“Toxic” is both the best and the worst thing that can happen to Future. During his four immortal projects in the mid-2010s—Freak, beast mode, 56 nightsand dirty pixie 2– the word has become the determining trait of his personality. As he emerged as one of rap’s biggest superstars, it was as if his conscience was telling him one thing and his masculinity another. But “toxic” also flattened the emotional complexity and thoughtfulness of Future’s songwriting. He wrote dark sagas about self-inflicted heartaches; candid reflections on the medications he blamed for his pain and relied on to cure it as well; spinning joints on a life of layered luxury with the feeling that he was overcompensating for lost love. Often on these tapes he could go through all of these feelings in one verse, blurring reality and myth.
But since then, despite some great moments, especially those of 2017 HNDRXX—Future has increasingly become a caricature of itself. His writing began to feel one-dimensional, embellishing Future’s character with even more devious lines. His stories contained errors and melodrama, but lately it feels like the goal is to get one out of the women he sings about. His last album I never loved you– the title sounds like a breaking note passed in the back of a college class – has the ingredients of a very good Future album but lacks the depth. He plays it safe by continuing to lean too hard on the schtick.
Yet Future is such a skilled rapper and singer that his songs are quite fun even when the lyrics seem routine. “I’m Dat Nigga” introduces a bunch of subtle but thrilling changes to its flow: it speeds up for one verse, slows down for the next, and at the end, it’s in bragging monologue mode. The weirdness of “Puffin on Zootiez” might make you think Future says more than it actually is, but that’s okay because its rhythmic yet fast delivery and ornate instrumental carry the song. . The repetitive but memorable “Chickens” is a highlight, as Future embraces his character’s cartoonish side and receives a fresh burst of energy from the menace of EST Gee.
But Gee is the only collaboration on the album that feels inspired; the others are so stereotyped that they are indistinguishable. Check out “Wait For U” with Drake: Sampling Tems’ “Higher” is a cheat code for a catchy song, but Future and Drake are on such autopilot that I’d rather listen to the original. The other joint with Drake, “I’m on One”, wouldn’t even have made the cut for What a time to live. “For a Nut,” featuring Young Thug and Gunna, is rock bottom. The song is supposed to be a sleazy, dark good time, but the lyrics are so silly they sound more like a parody.