Last week, Future released the video for his now viral FUTURE cut “Mask Off.” The Colin Tilley-directed set of visuals features Future riding through a city that’s vying to be the location of the next Mad Max film while he details his relationship with uppers and downers. Though I was pleased with the short-lived ode to woodwind instruments at 1:50, the real achievement in this video is seeing how far Future has come in terms of production quality and budget figures. This, of course, inspired me to binge watch all of his videos this past weekend, taking note of the evolution of how Future visually represents his music.
Future is fond of referring to his life as a “movie” and, based on his Snapchat story, he might not be far off. He’s easily released a hundred visuals in his career and, to help you sort through them, we've compiled a list of his top ten music videos.
Let me be clear: this is not a list of my top ten Future songs, though, there may be some overlap between the two lists. The videos were chosen based on how well they represented the track's sonic identity and expounded on the thematic nuggets Future leaves for us to excavate. And, of course, on how enjoyable they are to watch.
Rap music videos, especially from trap artists, can be gruelingly repetitive. These videos are the exception to that rule though and serve as a reminder that an artist’s vision and contribution doesn’t just end when the engineer stops recording.
Note: This piece is best enjoyed with a glass of your favorite bubbly drink.
“Draco” is the video no one likes in theory, but we revel in its execution. Being forced to watch scenario after scenario of a girl leaving her boyfriend for another man with exponentially more swagger sounds like a breeding ground for insecurity, but its campy appeal keeps it circulating through your YouTube history. Sure, the story isn’t clearly spelled out, but it doesn’t need to be. Instead of asking why Futch has an army of female assassins at his disposal (and what these guys did to deserve the Order 66 treatment), enjoy his cinematic collage that stitches the indulgent violence of Tarantino with the anti-hero sympathies of a heist movie. All of this, and not one bookbag in sight.
9. “Magic” ft. T.I.
Magic City has been the genesis of countless Atlanta-based rap careers. I didn’t know it at the time, but the first time I heard about the South’s most famous strip club was when André 3000 name-dropped the locale on “Claimin’ True.” Future owes part of his rise to the club, so it’s fitting he should pay homage. This video does nothing if not make you want to spend a night there with your best friends. While it’s easy to bracket this video in with every other rap video that features strippers and cascading Benjamins, it’s better seen as a spotlight for the women in a stigmatized industry who are playing an active role in cultivating your music taste. Now, can someone in Future’s camp explain to me why the official video is censored?
Some selections made this list for their uniqueness, while others are here for thematic reasons. “Wicked” is here for its sauciness. Future had danced before in music videos and the end result wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t worth noting. He’s not flashy, but his movements are noticeably more fluid than his past videos and match the confidence of his persona and sound. Here he’s assisted by DJ Esco and Atlanta-based dancer Meechie, who both help turn it up to a level. According to Meechie, he and his collaborator Toosi are the source of Future’s dance evolution and it’s clear from this video, released while the two were touring with Future last summer. It’s oddly self-affirming to see them bounce around a video shoot the same way I bounce around my room.
7. "Move That Dope" ft. Pharrell Williams & Pusha T
Ideally, a video will convert part of the track’s essence and expand on it—beyond the obvious moving of dope in this case. Benny Boom is somehow able to transmit the bounciness of Mike WiLL Made-It’s infectious beat through his editing. The average shot lasts about seven seconds, but that’s plenty of time to absorb the swagger. Sonically, “Move that Dope” has the cadence of a mid-2000s jam that got overplayed at your high school dances, while still being engineered well enough to keep knocking in 2017. Seeing Future wear designer clothing while talking on the world’s first cell phone is a similar mix of old and new.
6. “Same Damn Time”
Damn, I wish Future would wear flat bills more. Don’t get me wrong, his recent love affair with the cowboy hat suits him well, though, no one who isn’t a rancher by trade should attempt to follow suit. Watching the video for "Same Damn Time" reminds me there was a simpler time in Future’s life. He’d been gaining steam at this point, but his career hadn’t yet reached Rolex deal level. While he raps about his simultaneous activities, he has one foot in the local rap sensation world and another reaching for his current position. At the time he existed in both, reflected in him standing in front of a trap house rapping about catching a private flight. Videos can have the unintended consequence of being highlight reels for an artist’s history and progression. “Same Damn Time” shows us a Future that no longer exists, one just beginning to see his fandom grow exponentially.
