Album Review: Future’s Dirty Sprite 2
As many who are avid readers of my Campus Vinyl work know, I have been a devoutly active follower of Future’s work for quite some time. When I heard that Dirty Sprite 2 would be released this past July, my initial reaction was met with a great deal of skepticism. Future’s first album of 2015, 56 Nights, although sentimental and full of the raw emotion that came with Future’s producer and friend DJ Esco’s 56-night stay in a Dubai prison, fell short in my eyes. It is possible that a number of things prevented 56 Nights from being the rise-from-the-ashes hit that I would have expected from a Future who had in the past been able to channel that dark energy into spectacular art: the scandal that ultimately dissolved his long-time relationship with artist Ciara, or maybe the fact that Future’s only hard drive which contained all of his music and life work was locked up along with DJ Esco, stifling the flow of his creative juices for a brief time. Taking all of this into consideration, 56 Nights was a product of, I believe, Future simply being in a bad place. The truth of the matter is that there is no amount of lean that Future could have drank at that point to get him out of his slump.
However it is definitely not in my nature to write any artist off, especially when their personal lives get in the way of their creative process. I mean, Sh*t happens. And that’s exactly what Future’s mindset felt like upon my first listen of DS2. DS2 is truly Future’s phoenix album; you can sense throughout the album that the past has been archived as just that. As Future says in his commentary on the intro track (yes, the album also has full commentary on all 19 songs that shows a deliberateness I’ve never seen from Future in the past), “the ways of the world is not gonna affect me and the way I live my life.” Future approaches this album with one simple theme, that he is going to express himself fully and wholeheartedly without anything getting in his way, and he accomplishes this in a way that both incorporates the vintage Future sound that fans love as well as a tone that is very much akin to a rebirth or renaissance in his style. He is able to talk about how he has moved on from these traumatic events in his life and reflect upon them, rather than dwelling on them and being stylistically dragged down. This is perfectly depicted in songs like “Blood On the Money”, which has the classic 808 feel that we love and expect from Future but layers in an intergalactic sounding synth that sounds as though Future is full of hope. Future has in fact shed much blood to get where he is today, and his success will only continue.
You can see the evolution in Future’s sound by comparing this album also to Honest, which was created at a time in which Future was arguably in his most stable place. Honest, although musically beautiful and full of both that classic Future sound and sing-songy, lovey-dovey ballads, lacked a certain level of grit and playfulness that Future has not only found but has exploited to its greatest potential in DS2. It may be that Future was trying to appeal to Ciara; However, a greater possibility as for the reasoning behind Honest’s sound is that Future simply had not evolved and developed enough stylistically, and at some point or another, there would be something that put him over that plateau. The breakdown of Future’s relationship with Ciara was in my opinion that critical threshold, with 56 Nights being the I-need-to-vent-to-somebody-about-my-feelings moment that follows any breakup.
With that being said, DS2 shows that Future has found his way and has developed his style and sound to new heights. He pulls in other themes which run concurrent to his “f*ck it, I’ll do what I want” attitude which he speaks about as his main motivation throughout the creation of his album, all of which are explained in the commentary along with the album. He talks about the struggles of living on the streets with little opportunity for advancement and wealth generation in songs like “Lil Ones”, “Trap N*ggas”, and “Blood on the Money”, which both critique and glorify the actions that many must take in order to make a dollar in marginalized areas. The tracks are dark (as all of them are), are layered with sinister synths, hard popping 808s, and Future’s calculated yet unorthodox style which, when combined, creates a sort of anthem type feel to these songs. He also talks quite a bit about his different quirky experiences with women. These songs are extremely fun to listen to and follow the imperative that Future is trying to get at throughout the album, that he is in a stage of his life where having fun and being creative is his only priority.
The album with “Kno the Meaning”, which takes some of the sound of Honest’s ballad feel and injects an intensely introspective reflection on Future’s past relationship as well as the experience of losing his music and DJ Esco in Dubai. This combination completely transforms the usual Future ballad and creates something that is simultaneously somber and hopeful, but not overly so in a way that sounds whiney. Future has moved on from the past and, although he cites the past as important for knowing who a person really is, he makes comments like “The best thing I ever did was fall out of love” that suggest a true metamorphosis of Future in the post-apocalyptic era of his life. The song has an underlying snare feel that keeps the song moving and out of suspension, one that suggests that Future will be doing the same. Bangers like “F*ck Up Some Commas” and “Where Ya At” are just icing on the cake that to me celebrate Future’s newfound strength and foothold in the hip-hop post 56 Nights. I am incredibly excited to see what Future is able to do next.