Future: “DS2” (Dirty Sprite 2) – Album Review

Reviewer’s rating:  9/10

Songs for the Whip: “Where Ya At”(feat. Drake), “Groupies”, “Freak Hoe”, “Rotation” “Blow a Bag” *, “Colossal”

First, in order to properly dissect this album, it’s important to set forth a brief history and description of Future and of the origins of trap music.

Trap Music Origins

     Trap music originated in the southern part of the United States with the Roland TR-808 Drum Machine. Its iconic percussion samples created the gritty bass-busting 808s, snares, and hi-hats that are a hallmark of the trap sound. Many artists are associated with bringing trap music into the mainstream, but the most well-known are Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane. Once popularized, many artists and producers like Migos, Young Thug, Zaytoven, Lex Luger, Metro Boomin, Waka Flocka Flame, and, of course, Future have arisen under the banner of the trap genre. The majority of them, like Future, are from Atlanta, Georgia, a hub for trap music, musical innovation, and drug trafficking. So what exactly is trap? Curtis Snow, a legend in the streets of Atlanta and star of the movie/documentary “Snow on the Bluff”, says, “It’s one way in, one way out… When a rappers rapping, you should be able to smell the dope cookin. You should be able to see the f*ckin dope cookin. You should be able to visualize and see that shit. You can’t have the trap without the studio without the dope. The dope is what inspires the rap. [And] [r]ap was the perfect way for people in the dope game to [launder] the money. All you had to do was go gold.” 

    The notorious drug trafficking conglomerate, the Black Mafia Family (BMF), was the embodiment of this trend having a heavy presence in Atlanta. BMF sponsored and promoted a number of artists, including Bleu Davinci and Atlanta trap legend Young Jeezy. The heavy presence of drug trafficking is attributable to Atlanta’s unique position on the eastern seaboard. Not only does Atlanta have the largest airport in the world but every single highway on the east coast runs through Atlanta. This famous highway system is nicknamed “spaghetti junction” and it provides a prime route to move that dope (pun intended?).  Trap music originated with, and reflects, this drug trafficking lifestyle.

Photo by: reddit.com

Photo by: reddit.com

 

Future’s Background

Photo by: BET

Photo by: BET

    Future hails from the Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia and is truly a product of his environment as he explains in an interview:

"When I was around 14 or 15, I got into the streets heavy and I got shot in my right hand. When I got shot, I stopped playing basketball and went harder hustling. My mother hated it. Whatever she wanted me to do, I did the opposite. From the time I was 17 until I was 24, I didn't talk to my mother because she didn't like what I was doing. I let the streets raise me." - MTV

Future's musical career started to take form when he linked up with his cousin Rico Wade, an influential producer who was also the founder of a musical collective called The Dungeon Family. Future started behind the scenes of the music business writing hooks, verses, and songs for artists from the underground to the mainstream before reaching his own mainstream superstardom. Future was even responsible for writing the hook to Ludacris’ song “Blueberry Yum Yum” on the album Red Light District. 

Future, however, is not your stereotypical “trap” rapper. I know how easy it is to lump Future with the plethora of trap artists who use trap as a gimmick, only rap about “drugs, bitches, and money” (with very basic lyricism and very little artistry), and can’t seem to stay out of prison (not a slight to other trap rappers who I believe get a bad rap in general). While embodying trap music, this stereotypical persona couldn’t be farther from who Future is as an artist.  As he said in an interview “Future’s not everybody.” He is a hard working, fanatical artist who’s passionate about his craft and becoming the best:

“At times, I think, ‘What would I rather be doing than music?’ That’s what you have to ask yourself, if you feel like you need to be somewhere else... But there’s nothing else I want to do more than music. That’s why I stay in the booth. I have a crazy work ethic. I’ll do 20 songs a day. I love music that much. I worked eight years to get where I am. I don’t take anything for granted. I know there are a million and one dudes who are rapping, wishing they were in my shoes.” – Complex Magazine

Future uses his passion and work ethic combined with his unique influences and upbringing to put his own spin onto trap music to go beyond the genre. His concern is with creativity and artistry – thinking outside the box.  As he states:

“My obsession with outer space is my way of being different. I make astronaut music. It takes an astronaut so long to get to space—that’s how long it takes to catch up on my music.” – Complex magazine

“You get inspiration from craziest places. It's just about being creative. You gotta step outside that box, you know what I'm saying, to reach the people. You never know who can feel it; who it can connect to.” – Future interview with NPR

