Release Date: July 21, 2015
Nobody has ever gotten laid by announcing that they were going to wear shoes while f—king. The mental image of someone nude, except for their sandals, is absurd. It barely registers as sexual; nude-plus-shoes is totally the domain of the British guy streaking across the pitch of a soccer stadium being chased by security, Keystone Cops-style.
However, there is (at least) one man who f—ks while wearing shoes: “I just f—ked your bitch in some Gucci flip-flops” is literally the first thing Future says on “Thought It Was a Drought,” the opening song of his egregiously good new Dirty Sprite 2, one of those albums that, for a large swath of rap fans, seems destined to be hogtied to the summer of 2015. The footwear could signify him running through women in the most efficiently flagrant manner possible. Or he could be too lazy to get fully naked. Maybe he just rapped it because it sounded cool, and he doesn’t know why he said it either. Future is an enigma stuffed in a double-cup of mystery.
Dirty Sprite 2 is a tremendous compendium of everything you want from a Future album in 2015: alien scream-rap anthems (bonus track “F—k Up Some Commas,” “I Serve the Base,” “Groupies”), hypnotic anti-pop (“Stick Talk,” “Rotation”), and the sort of dramatic tracks that seem tailor-made for imagining yourself looking cool while doing stuff in slow motion (“Slave Master,” “Rich $ex,” “Blood on the Money,” “The Percocet & Stripper Joint”). If I had the money and time, I would buy a thousand copies and stand in the middle of the street giving them out to strangers.
Many will be tempted to isolate certain lines from DS2 as something of a newfound mission statement for the Atlanta rapper, whether it’s his admission that the “Best thing I ever did was fall out of love” from “Kno the Meaning,” or when he says on “Serve the Base,” “[They] tryna make a pop star and they made me a monster.” And sure, these are explanations of how Future’s music has slowly evolved into something a little weirder, a little more polished, a little more sure of itself. He’s definitely coming off a high-profile breakup with Ciara, and after his sophomore album Honest failed to do the sort of numbers one might expect of an album featuring André 3000, Kanye West, and “Move That Dope,” Future certainly had to do a bit of musical regrouping. But to credit his recent musical successes to this stuff is to buy into narratives that don’t actually exist — it’s not like he was writing exclusively love songs while he was with Ciara, and Honest contained some of the best material of his career.
Anyone with ears will probably pick up on the prevailing theme of Dirty Sprite 2, which… well, to hear Future tell it, the guy’s an addict. As he says on bonus add-on “Percoset…,” “I just need a whole ‘lotta drugs in my system.” Sometimes he seems sad about this fact of his reality, sometimes happy, but most often he feels nothing. If you guzzle enough lean and pop enough pills to the point where you convince yourself that becoming high isn’t just your new normal but is actively working to create a better, more dynamic, and bolder you, then drugs cease to be a crutch; they’re a cape. Title on down, Dirty Sprite 2 is, to put a fairly blunt point on it, drug music.
Still, it’s not like Future needs to be loaded to make good tunes, or that he’d even advocate for anybody else to get loaded, as his fellow Atlanta rapper OG Maco recently claimed on Twitter. But enjoyable music can hail from a fundamentally unsafe place. Baseless moralizing can insult the intelligence of the listener, and the people predisposed to do drugs are going to do drugs regardless of whether or not the man born Nayvadius Wilburn mumbles, “I just tried acid for the first time / I feel good.”
Future is the rare artist who reaches both his musical and commercial peaks simultaneously. It’s not that DS2 is necessarily “better” than the pop stardom bid Honest or his (inter)stellar debut Pluto or any of his number of mixtapes in between. The best tracks off of those records stand up against the best tracks on DS2. But while the highs are still extremely high, DS2’s lows aren’t all that low. Where his previous output inevitably contained tracks that, while not necessarily clunkers, were just uninteresting (“Blood, Sweat, Tears,” “Homicide”); but one would be loath to find an expendable song here. Between this and the three-mixtape run of 56 Nights, the Zaytoven collaboration Beast Mode, and Monster, Future has flooded the marketplace with enough top-shelf music to sustain the entire careers of several lesser artists.
My favorite recent Future song isn’t even on Dirty Sprite 2; it’s Monster’s “Codeine Crazy,” an ode to lean that sort of serves as Future’s own personal “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” It’s halfway between the gutter and the stars and rich with internal rhyme, as Future rattles off a laundry list of achievements, only to end up watching a stripper at Strokers. It almost freezes him up, as he realizes he used to do drugs with her but can’t remember her name. It’s heavy, the sort of moment of clarity that comes halfway through a binge before sucking you back under. Sip on that and you might just approach in flagrante delicto with your shoes still on.