5. "Trap Niggas"
I couldn’t pinpoint the original archetype for “rap videos shot shot down the block,” but “Trap Niggas” will suffice as a blueprint. Shooting a video in your old neighborhood surrounded by criminals, drugs and the trappings of, well, the trap isn’t just a formula rappers use to attach their surfboard to the recent wave. It’s a way to show their continued legitimacy in the streets despite their increased wealth and status. “Trap Niggas” clearly shows that Future's loyalties are still in the same place. Multiple commas aren't all rappers want to vouch for their reputations. They want to show they can still “catch a body” if necessary. All of this, combined with his juxtaposition of the sacred and profane make “Trap Niggas” the only appropriate video to watch on the way from communion to the porch next Sunday.
4. “Blood On the Money”
Future is usually moving for the majority of his videos, which is why his long periods of stillness on “Blood on the Money” are noticeable. His typical vibing is replaced with shots of him standing near motionless at a graveside service. Often, Future's music combines the hedonistic with the introspective, and the lack of motion here suggests this is one of those moments. “Blood On the Money” isn’t meant to be heard as if Future is speaking only as himself. He’s speaking as all of us. In some way, all the things we consume are tainted with suffering, from the clothes we wear to the mobile device you're using to read this article. All of our money has blood on it if we look hard enough. As the video switches from the funeral service to more stereotypical “blood money” crimes, the criminal is obscure. You can’t determine who’s “killing” for money and, while it’s later revealed to be Future, this initial anonymity suggest that it could easily be any of us.
3. “56 Nights”
“56 Nights” is Future at peak nihilism. He’s reflecting on his mental state while dealing with a messy breakup and the incarceration of friend and DJ Esco, which the song’s title references. Though Esco is around to act out Future’s lyrics for the video shoot, we’re still supposed to see Future in the grips of that struggle, with a black-and-white filter used to highlight the darkness he feels. Drugs dominate Future’s music and “56 Nights” has some of his most indulgent lines, yet they’re not visualized as a day in his hedonistic utopia. He instead appears pensive and troubled, even during his usual flexing. While his use may be exaggerated, it forces us to stare into the abyss of being consumed by our darkest habits. His eyes turning black at the end might indicate that it’s too late for Future to escape, but that shouldn’t stop us from exercising caution with ourselves.
“Coupe” was released as part of the Adult Swim Singles Series in 2014 and Noisey premiered the video a few day prior. The playful animation is a welcome experiment from Future and it plays with themes that would continue in his music. Future likes to use space imagery and the animators matched Drumma Boy’s extraterrestrial keys with their own idea of alien encounters. Before he made references to his “demons” on “Scholarships” and “Digital Dash,” his battle was dramatized here as a race with the devil in the video’s climax. In order to win the race he has to dump his baggage (which happens to be people) and be aware enough to avoid running into the wall. While we might be able to extract a lesson from that, it’s worth noting that he still gets slapped in the face after he wins the race.
1. "Codeine Crazy"
Vincent Lou has been visualizing Future’s music for years, but his work on “Codeine Crazy” is his magnum opus for Mr. Hndrxx. On the surface, its purple filters are aesthetically pleasing and Lou does a good job of showing the polarities in Future’s persona. Between verses he jumps from penthouses to projects and his delivery ranges from indifferent to impassioned. What unites them is his sluggish demeanor—he has to be woken up at the start of each verse, presumably from the effects of his opiatic brew. “Codeine Crazy” is one of Future’s most self-aware tracks, even if you insist his drug use is exaggerated. Whether intentional or not, the hypnotic production and woozy visuals will have you going over every one of the mistakes in your life.
Future in 2017 has the burden of pleasing his day-one fans by delivering street anthems and fulfilling his desire to expand his sound into waters where genre isn’t so easily defined. The releases of FUTURE and HNDRXX allowed him to please both sides with separate projects, but sometimes we’re too quick to set up dichotomies. “Codeine Crazy” shows us that Future is at his most effective when he walks the thin line between trapper and personal therapist.