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June 2018 will go down as one of the most prolific months in hip-hop history, with most of the genre’s modern-day heavyweights dropping new projects at a dizzying clip. Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Drake, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Nas, and TDE stalwart Jay Rock all released full-length albums to hungry fanbases, eager to dissect each and every project loudly over social media. Lost among the shuffle was Future, one of the genre’s leading lights, who unveiled the soundtrack to the remake of the classic blaxploitation film Superfly at the very height of the all the mayhem to a massive thud. Hardly anyone could be bothered to care.
There is, of course, a variety of different explanations for why Future failed to make a dent with that project. Few people in 2018 seemed very interested in the proposition of a Superfly remake in the first place, and far fewer were interested in listening to a soundtrack to a film they had no intention of watching. Add to that the underwhelming returns from his 2017 joint album with Young Thug Super Slimey, and it really felt like Future needed to tap into the monster that made him such a sensation, during that incredible mixtape run back in 2015. And last Friday night, with absolute no warning whatsoever he did just that.
Beastmode 2 arrived with all of the ecstatic fire emojis and atomic bomb gifs that the internet could handle. People had been waiting on this project for roughly two years and the reception was the polar opposite of the collective shrug everyone gave Superfly. As its name suggests, this mixtape is a sequel to the project he cooked up with producer Zaytoven back at the height of Future mania in 2015, and as impossible as it might be for some to people to believe, it might be one of the rare instances where the follow-up matches the quality of the celebrated original. If Beastmode is Rocky, Beastmode 2 is Rocky III at least, and Rocky IV at most.
There’s really something to be said for a vision executed by a sole artist and a sole producer. The mind-meld between Future and Zaytoven is extraordinary, and one of the most compelling characteristics of their new collaboration is how cohesive it all sounds. This was definitely by design. According to producer who spoke with The Fader in an interview published the same time Beastmode 2 dropped, Zay and Future had been cooking this project up for over two years, recording something in the neighborhood of 100 songs along the way and finally drilling down to nine of their best to release out into the world.
“Some were recorded in 2016, 2017, and this year,” he said. “It’s really about finding a combination of songs that work together ‘cause, really, all the songs are dope. But all of ‘em don’t work together as a collective project.” I hope a certain Canadian rap superstar is taking notes.
Throughout Beastmode 2, Future rediscovers the emotionally closed-off, yet wounded and vulgar trapper that captured the dark hearts and ravaged souls of millions of hip-hop fans just three years earlier. This is peak emo Future, wailing away in all of his nihilistic glory over an array of some of Zaytoven’s most affecting piano passages yet. In the first track, “WiFi Lit,” he openly cops to flying a woman out to California, hooking her up with a hotel room, and then not even showing up when she told him she wasn’t interested in having sex. “I left her sitting at the Loews, oh / ‘Cause she wasn’t touching her toes, no.” That’s some cold ass shit, but he’s too busy counting up stacks until his hands cramp up to care. On “31 Days” he’s even more explicit: “I done took a little E / I f*cked her and made her pee.”
There’s only room for one guest spot on this project, but Young Scooter makes the most of his time on the mic during the breakout single contender “Doh Doh.” Over a wall of 808s and a canny sample of the score of the classic N64 video game Goldeneye, Future and Scooter go back-to-back rapping about life in the trap and all the money, blow, weaponry and women that go with it. “I can still touch a mill’ cash when the bank close,” Scooter brags. “Quarter mill’ every month, that’s just for my payroll.”
Beastmode 2 is at its best however when Future turns the spotlight on himself, like on “Racks Blue” where goes deep into his feelings, reflecting on his journey from the ghetto, where his heart still belongs, to the very top of the mountain as a hip-hop rebel, worried now about things like integrity and legacy. “Hate The Real Me,” the album closer, is even more enthralling with Future seeming to lay it all out on the table. He opens up about his fraught childhood and the defining moment of his early life when he was shot in the right hand, changing his mindset forever. He raps about losing the love of his life, Ciara. He even seems to contemplate suicide: “Loading up the cartridge right now, I hate the real me / Voices in my head, ‘you the enemy.’ In the end, it’s all he can do to ingest as much lean as possible to blot out the pain.
Before July 6th, it appeared that the consensus front-runner for rap album of the year was Pusha T’s Daytona, with Jay Rock’s Redemption running in a soft second place. You could also make a compelling argument for Saba’s Care For Me.
Now we have Beastmode 2 to reckon with, and in all honesty, I think I’m inclined to give it top honors. It has everything you could possibly want in a new Future joint. It overflows with darkness, edginess, gorgeous production, confessional lyrics, glittering opulence, and a self-confidence in artistry that’s seemingly at odds with a lack of the same in himself as a human being. Beastmode 2 is an extremely welcome return to form at the exact moment when Future needed it.
Beastmode 2 is out now via Epic Records. Get it here.