Young Thug was a bit more contrite.

“I think if you guys were to stop drinking so much cheap liquor and high-tech syrup you would be able to think before speaking and typing,” he tweeted. “I have nun in the world against future I listen to his music His music makes me happy and I hope he continues to bless me and others with it.”

As for Future’s response? He was short but pointed:

That line may sound like a throwaway threat from an early ‘90s hood movie, but Future has earned the right to pop a lil shit.

Future was a bit of an oddity when he broke through with Pluto in 2012. A singsongy, auto-tune-devoted rapper with a knack for catchy hooks, his rise brought fame and derision. His cousin is Rico Wade of Organized Noize and Future had the co-sign of legendary Atlanta rap collective the Dungeon Family, but some still didn’t take to his “astronaut music” style right away. Nonetheless, he became a household name over the next two years—even if Honest seemed like a disappointment after such a noteworthy debut.

But his work ethic was well-established even before he was a star, and he managed to team with guys like Metro Boomin and Zaytoven to start this remarkable run of killer music. At a time when it seemed like fellow Atlanta trap stars like 2 Chainz were also dealing with underperforming albums, Future was able to reset his course for even greater heights by stepping his game up post-Honest. While he hasn’t become a Drake-ian presence in the Top 25 just yet, Future nonetheless catapulted himself ahead of most of the hip-hop pack in 2015 by constantly pumping out new and good music—a trilogy of album-quality mixtapes, a stellar third studio release, and a collaboration with Drake where he manages to turn hip-hop’s biggest hitmaker into a special guest star.

And he’s managed to do this even after the messiness following his broken engagement to singer Ciara. Future complained in interviews with XXL and The Breakfast Club that his former fiancée was being inappropriate by having her current beau, Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, around their young son. The couple went back and forth in the media over the issue, with Future seemingly trying to sway public opinion against his ex—despite rumors (that he denied) that his infidelity caused the split. But none of that controversy seemed to hurt the rapper in the least.

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So, Thugger’s hurt feelings aside, Future has had one helluva year. He and Drake’s What A Time To Be Alive debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 back in September on the heels of DS2 becoming Future’s first album to reach No. 1 on the charts. Future has more than just sustained his career following an underwhelming sophomore effort—he’s thrived and become the most omnipresent popular rapper of 2015.

Thugger’s year has seen him continue as one of hip-hop’s hottest and more controversial personalities. His Barter 6 was well-received but as fans and critics pondered everything from his lingo to his sexuality, he found a way to court conflict with others in the game. In the spring, his name was mentioned in an alleged conspiracy to murder estranged Cash Money superstar Lil Wayne. He engaged in a silly social media war with Game a few weeks later that was eventually squelched via an intervention from mutual friend JoJo Capone. Gender-policing hip-hop fans and commentators swarmed indignantly after he acknowledged a preference for wearing women’s clothing in an interview with GQ, and he even managed to get in a dig at Meek Mill, post-Drake beef. One thing about Young Thug: the guy knows how to generate page views for gossip sites.

If this is Young Thug baiting controversy for publicity—well, that’s pretty much standard Thuggery at this point. Him going after Future right now makes sense in that regard. If he sincerely believes any of the nonsense he tweeted regarding comparisons between them, he should be sure that his mixtape project with Migos, MigoThuggin, is more of a home run than his Slime Season mixtapes—and his forthcoming studio debut Hy!£UN35 needs to at least show that he’s more than just the 2014-15 “hot” rapper of the moment. Instead of dissing Future, Thug should watch the moody croon-rapper work, because Future was actually able to push his career beyond the “hot” status he attained back in 2012-13 to become a real musical force just two years later.

Can’t pretend that everybody saw that coming.