     This is not to say that Future does not rap about “drugs, bitches, and money” with homage paid to drug lords and kingpins.; he does.  His new album for instance references Frank Lucas in “Lil One”.  When he blurts out in “Blow a Bag” that “I don’t do nothing fugazi”, he seems to be referencing the memorable scene in the film “Donnie Brasco” where Johnny Depp and Al Pacino discuss a diamond ring being a fugazi or a fake. In ‘Blood on the Money’ he raps that “[i]n my hood they treat me like I’m El Chapo” (ironically El Chapo escaped from prison around the time the album dropped… does it make me think higher of the album? No. Is it an amazing coincidence? Most definitely!) Future, however, goes beyond. He uses his music much like others use film as an artistic form to portray the gangster lifestyle. This has been true since his very first hit, “Tony Montana”. In an interview about the song, he stated that “’Tony Montana’ is the ‘Scarface’ movie on wax”.  His new album, “Dirty Sprite 2”, is also the musical equivalent of a motion picture. Reflecting different aspects of the gangster life from “I Serve the Base” (both musically and physically) to personal situations in “Rotation”, to getting money by any means in “Blood on the Money”, the whole album plays like a gangster film.

All right, enough with the introductions… on to the main event. The album review.

 

Dirty Sprite 2” (DS2) Album Review

      The self-proclaimed Future Hendrix dropped his newest project and third studio album, DS2 (Dirty Sprite 2), on July 17th and it proved to be all that his fans have waited for and then some. Admittedly, before I listened to this album I would have called myself a “fair weather” Future fan. While I never really took the time to sit down and listen to one of his projects from start to finish, I did enjoy turning up to a large number of his previous songs (especially “2pac” and “lay up”).  If not for the huge amount of buzz surrounding Future and my friend constantly playing up Future and damn near begging me to listen to his songs, I probably would not have decided to listen to the album, let alone to buy it (which I did and have to say was one of the better music purchases I have made in recent memory). From the day of his album’s release, Future and his album have created a frenzy of social media commentary about the Atlanta-based rapper’s newest creation. Even celebrities have been so enamored by the album that they felt compelled to take to social media to show their love. This frenzy culminated Thursday, July 23rd, in Los Angeles where fans started lining up outside the Roxy nightclub at 9am endlessly bumping the new album while hoping to get a chance to see Future at a pop-up performance. The crowd became so rowdy that the police shut down this performance. Future moved the location twice more, but simply could not find a way to accommodate the sheer number of fans congregating outside the venues in an attempt to obtain entry wristbands. The chaos soon became too much for the venue event staff to handle and this, in turn, caused the police to repeatedly shut down the performances leaving Future’s Los Angeles fan base disappointed but still energized about the album and craving for more from the Atlanta rapper. 

    After his projects, 56 Nights, Monster, and Beast Mode, Future gained recognition and quickly ascended to the pinnacle of the industry. It’s fair to say that DS2 was one of the most anticipated albums of the summer… and as we’ve now heard, Future is not one to disappoint his fans (other than his failed attempts at a pop-up show in Los Angeles). DS2 proves to be a masterpiece that I would describe as the perfect illustration of Future’s unique style. 

    At first listen it’s easy to miss some of Future’s hidden gems throughout DS2, I would be lying to you if I said that I wasn’t living on rap genius while trying to write this review. However, the focus and constant rewinding to catch that “Oh shit, did you hear what he just said?!?” moment is worth it once you start to understand the lyrics and realize the artistry behind them. This made me start to appreciate his unique style of lyrical crafting as well as the hard work and energy he injects into his music. As the album begins, we hear what sounds like Future pouring up some codeine followed by him flicking his lighter for the intro to the first track, “Thought it was a Drought.” Right away we can hear the syrupy codeine influenced lyrics that match the ominous production by Metro Boomin and Allen Ritter. The artistry and cleverness behind Future’s lyrics is on display immediately in the first track where he lets us know that he always has the exclusive. His lyrics,“We got purple actavis I thought it was a drought” are a reference to a pharmaceutical brand, actavis, that discontinued the making of its codeine product, allegedly because of its popularity with people abusing it for their “lean” habits. In Future’s subtle way he is letting the audience know that he always has the exclusive even when everyone thinks it does not exist anymore.)

