In the year and a half since Future poured out his muddy vocals into the mainstream with his hit-laden debut, Pluto, several acts emerged with their own spin on his Auto-Tune-aided approach. Future’s off-kilter brand of cosmically influenced trap-hop was once his special sauce–the thing that separated him from the pack. But with newcomers swerving into his lane with no regard for his career’s safety, can the Dungeon Family grand-baby continue to carry the torch and light his path from the trap to the pop charts on his sophomore effort, Honest?
1. Less Auto-Tune, More Autobiography
The infamous voice correction software remains alive and well six years after Jay-Z’s assassination attempt. However, on Honest, Auto-Tune is much more of a side dish to the main course of emotionally wrought truthisms. In just the third verse of the acoustic guitar-accented “Special,” Future puts an entire album’s worth of self-reflection (“Codeine calm my nerves I was getting high since a kid/I took all my problems and I turned it all into hits.”) on Front Street like an evicted family’s heirlooms and mementos. The rawness repeats throughout the album, from the intro “Look Ahead” to the solemn closer “Blood, Sweat, Tears.”
This album is not made for headphones, not even the kind that reel in $3.2 billion. Honest‘s southern mating call, provided by frequent collaborators Mike WiLL Made It, Metro Boomin’ and others, is built for speakers, preferably those that can withstand subterranean bass. The aforementioned Mike WiLL, with co-producer J-Bo, offers an especially eardrum-popping example on the Wiz Khalifa-featuring, “My Momma.”
3. Putting On The Hits
Future is a proven hitmaker, and that hasn’t changed on Honest. Case in point: Mike WiLL’s atonal single “Move That Dope.” It uses an earworm of a hook that’s as compelling as a gun pointed to the small of your back, making it nearly impossible to keep your mouth from forming a sinister sneer. While “Move That Dope,” “Honest,” and “Sh*t” are currently tearing up the airwaves, another Mike WiLL Made It co-production, “T-Shirt,” holds immense potential as well.
4. Big Name Guests
Wiz Khalifa, Drake, Pharrell, and Pusha T all make strong appearances, with Pusha and Pharrell nearly stealing the show from Future and his Freebandz artist Casino on the aforementioned “Move That Dope.” Wiz Khalifa sounds more like an aggressor than a permasmmile-wearing pothead on “My Momma,” and Andre 3000 continues to annoy by rapping so well–albeit infrequently–as he guests on “Benz Friendz.” Kanye West also joins the proceedings as he and Future attempt to take the objectification of women to its next logical step on “I Won.” ‘Ye straddles the line of crass and clever as only he can with lines like “I made it over NBA, NFL players/So every time I score it’s like the Super Bowl.” However, the collaboration does not quite meet the high expectations created by the advance track listing.
5. Honest Opinion
Future’s 2012 debut Pluto, which leaned heavily on Auto-Tune, was a unique and satisfying melange of several disparate influences. In the meantime, while we were trying to figure out if he was a singer or a rapper, Future made the distinction less important by continuing to work and becoming more ubiquitous than ever. His hooks remain catchy; his voice and cadences continue to command attention and sound fresh; and with the added depth and personal reflection, he’s become a more well-rounded artist. While Honest doesn’t quite raise the bar as high as expected, it will satisfy his core fans, and may make believers out of some naysayers.