Future - Honest LP

Posted April 22, 2014
Tags: Future ,

In 2012, Future took the hip-hop game by storm with Epic Records debut album Pluto. Now, two years later, the ATLien hitmaker has unleashed the highly-anticipated follow-up, Honest.

The 12-track set comes preceded by a number of blockbuster singles; in addition to the controversial "Karate Chop (Remix)," it features Booth-acclaimed street-banger "Move That Dope" as well as "Sh!t" and the Booth-acclaimed title cut.

Throughout the LP, Future is joined by an awe-inspiring array of heavyweight guests, among them Andre 3000, Drake, Kanye West, Pharrell, Pusha T and Wiz Khalifa. Production comes courtesy of DJ Spinz, Metro Boomin, Mike WiLL Made It and more.

Honest Album Review

Years ago, some time between 1994 and ‘98, hip-hop’s Future was being written in a recording studio in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Outkast was hard at work recording their game changing first three albums, amplifying the South’s voice with street tested, grounded music that still managed to reach past the stratosphere and into the unfamiliar. So yes, two guys named Dre and Big Boi were literally writing the future, but another, subtler sort was being molded at the same damn time. A teenaged Nayvadius Cash, presently known as Future, would sit in on these formative studio sessions with his cousin Rico Wade (a third of Organized Noize, Outkast’s go-to production squad), watching as two hip-hop Gods rose from the dungeons of ATL, soaking in a sound that would eventually re-work itself into his own musical DNA.

The fly that listened in as ATLiens was crafted is now a grown man, with two albums, countless mixtapes and a handful of charting singles under his belt. His unique style, a syrupy, auto-tuned abusing blend of trap-rap and faux singing, has inspired imitators and critics alike. In 2012, he took us to Pluto as a mysterious, dreadlocked hit master, and two years later is coming back down to Earth, staring us dead in the eye with his second effort, Honest. It’s a surprisingly concise body of work (a cut above 47 minutes over 12 tracks) full of passion and pain, noteworthy guests and auto-tune. Lots of auto-tune. The album has flaws: traditionally abysmal and sometimes unintelligible lyrics and a few uninspired hooks and dud beats, but Future’s fiery delivery and ability to craft memorable melodies make this one worth while.

Honest’s finest moments are the result of an amalgamation of factors, leading with Future’s ability to passionately project his emotions, even when through the garbled filter of auto-tune. On I Be U, one of the album’s top tracks and instrumentals (that chopped up vocal sample brings to mind RZA at his 36 Chamber stage), Future toasts to a woman who makes him feel like together they’re one organism. There’s a whole lot of feeling and emotion in his voice, which is impressive considering his voice is not fully his, but a cyborg’s tool that owes as much to technology as it does to what’s within the man himself. The title track provides little in terms of actual specifics of what makes this go round so Honest, but his convincing tone laid over a funky beat that sounds like it was recorded in the control room of a spaceship makes the track click.

I want to say Move That Dope works solely because of Pusha T’s hilarious and spooky madman laughter that runs throughout, but it’s the whispered Salt-n-Pepa Push It touch, Pharrell and Pusha’s verses and Mike WiLL’s bouncy beat that makes it hit hard, despite an unnecessary Casino appearance and tired hook. Casino and Young Scooter aside, Future gets assistance from some legends on this album, but not all of their contributions succeed. I Won, a Kanye West-featured nod to trophy wives (Ciara and Kim specifically), is enjoyable because of the Kanye inspired production and Future’s triumphant hook, not because of either of their 16s. Kanye phones in a verse that offers a few comedic quips but little else, and Future auto-tune barks at the mic in an attempt at expressing gratitude.

The album falls flat when Future decides he’s a rapper and abandons his vocoder and melody and alien soul, instead opting to be a trap star over cookie cutter trap beats. It’s in these moments that his common flow and sub-par lyrics are exposed. Thankfully, these moments are rare. T-Shirt (I do however appreciate his vigor on this track), My Momma and Covered n Money all fall victim to Future’s shortcomings, but they’re sequencing among the rest of the album keep them from distracting too much from the overall project.

Perhaps the result of his years spent in Atlanta, the nucleus of both old and new rap trends, Future’s production tastes reflect a souled out alien who grew up in the trap: the deep South’s 808s and hi-hats meets deep space’s distant synths and offbeat eccentricities. When those influences strike a balance is when Honest’s musical palette succeeds. Organized Noize architect a skittish and soulful instrumental on Benz Friends (Whatchutola), as Future and family friend Andre 3000 take a dig at gold digging women. Guitar licks and a nifty Santigold vocal sample show up on Look Ahead, while the organic acoustic guitar mixed with synthy studio trickery make Special bounce along.

Years after those genre shifting OutKast sessions of the '90s, a young child might have sat on a stool in the corner of a recording studio in Atlanta, watching as Nayvadius Cash poured himself into the microphone, rapping or singing (or a little bit of both) lyrics off a crumpled notepad. Or maybe there’s a child sitting on a chair at home or in the car, listening to Honest, pounding his fist on his desk or the dash to the rhythms, sewing together the genes of his musical DNA just as Future did as the curious cousin of one of OutKast’s producers. Future’s influence might not ever reach the same height as that famous duo’s, but efforts like Honest certainly dispel his consistent-hit-man-of-little-substance status (a la T-Pain).

As the original Atlanta extraterrestrial emcee once said, “the South got something to say,” and the Future’s better for it.

[By Alec Siegel, a human being whose heart is in Chicago but whose body is in Boston. He still writes with a quill and listens to records, and can often be found with fists full of Nutella. You can contact him via pigeon mail or shoot him a tweet at @bigasiegs.]

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted April 22, 2014
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