For reasons not confined to the music, Dirty Sprite 2 seems like the biggest moment of Future’s career. Honest, his last album, settled into a groove he seemed to be struggling to carve out, and he quite literally found his heavily-modified voice in its depths. A few months after the album was released, Future and his pop-star fiancé, Ciara split. Quickly, the breakup began spilling into his music and the three mixtapes he’s just released leading up to this album have ranged from vengeful to petty, and Future has been brazenly dope the whole way. Instead of recoiling during his turmoil, Future has lived it out in the booth, and through his lowest—and in another sense, his highest—points he’s made some of his best music.
On DS2 Future remains one of the most versatile and vulnerable rappers in play. His voice itself as an instrument, tweaked constantly with Autotune to varying degree and effect, is not only his greatest asset, it’s as sure as it’s ever been. In a recent documentary produced by Elliott Wilson, one piece of an admirably organic album rollout, Future hums “London Bridge Is Falling Down” during an in-studio interview. “When you love music you go back to those references, at times, in your music, just for the melody part of it,” he says, before segueing into his own hook for Lil Wayne’s “Good Kush and Alcohol,” an equally simple line. It’s a self-referential moment that peels back at Future’s knack for songwriting, his ear for nursery rhyme simplicity in melody is genius. He’s also never been selfish about that penchant for catchiness, having penned songs for the likes of Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, and, of course, Ciara. DS2, as ever, proves Future’s own voice is still his best outlet.
DS2 doesn’t crawl away from the Ciara breakup and particularly given the PG-for-public nature of the singer’s current relationship—she and Russell Wilson are reportedly not having sex until marriage—it’s hard not to take some of the album as a sort of jab from Future. In the same week that DS2 was released, Ciara shared a video for her single “Dance Like We’re Making Love” and Russell Wilson hosted the Kids’ Choice Sports Awards. As his ex and her new flame are cozying up to the mainstream as a couple, Future is rapping about kinky sex and freaking hoes at the peak of his own career and appeal. There’s a bragginess to most of Future’s exploits, but he’s also obviously still depressed, and he’s never running away from that either. “I just f-cked your b-tch in some Gucci flip-flops,” are the first words rapped on the record, and when the verse of that same song rolls around, Future begins, “B-tch, I’ma choose the dirty over you / You know I ain’t scared to lose you.” It’s a manifesto. And as the album’s opener “Thought It Was A Drought” also confirms the DS2 title as something that binds the songs together, Future is burrowing deeper and deeper into his codeine use and the drugs have become his most reliable muse.
The beginning of DS2 runs in spurts. The first three tracks function as brooding turn-up, the next four—from “Groupies” to “Freak Hoe”—sound downright menacing. “Groupies” has a beat that might curdle blood in the right setting, “Lil One” is a scary street anthem. Future’s insecurity and depression sneak out unrestrained on songs like “Slave Master,” “Percocet and Stripper Joint,” and “Blood on the Money.” On that second song Future raps about taking a “dose of percocet with some strippers,” it’s an ice-cold gloat, and on the same song he raps, “treasure brings misery.” He dives deeper into the addiction on that last song, singing, “I can’t help the way I’m raised up / That Easter Pink, I tried to give it up, I can’t give it up.” He later raps, “I take a dose of them pills and I get real low in the field.” The sentiment and drug use is sad, not fun, but it’s also scary. When Future pays tribute to A$AP Yams at the end of “Slave Master” it’s unsettling. “Long live A$AP Yams,” he mumbles, “I’m on that codeine right now.” It’s a bitterly tongue-in-cheek homage, celebrating Yams with the drug that killed him.
The cleverness in DS2’s potential for commercial success is that it’s hard to imagine most of the album’s listeners having heard the first Dirty Sprite mixtape, and yet Future’s original fans can still appreciate the nod to some of his best early-career output. In a lot of ways, as a rapper at least, he’s figured it out, carrying his mixtape zeal into a more polished package. DS2 is likely Future’s most well-rounded to date: there’s the emotional distress he’s earned as a hallmark, the irresistible street anthems he’s barked out his whole career, and the already proven hits like “F*ck Up Some Commas.” DS2 is far from an introduction, and if anything, the album fits narrowly into a specific moment of Future’s life and career. That he’s made it so relatable is a marvel, but it’s also worrying. The guy is going through it. At least he’s inviting us along for the ride.
Stream Future’s Dirty Sprite 2 album on Spotify below.
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