By: Thomas Rodriguez
The WIZRD displays some mesmerizing trap bangers in its hour and two minute runtime, but it takes quite a while to get to them.
Future Season has arrived, ladies and gentlemen. The Atlanta-based, Dungeon Family affiliated, and currently sober Nayvadius Wilburn is one of the most influential, infamous, and important artists of the 2010s period. His iconic slurred-yet-smooth, hedonistic yet depressed rap and lyrical style has rubbed off on countless rappers currently rising in the underground and mainstream; his trademark melodic singing and flowing over hard hitting and minimalist beats is immediately recognizable; the memes that have been created in Future’s massive shadow over the music world have been nonstop since his outbreak in the early 2010s. This outbreak (covered in my previous article about his excellent mixtape run), is one of the most important in the modern hip hop scene and Southern rap in general. Future has multiple trap album landmarks within his constantly expanding discography, and The WIZRD is next in his lineup. 2018 was a “quiet” year for the lean sipping monster, having released two solid mixtapes in Beastmode 2 and Wrld On Drugs, and making a soundtrack for the Superfly remake.
Now, in tandem with the release of the excellent documentary under the same name, The WIZRD album has dropped. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to Future’s potential; there are a good amount of true standouts in its 20 track runtime, but there are also far too many uneventful moments in the mix as well.
While listening to The WIZRD, I had a serious problem with giving a damn about the majority of the songs I was hearing on the front end. Sure, the minimalist production throughout the album was bangin’, from the moody background tones on “Jumping on a Jet”, sliding synths and turntables on the standout “Crushed Up”, and the omnipresent bass, but what most of these early tracks lacked, in comparison to past Future cuts, were a sense of memorability. Future tends to be criticized for sticking too much to his usual formula, but he makes up for it by crafting memorable refrains, bars and flows that match the beat in ferocity and emotion. Not here, however; they lacked that extra “wow” factor for me, never reaching anything beyond an okay refrain, okay beat, or okay flow from Future himself.
The opener “Never Stop” features one of Hendrix’s most emotional and revealing lyrical odysseys yet as he dissects his come-up over an equally cinematic and beautiful banger beat, but nearly everything afterwards doesn’t match its quality. On the surface, these songs on the first half could snugly fit into any standard Future tape or album, but there’s nothing about them particularly memorable or engaging in their execution. Hell, it’s a crime that the best line on the album after multiple listens (“I’ve been poppin’ since my demo, bitch!”) is on a song as short as “Rocket Ship”. The vocal-clipping instrumental on “Temptation” distracted me from the interesting quotables on temptation that Future could’ve been reciting, and “Stick to the Models” is quintessential Future without anything that makes me want to return to it. Again, it’s not bad; nothing on the first half here is really offensive, just…there. The tracks were sitting in the corner, high out of their mind on activis and just fooling around. I wish I could say more, but that was it for me with these first few tracks; sonically, vocally, they weren’t anything special to me, just Future riffing over good production.
Delivering the Goods
Despite my personal boredom with the first half of the album, (besides “Talk S**t Like a Preacher”, that one is amazingly hilarious, catchy, and sinister all at once), The WIZRD starts to pick up right around track 13, “Servin Killa Kam”. While a secret Cam’ron feature may have been too much to hope for, this song is one of the most grimy and gritty songs Future has released in years; he sounds ready to serve some keys and bullets over this descending piano line. “Baptiize” is another stellar track, working in that classic duality of Future’s pain and misogyny over a two part instrumental (the second part ingeniously sampling Future’s own “Slave Master”). It’s the Future we’ve come to know and love, and the hot streak continues through the throwback to 2014 era Young Thuggery on “Unicorn Purp”, where Future, Thug, and Gunna showcase excellent chemistry. Features like this make me wish that Future had a tad more sprinkled throughout the album to break up the monotony of its first half.
“Goin Dummi”, while hilarious in its hook, serves as one of the biggest earworms on the project over its skeletal instrumental, while “First Off” balances out the humor with an excellent Hendrix brag on one of its first bars (“I make more money than Dwayne Wade”) and a moody Travis Scott feature. This balance between humor and cold-bloodedness, something Future rarely touched on in the project, really caught its stride on these last few songs, and it’s all the more frustrating that this couldn’t have been a part of the whole album experience. “Faceshot” sounds like the soundtrack to a high speed police chase through the trap, not only because of the fuzzed bass, but Future’s maniacal ad libs and delivery. The trunk thumping “Ain’t Coming Back” and tropical “Tricks on Me” close the album perfectly: they’re emotional, but don’t let up on the instrumental energy, building upon that dichotomy of happy and depressed Future to strike that perfect balance of musical glory and personal emptiness we see in his persona. Perfect.
So, The WIZRD had a very weird batting average in its runtime. On one half, it was bland and middle of the road for Future standards, on the other it displayed the same level of five star quality that Future’s shown us throughout his storied career. It’s a shame that the majority of these high points land in the back end of the album, because I may not have finished this project without their existence. If The WIZRD were a bit tighter, I may have enjoyed it more. However, this is still Future; there’s nothing offensively bad here. Maybe it’s just me, and The WIZRD may be Future’s best album for others. I personally don’t think it was magical all the way through.
Tracks to Save: “Never Stop”, “Crushed Up”, “Talk S**t Like a Preacher”, “Servin Killa Kam”, “Baptiize”, “Unicorn Purp”, “Faceshot”
Tracks to Skip: Besides the first three tracks above, the entire first half of the album?…