       For me, artistic originality and authenticity are very important factors on an album, especially hip-hop albums where features are so common it makes me wonder whether the album is a solo album or a compilation album. That being said, it is a tremendous plus that the album only has one feature (with Drake on the song “Where ya at”) which makes it is easier to focus on Future, as well as the masterful production that highlights his nebulous auto-tuned voice. The sole feature is an amazing one, however, with Future and Drake creating an ode to the themes of keeping your circle close and ignoring those who only come to you after success.  On the next track, “Groupies”, Future lets the world know through this bass-busting banger that he has clearly moved on from Ciara while also hinting at the situation in his song “Rotation”, the chorus of which tells us all that we need to know about Future’s feelings towards his ex:

 “I just spanked lil shawty with my jeans on, and I had my pistol in my pocket/ can’t trust none of these bitches gotta be cautious/ can’t trust none of these bitches gotta be cautious/ I bought all the sodas at the gas station/ I just put a famous bitch in rotation/ I just put that famous bitch in rotation/ I just put lil shawty out on probation.” 

       Effortlessly churning out banger after banger, Future was able to hit a home run with his single “Blow a Bag”. The first time I pressed play on the track it was a no brainer that this was an instant classic and I had to put it on repeat. In fact, I have it on repeat right now as I’m writing. Future really brings the energy in a song that’s all about flexing and enjoying it. It is an instant mood changer that’ll cause a complete emotional 180 when trying to get in the mood to turn up or just overcome a tough workday.  Future follows up this classic by recruiting Zaytoven to put together what could be one of his best beats in the song “Colossal”. This track is a personal favorite of mine not only for the head-banging production, but also for the way Future effortlessly flows over the hook and transitions into the verses. It is another song that is perfect for listening to while cruising around in the whip. “DS2” then descends to the perfect ending with the smooth, money-stacking anthem, “Blood on the Money”, in which Future lets the audience know that he counts his money regardless of how he gets it, because he “can’t help the way [he was] raised up”. Another quotable from the song and one that really sticks out to me is the chorus, "we been at the laundromat all day/ we been washin' money... all day/ I heard the police lookin' for me cause I got the hood hot." Not only is this another ode to the drug dealing, gangster lifestyle, but it also reminds me of "Breaking Bad", the popular AMC television show, and its main character Walter White. While not owning a laundromat, Walter did buy a car wash in order to launder his money and the DEA was constantly trying to catch him. Even if unintended, this parallel between the lyrics and the show make the song more relevant (pop culture wise) in my eyes and it adds to the imagery of the song and the album as a whole (like I said before the album plays like a gangster film, and this final track does a perfect job of encapsulating the whole gangster/ drug dealing lifestyle. If you have seen "Breaking Bad" you will immediately be able to visualize what Future is talking about by remembering the saga of Mr. White).

      Although Future has blessed our eardrums with yet another instant classic, it was a little disappointing that Future would include so many of the songs we have already heard in the bonus section of the album (“Trap Niggas”, “Real Sisters”, “Kno the Meaning”, “F*ck up some Commas”) However, he did include one new joint, a short, wavy banger called “The Percocet & Stripper Joint” where he really showcases his aesthetic of being the syrupy, codeine flowing MC.  

      DS2 altogether is more than just a complete album; it’s a feature film. It combines Future’s talent for churning out mesmerizing, goose-bump causing hooks with crisp, booming production from Metro Boomin’, Southside, and Zaytoven (along with a few others).  The cohesion between Future and his beat-selection becomes apparent as you follow the codeine trip progression of the album. Good for listening to at almost any time of the day, the replay value proves to be extremely high with it being impossible to go through the album and skip even a single track.  My final rating is a stellar 9/10 for an all-around fire album that incorporates high quality production with high quality lyrics, concepts, album art, and original artistry. So I suggest that you roll up, pour up, and go enjoy DS2!

 

Track list:

  1. Thought it was a Drought (prod. Metro Boomin & Allen Ritter)*
  2. I Serve the Base (prod. Metro Boomin)
  3. Where Ya At? - Feat. Drake (prod. Metro Boomin)*
  4. Groupies (prod. Metro Boomin, Southside, & Sonny Digital)*
  5. Lil One (prod. Metro Boomin & Southside)
  6. Stick Talk (prod. Southside)
  7. Freak Hoe (prod. Metro Boomin)*
  8. Rotation (prod. Metro Boomin & Southside)*
  9. Slave Master (prod. Metro Boomin & Southside)
  10. Blow a Bag (prod. Metro Boomin, Southside, & Sonny Digital)*
  11. Colossal (prod. Zaytoven)*
  12. Rich Sex (prod. Metro Boomin, Frank Dukes, & Southside)
  13. Blood on the Money (prod. Metro Boomin, Cassius Jay, & Zaytoven)*
  14. Trap Niggas (prod. Southside)
  15. The Percocet & Stripper Joint (prod. Southside)
  16. Real Sisters (prod. Zaytoven)
  17. Kno the Meaning (prod. Southside)
  18. F*ck Up Some Commas (prod. DJ Spinz & Southside)
  • - Released before Album dropped.