Future’s Purple Reign mixtape hit the Web today with a bang—both because of the surprise and because it arrives on the heels of well-publicized tabloid drama between the moody croon-rapper, his ex Ciara, and her current beau, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. The tabloid backstory isn’t crucial to appreciating the music on Purple Reign, however, which consists of decent-yet-unremarkable drug-raps and braggadocio. It’s all pretty standard at this point, but that doesn’t mean Metro Boomin, Zaytoven, and Southside don’t keep things interesting—even if it’s all a bit rote.
The drama swirling around the star is a bit more interesting than much of the music on Purple Reign, and it couldn’t be timed better. Dropping a mixtape on the very day Wilson’s Seahawks faced off against the Carolina Panthers in the playoffs is just too juicy to be dismissed as coincidence by fans and commentators, but it won’t matter much in the long term (Wilson’s team lost, for those keeping score). Whether or not Future sustains his run of stellar mixtapes will be determined by what’s actually on the project, not the various hashtags accompanying its arrival.
And the music isn’t bad.
“Drippin (How U Luv That)” is probably the catchiest song here. “I’m at the Four Seasons like I’m on vacation,” Future chants over the percolating percussion and dark synths that have become Metro Boomin’s sonic trademarks. Future’s boasts always sound half-cocky and half-broken. When he says “I’m standing on the bar—how u luv that?” it resembles a plea, like he’s trying to convince himself that it means as much as he hopes it does to the listener. The dope tale of “Inside the Mattress” dwells on the surface of racks and packs stashed in a Sealy, before Future suddenly goes emo: “Gotta keep an eye on my generals. Gotta keep it real with some criminals,” as if he just realized the toll the life was taking on him. “If I had a million. Get a island like Gilligan,” he adds, before directing his attention to a former lover. “If I did this for you, it came from the heart.”
The twinkling chimes backing “Salute” offer a bit of a break from the morose bounce of the rest of the tracks here, with DJ Spinz and K Major giving Future his flossiest moment. “Hater Shit” is another example of Future staying in his lane yet managing to still sound engaged. The Atlanta rapper’s voice remains barely above a whisper as he brags about hitting ya baby mama on the carpet and dubs himself a Martian. Again, standard Future territory, but you’ll be bouncing to it in spite of yourself.
On “Perky’s Calling,” he’s wallowing in hazy drug-induced contempt—blasting haters, lack of money, and scandalous women over sparse piano chords. It’s a solid track, but an ode to pills feels awkward after statements the rapper made earlier this week claiming that his drug habit is purely fiction. In an interview with Clique, he said that he’s merely playing up an image.
“I’m not like super-drugged out or [a] drug addict,” he said. “My music may portray a certain kind of image and I know it’s some people that might be super drugged-out and they listen to the music like, ‘Ay thank you, you speaking for me,’ and then some people that’s not [super drugged-out] that feel like, ‘Man I don’t have to do drugs, I can listen to Future and feel like I’m on something,’ and don’t have to try [drugs]. I don’t do it for you to really have to live that type of life.When the interviewer pointed out how often he raps about drugs, Future added: “Yeah, because I feel like that’s the number one thing everybody likes to talk about. It’s a catch.”Whether you think he’s an addict downplaying his addiction or an entertainer promoting a dangerous lifestyle, it’s understandable to wonder why an artist would dedicate so much time to a subject if it doesn’t mean something to him.
Now that Future has become one of the most ubiquitous artists in the game, here’s hoping he breaks out of his set pattern a bit going forward. He’s moved from hungry-star-on-the-rise to the top of hip-hop’s hierarchy. He doesn’t have anything else to prove; he just needs to focus his energy on pushing himself creatively in the service of something truly daring. Or he could keep finding himself in the tabloids and churning out consistently listenable but by-the-numbers tracks that keep his base happy. Yes, Purple Reign is uniformly solid. There’s nothing wrong with “solid,” but for an artist who’s established such a quirkily unique persona, it’s time to strive for something greater.