Future: I Never Liked You Album Review

“Toxic” is both the best and worst thing to happen to Future. Over the course of his immortal four-project run in the mid-2010s—Monster, Beast Mode, 56 Nightsand Dirty Sprite 2—The word became the defining trait of his persona. As he emerged as one of rap’s biggest superstars, it was like 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 brooding sagas about self-inflicted heartbreak; candid reflections on the drugs that he blamed for his pain and relied on to heal it, too; turn-up joints about a life of luxury layered with the sense that he was overcompensating for lost love. Often on these tapes, he could go through all those feelings in one verse, blurring reality and myth.

But since then, despite some great moments — specifically 2017’s HNDRXX—Future has increasingly become a caricature of himself. His writing started to feel one-dimensional, embellishing the Future persona with even more devious lines. His stories used to contain mistakes and melodrama, but lately it feels like the goal is to get one over on the women he sings about. His latest album I Never Liked You—The title sounds like a breakup note passed in the back of a middle-school classroom — has the ingredients of a really good Future album but lacks the depth of one. It plays it safe by continuing to lean too hard on the schtick.

Still, Future is such a slick rapper and vocalist that his songs are pretty fun even when the lyrics feel routine. “I’m Dat Nigga” introduces a bunch of subtle yet exciting change-ups to his flow: He accelerates for a couplet, slows down for the next, and by the end, he’s in full boastful monologue mode. The eeriness of “Puffin on Zootiez” might make you believe Future is saying more than he actually is, but it’s OK because his downbeat yet rapid delivery and the ornate instrumental carry the song. The repetitive but memorable “Chickens” is a highlight, as Future embraces the cartoonish side of his character and gets a fresh burst of energy from EST Gee’s menace.

But Gee is the only collaboration on the album that feels inspired; the others are so formulaic that they’re indistinguishable. Check “Wait For U” with Drake: Sampling Tems ’“ Higher ”is a cheat code to 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 Be Alive. “For a Nut,” with Young Thug and Gunna, is the bottom of the barrel. The song is supposed to be a sleazy, darkly funny good time, but the lyrics are so half-assed that they come off more like a parody.

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