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When It Reigns, It Pours

| Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Reign_Scene_Web2LUCY DU | The Observer

Somewhere around halfway through listening to Future’s surprise mixtape, “Purple Reign,” I realized I had made a big mistake. Not only in offering to review it, but in deciding to listen to it at all.

Before I go any further, if you are an unapologetic trap fan, chances are you will enjoy this album. For better or for worse, it does little to break away from the typical trap formula: driving base and cyclic verses. Future fans in particular will probably find this mixtape to be an acceptable, if fairly unexciting, outing for the artist.

Me, I can only take so much slurred AutoTune-rapping over a throbbing baseline before I want to throw my headphones at the wall.

“Purple Reign” starts painlessly enough, with a recording of  “ESCOMOE THE COOLEST DJ IN THE WORLD!” It takes all of 45 seconds for DJ Esco, a member of Future’s Freebandz record label and one of the tape’s executive producers, to introduce himself. He will continue to remind you who he is, and that he is the “coolest DJ on the m———- planet,” at random intervals for the rest of the album. Esco is almost exclusively responsible for dropping this album from “not my thing” status to “Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee.”

Following that initial Esco interjection, Future takes the mic to croon the pedestrian “All Right.” It’s a weak money-and-drugs ode that stands as the mediocre opening number to a thoroughly horrendous mixtape. If I were inclined to recommend one track to sample (which I am not), I would suggest checking out the mixtape’s penultimate number, “Perkys Calling,” a sobering song about addiction and drug money.

If you were hoping that the remaining songs would provide the deep psychological insight you have come to expect from trap music, the genre that brought you the philosopher Chief Keef, you would be disappointed.

The album never gets much deeper thematically than its drug slinging exterior. There are occasional glimpses of what this album could have been. Some songs and verses hint at a more introspective artist, the same artist that shone through in last year’s critically acclaimed album “DS2.” Unfortunately, those sentiments are never fleshed out into any sort of meaningful message or social commentary.  For example, “Never Forget,” the fourth track of this most recent outing, includes several allusions to Future’s troubled childhood (“By the time I was seven, my Uncle Wayne was in prison”) and personal tragedy (“I had to take a loss so I could cherish this s—”), but none of these stories end up revealing what is going on in the rapper’s mind.

To his credit, Nayvadius Wilburn (a.k.a. Future) had a prolific 2015. He released three mixtapes: “Beast Mode” in January, “56 Nights” in March, and “What a Time to Be Alive,” his collaboration with Drake, in September.  Somehow, he also found time to release his third studio album, “DS2,” in July. What makes that incredible productivity even more impressive is the fact that almost all of those projects were received with varying degrees of critical acclaim. (His song “F— Up Some Commas” earned one of the most prestigious awards in music: inclusion in Scene’s Best Songs of 2015 list.)

Given that he drew so much praise for both the quantity and quality of his music last year, Future can probably be forgiven for releasing one dud.

Then again, perhaps Mr. Wilburn is saving his best work for later in the year. A few days after releasing “Purple Reign” Future tweeted, “Ain done yet *umbrella with rain drops* pre warm up … get ready.”

Whether that tweet makes you giddy with excitement, or nauseous, largely depends on how you feel about trap music. For my part, I’m going to be more careful about the albums I agree to review.

Rating: 1/5 and may God have mercy on us all

Tracks: “Perkys Calling,” “Purple Reign,” the silence after the tape is done

Similar to: Chief Keef, A$AP Ferg (?)

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