Future Rings in the Summer With ‘Beastmode 2’ Mixtape

Today, it is the norm for rappers to sputter sporadic, indecipherable syllables of nonsense, spontaneously shift into bizarre singalongs, and let out occasional guttural noises, all the while swimming in a sea of Auto-tune. The ubiquity of the style is so overbearing that some of its pioneers can be easily eclipsed. Atlanta rapper Future is one of the few who most articulately realized the current sonic template nearly a decade ago. In fact, legend is he originally won his moniker because of how futuristic he sounded. However, his seventh commercial mixtape, Beastmode 2” suggests that the name is hardly as appropriate as it once was.

The album begins with the rather confusingly titled “Wifi Lit.” Apparently, when you drop mixtapes as frequently as Future does, and are as much of a baller as he is, only the maximum bandwidth will do. The opening track functions thematically as Contemporary Hip-Hop 101, with such gems as, “I’ve been counting it up for hours, done cramped my hands.” If you just let that line soak in, and meditate on it for a few moments, you should be able to grasp the essence of “Beastmode 2.” Be warned that, from here on, things get redundant quite quickly. Nevertheless, Future adeptly covers all bases in no time, laying all the groundwork that you’ve come to expect from his craft. He mentions Hermes and Prada. He lets you know that he’s “Always riding with a gas torch / Always riding with a mask,” and that he “left her sitting at the Loews / ‘Cause she wasn’t touching her toes.” The latter boast refers to Shamartess Monique Whitsett, who made headlines last month, claiming that Future flew her into town, but left her at Loews Hollywood Hotel when she resisted his advances. Little did she know her attempt to embroil him in scandal would merely afford him new bragging rights.      

The next track, “Cuddle My Wrist” ostensibly refers to the Rolexes and other ice that perpetually adorn said wrist. Future ingeniously rhymes the titular line with, “Cuddle my bitch,” proving that even with his gas torch and mask, and despite his cold treatment of poor Shamartess, he likes some cuddling action as much as anyone. He mentions Atlanta patrol “zone 6,” representing, as always, and drops nuggets of wisdom like, “Real dope dudes don’t hang around rats.” Listeners might be prompted to wonder, “Is Future a ‘real dope dude?’” Or are we meant to suspend our disbelief, and consider music like this as we would mafia movies, works of fiction, perhaps based on someone’s true stories, but meant just for entertainment rather than autobiography? Considering Shamartess’ anecdotal evidence, you should probably take Future at his word. After all, he speaks with a lot of confidence. In “Racks Blue,” he boldly claims, “I can’t do wrong,” and adds, “I’m your majesty, that’s how I gotta be.” Moreover, long-term fans will recall that one of Future’s earliest mixtapes was titled “True Story.” On the other hand, there are some dubious claims, such as the lines from “Red Light,” “I finally start to embrace that I’m famous / It’s hard for me to erase when I was nameless.” Somehow, one gets the feeling that Future embraced that he was famous long before he actually was, and that he would simultaneously never wish to erase the reality of once being nameless, as it makes him fit neatly into the archetypal rags-to-riches legend. As he mentions elsewhere in “Red Light,” he’s “Comin’ from poverty, hittin’ the lottery,” arguably one of the most snappily succinct articulations of this cliche in hip-hop.    

“31 Days” chronicles Future’s experiences with a bisexual lady with enough gratuitous detail to function as a fable, reminding us that “less is (often) more.” At least, Future is well aware of the excess, as he makes abundantly clear, claiming, “We do nothing that is normal / Everything we do is super gigantic.” If ever there was an accurate, defining description of the genre and lifestyle, this is the one. Future has honed his craft, and nailed his characteristic aesthetic, but midway through the album, you cannot but help feeling like you’ve been hearing the same song on repeat. The beats are all hard-hitting and propulsive, immediately satisfying, but never straying far from a rigid trap mold. Future delivers the same torrents of triplets, the same gurgling autotune theatrics, on every track. It’s as if one song was written and then inflated nine-fold to make for the length of this mixtape. Future seems to have really been “counting it up for hours,” as he declared on the first track, because six songs in, we hear, “Count it up, count it up, count it up.” The song, this time, bares the title “Doh Doh,” which seems to phonetically capture the mind-numbing nature of its content — but there’s more meaning to it. Upon further listening, the line “I get dough, dough, dough” unveils the inventive spelling. A couple lines later comes, “I smell blow, blow, blow.” These are literally hood nursery rhymes.

“Beastmode 2” is notable for its number of misleading song names. “When I Think About It” suggests an overdue pensive moment, but instead proves possibly the scariest braggadocio yet, with the reflection, “Got more guns than a terrorist when I think about it.” In case you haven’t had enough, the following song is called “Some More,” and has Future reminding you, “Everything I do is super galore.” The sole, somewhat reflective moment is saved for the closer, “Hate the Real Me,” in which Future declares, “I hate the real me,” but comes to terms with the situation, eventually resolving, “I’m tryna get high as I can.”

Don’t be too quick to dismiss the latter line, however. Future has been getting high on the charts for years now. He debuted five consecutive albums at number one on the Billboard 200, breaking a record that had been in place since 1968. “Beastmode 2” is his seventh commercial mixtape, and proves he has no intention of slowing down. It also proves, however, that an update is well overdue. The production from fellow Atlanta producer Zaytoven are a perfect match for Future’s rapping, and the beats are consistently satisfying. If Future nailed a certain sound so many years ago, he does seem to be still refining it, ever so slightly, with every successive release. It has just about plateaued, however, and we can only hope that future efforts will show Future living up to his name.

Beastmode 2” is available July 6 on Apple Music.