In any form of art, familiarity is attractive to an audience. Nostalgia and sequels sell because they recycle ideas and entertainment. Unlike reboots, sequels are more than just repurposing the old, but building new blocks upon a familiar foundation. This is also why they’re tricky; the second time rarely carries the same charm that enchants the original. More often than not, sequels are reminders that creative lightning rarely strikes the same artist twice.
This isn’t the case with Future. Four years after the original Dirty Sprite mixtape, Future released the acclaimed follow-up, DS2, as his third studio album. The first Dirty Sprite gave listeners confidence in Future's potential, and DS2 became the sequel that fulfilled the prophecy.
Similarly, Future waited three years before returning to his acclaimed 2015 mixtape, Beast Mode. The original Beast Mode was the second project to be released during the great debaucherous mixtape trinity leading up to DS2. The decision to give Beast Mode a successor is an interesting one, especially considering how Monster and 56 Nights are both beloved fan-favorites. Zaytoven may be the answer, though, as he produced the entirety of Beast Mode and has reprised his role for the sequel.
The artist also known as Hendrix has a laundry list of producers he is a great match with, but with BEASTMODE 2, Zaytoven has a chance to prove once and for all that he is the Ryan Coogler to Future’s Michael B. Jordan.
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
May the petty be with you.
1. "WIFI LIT"
The Zaytoven drop. A very soft buildup. When Zay uses keys and wind instruments it sounds like Zelda’s Wind Walker met an Atlanta megachurch. The drums just came crashing down harder than the moon Thanos threw at The Avengers. Trap Future is here with the new gospel and it doesn’t sound like the oversaturation of 2017 has taxed his enthusiasm. Future raps every line with such vitality; he never sounds bored by his own boasts. The intro pretty standard, but it’s juiced up. Production is stronger than any bodybuilder. Ha, the line about counting the money until his hand cramped is a simple but effective brag. Not the craziest Future intro, but solid.
2. "CUDDLE MY WRIST"
Moody keys. A slow buildup. This song is in no rush to begin. I can’t hear a lighter flicker and not think about Lil Wayne; he made that his trademark without even trying to brand his habit of smoking weed in the booth. Very smooth the way Zay brought the drums in. I love the melodic quality of his instrumentals. I’m far more into "CUDDLE MY WRIST" than the intro. Future is pulling off a water-walking performance. The flow he’s using could cut through Adamantium. “I got the monkey on my back.” I’ll always wonder the extent of Future’s drug addiction. The production gives the track replayable value, but Future is no sloth. The stream-of-consciousness reminds me of his contributions to SUPER SLIMEY, the only 1-Listen review from last year where my initial reaction changed over time.
3. "RACKS BLUE"
Melodic Future over beautiful keys. Pleasant ear candy. Zay’s trap music could easily be production packs for the choir boys with rap ambitions. Future getting caught up with a cougar is a very Nayvadius thing to happen. Surprised there hasn’t been a definitive hit yet. Nothing too catchy, no surefire big singles. “RACKS BLUE” fits right in, but I’m ready for something to stick out. I’m trying to remember the last time Future sounded so straightforward without really finding a weird flow or wild pocket. The hook is pretty infectious. I can see myself repeating it to myself over the weekend. Solid song, but still waiting for the astronaut to launch me toward Pluto.
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4. "31 DAYS"
Future is talking about being in the mode. This fiery flow is a nice change of pace. He’s maneuvering with such a mastery of his wordplay. What he said about this being a moment of clarity wasn’t a lie. Future has found that zone. He sounds possessed as if the words are pouring from his very soul. I hope this verse doesn’t end, I’m hooked. Seamless transition into a melodic delivery. Modern trap rappers have such an interesting grasp of spontaneous switch-ups. In the middle of any verse, the rapper can completely alter their approach. They’re married to no flow and, when done well, it’s quite fascinating. I wonder how many takes it took for Future to knock out this verse. Better question: how many times does Future punch in during the making of an album? Okay, without question, “31 DAYS” is the BEASTMODE 2 standout to top.
5. “RED LIGHT”
This sounds like the making of one of those soul-bearing Future records. The paranoia in his voice. WOO! Zay has worked in the trap space for over 10 years and is still able to pull together the pieces to make his sound fresh. There’s nothing stale about these two. “Sleeping on the floor made my heart colder.” I wonder if this is a nod to “Itchin,” the song where he famously rapped, “Told my grandma I don't need a bed, I'm sleeping on the floor.” Future is a modern-day blues singer. Ray Charles over trap beats. “Full of medication I wouldn’t change it,” someone please check this man into the hospital. Future has been hinting are struggling with fame for a while. He moves like a shadow, but he’s undoubtedly one of the most recognizable rappers out. I wish Zay would’ve just let the keys and strings carry this one out. Producers have to know when to cut the excess noise.
