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‘The Wizrd’ Lingers on Future’s Inescapable Past

On his new album and accompanying documentary, the Atlanta rapper looks back on a decade of wreaking havoc. The result is further proof that he is one of the most consistent and influential artists of this decade.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Our worst tendencies die in halves, and maybe not at all, particularly if people have begun to champion us for bad habits. Future’s latest press run has conveyed, on the whole, a sense of maturity and openness that is surprising—he told The Fader about how much he loves love, for instance. But Future, The Romantic we’ve met before; Future, The Conscience-Stricken was a new one. He admitted things about himself, and his cultural impact, his music, his lyrics, and his image. He asked questions like: “How many other sixth-graders did I influence to drink lean?”

Don’t misunderstand: On Future Hndrxx Presents: The Wizrd, released last Friday, he still takes an AK-47 on a dinner date (“F&N”), and moves weight in head-to-toe Valentino (“Servin Killa Kam”). This, his seventh studio album, marks the end of a 10-year deal with Epic, the end of an era of revenge fantasy, and supposedly a commencement of growth. Consider the full title: Future Hndrxx Presents: The Wizrd. It’s a reconciliation of the two personas neatly packaged and presented to us in 2017: Future—the world-weary ex-drug dealer, the hedonist, the monster—and Hndrxx, the more emo of the two, the one who loves and loses, and makes amazing pop music because of it. The album is also meant to be the official introduction of “The Wizrd,” the fifth and most important of Future’s alter egos, the mastermind behind the creative output that afforded him Gap-commercial-with-Cher-type fame, and the one that makes an hourlong documentary not a totally ridiculous idea.

The Wizrd, the film, is available to stream on Apple Music and something of a demystification. It’s worth your time, if only to learn about his relationship to the late engineer Seth Firkins, to Baby Future, or about what he wants most out of life. Wouldn’t you like to know more about Future, the person? Wouldn’t you like to know why he chose DJ Esco as his tour DJ? (Hint: it has to do with Esco’s degree in psychology.) Future spends most of the documentary’s runtime between sold-out shows—on the Nobody Safe, Summer Sixteen, and Purple Reign tours, to be specific—in lavish hotel suites, green rooms, and other places that can be home for short periods of time. On a tour bus, after a stop at who-knows-where, a voice off-camera asks how he made it from humble beginnings in ATL’s fabled Dungeon as an artist known as Meathead, to one-sixth of his cousin Rico Wade’s supergroup called Da Connect, to here in the present day, draped in chunky, expensive jewelry, on the tail end of back-to-back no. 1 albums. “Selling crack,” he says. Twice, for emphasis. Then he laughs, but really, he’s serious. “I was the best,” he continues. “I could talk to a junkie and make them feel like I care—I did care.”

The idea is that he applies the same rude logic to making music: André 3000 is a talking head in the documentary, and aside from saying that Future makes “the most negative, inspirational music ever,” he also recalls Future’s plaudits for André’s verse on Rick Ross’s “Sixteen”: famously heady and wayyy longer than 16 bars. Future told André that he would’ve “chopped it up and made ’bout five or six songs out of it.” Stretching coke, stretching subject matter, same thing. The danger in making five or six songs out of one train of thought, though, is that it leaves Future open to charges of being one-dimensional.

The new album deals mostly in the same things that you’ve come to expect from Future: flooded-out Audemars Piguets, Actavis, various sexual conquests, murder. But even the retreading of familiar ground feels purposeful and exciting. The 20 tracks work as a patchwork of his highs and lows since 2012. A Greatest Hits comprised entirely of new ones. “Temptation,” perhaps the most beautiful song Tay Keith has ever produced, is about lust, Percocets, and resilience, and ends with a callback to 2013’s “Honest.” “Baptiize” begins leggy and dreamlike, then tumbles end over end and smashes itself on the rocks at the bottom—but in the middle, there’s a bridge that samples “Slave Master” from DS2.

What feels newest about The Wizrd is Future’s contention with his legacy. He boasts that he’s “been poppin’ since [his] demos” (“Rocket Ship”), but elsewhere he’s aggrieved, almost bitter over respect he feels is past due (“Krazy But True”). To be crystal clear: Future is absolutely one of the most consistent and influential artists of this decade, and the only people who deny that want attention.

“Hate the Real Me,” which arrived at the end of Future’s only solo 2018 release, Beast Mode 2, considered how being fucked up most of the time may have had adverse effects on his relationships. “Tricks on Me” digs deeper into that wound:

I was lettin’ the shit I can’t control destroy me
It was goin’ too deep for you, baby, pardon me
I tried to treat that shit just like a party
Ima feel weak if I tell you sorry

For all the bluster about change and new beginnings that preceded it, The Wizrd is largely more of the same, and the culpability still arrives near the end. Future attempts, unsuccessfully, to shed the worst parts of himself—after all, those are the parts that made him a star—and doesn’t do much to indicate what the newer, reformed version of himself might be. The Wizrd, the album, then, is a fitting end to this chapter: Like any good monster movie, there’s always the slinking possibility that it’s not quite dead.

The other telling part in the companion documentary happens on a private jet. Future, wearing a mink and sunglasses, flashes a knowing grin at the camera. “Half of what I’m telling you is the truth, half of it might not be,” he says. “Business is business.” He laughs again.