6. "DOH DOH" ft. Young Scooter
Banger alert. I’m feeling hooked. Nice bounce, nice repetitive flow. Scooter! He’s rapping with the liveliness of a man who wants to be seen and acknowledged. I will be revisiting Scooter’s last release after this is over. All stunt, straight street raps. A good guest appearance. Scooter showed up to impress; there was no phoning this one in. The “Get Your Roll On” flow homage Future just pulled off was great. The Big Tymers influence runs deep. “DOH DOH” would’ve worked great as an added track to Future’s self-titled album from last year. I like this one. By Future’s standards, everything has been on point.
7. "WHEN I THINK ABOUT IT"
This is the one that instantly sets off the fire alarm. Scorcher. “I gotta be the one most improving.” The sample and the percussion. The drums sound like congas. Future is in his feelings, and it’s making for a strong record. Second verse he launches off. “I'm dropping out of school, but I swear it didn’t stop my education” is a bar. I like it. Future isn’t giving us much more than his standard. This is similar to the material on his self-titled album, the clichés of trap Future delivering the same tricks in new settings. Occasionally, he’ll surprise with something unexpected, but mostly it’s the usual.
8. "SOME MORE"
Now, these are the keys! My ears are happy. This is good. This is really good. Future sounds right at home, walking across the soundscape as if he was the one who created it. The flow is stitched so tightly. Super Future has appeared and he’s levitating. I wonder what Future’s day-to-day is like? I wouldn’t be surprised if he was like Pusha-T, someone who revisits the trenches just to remember how it felt to be in the high-risk environment. He talks as if he’s still in the midst of an unlawful lifestyle. Nothing too dangerous, he’s no Pablo Escobar, but he sells these stories that are interesting to hear from a famous rapper. My favorite record thus far. It’s musically pleasing, and hearing Future rap with the comfortability of being in his natural habitat is rewarding. The way he can rap about codeine sitting on his kidney as if he simply stated the price of an expensive watch is bizarre but enthralling. Future rapping is like a dolphin swimming or a bird flying.
9. "HATE THE REAL ME"
This feels triumphant. Victorious. Repeating, “I’m trying to get high as I can” is wild. Damn, this went to a much darker place than I initially expected. Future rapping, “Damn I hate the real me” was heavy. When was Future shot? Man, this is straight regret and paranoia music. Future doesn’t hide his scars, he’s always revealing when it comes to his outros, but this one really sticks to the heart. I wish I loved this beat as much as I'm enjoying the rapping. Everything Zay has touched has been fire, but this one feels surprisingly misplaced. Like a song that didn’t make the last Gucci album. Overall, my favorite lyrical performance, but the production doesn’t give his visceral words the best bed of music to really cut into the listener.
BEASTMODE 2 (first listen) closing thoughts:
BEASTMODE 2 adds another collection of records to Future’s enormous catalog. The Atlanta-born artist continues to walk the fine line of blues and trap, a superstar rapper who is reaping all the benefits of his celebrity and damned by the curse of his lifestyle. The scars of his past are displayed alongside the scars of his present, a reminder that life isn't always as it seems. It’s this duality that brings realism to the unrealistic tales of Nayvadius. BEASTMODE 2 doesn’t divert from his well-known formula, but Future continues to find stimulating ways to repurpose the madness of his life and times.
The chemistry between Future and Zaytoven is that of a rapper and producer who have found a comfortable middle ground between their two separate worlds. If Zay removed his producer tag there would be no doubt which architect provided the infrastructure; every beat is crafted in the lineage of his melodic bangers. Excluding “HATE THE REAL ME,” the production for BEASTMODE 2 is some of the most sonically pleasing trap music Future has waxed poetics over. These aren’t the aggressive trunk-rattlers for beating down the block, but the eloquent hard-hitters that are perfect for an artist needing to preach. Future’s words and Zay’s keys together create a ghetto gospel for the ages.
BEASTMODE 2 doesn’t suffer from many lows, but it also doesn’t move the needle far from past material, maintaining the strong consistency of releases between two of rap’s busiest men. The highs make BEASTMODE 2 memorable—the three-song stretch that is “WHEN I THINK ABOUT IT,” “SOME MORE” and “HATE THE REAL ME” is up there with HNDRXX’s “Selfish,” “Solo,” and “Sorry” and FUTURE’s “POA,” “Mask Off,” and “High Demand.” In these moments Future is at his highest level of wizardry.
No matter how much music Future has released, he feeds the streets reasons to wave their hive flag high. It’s not that Future doesn’t miss, but when you take so many shots, you at least want fans to enjoy each attempt. BEASTMODE 2 is another enjoyable jump shot from half court.