In his youth, when JAY-Z’s hair would grow from a clean, well-trimmed line-up to a loose, unkempt afro, fans knew new Hov was on the horizon. Future’s version of this physical bat-signal is deleting all his photos from Instagram. A blank page means a clean slate, a fresh chapter, a concluding of silence.
Future, born Nayvadius Wilburn, isn’t a man of extended silence. Even at his quietest, the speechless moments between projects are breaks of preparation. Future always has more to say, and it’s always coming soon.
When Future's photos disappeared last week, his hive of devoted fans knew, even without a formal announcement, a brand-new project would soon follow. The WIZRD, his well-received seventh album, released in January, but the gifted Atlanta polymath returns with SAVE ME, a semi-surprise, seven-track EP.
No single, no big-budget promotion, nothing more than the music. Now we listen.
In usual 1-Listen album review 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.
1. "XanaX Damage”
The title is fitting for an outro, not a Future intro. A swirl of sounds. His voice just emerged from the shadows with a heavier texture than usual. It’s the singing voice of a man who hasn’t slept, who lives within the epicenter of disaster and despair, a man who sings the blues. Nice drums. Interesting start. He’s bearing his heart. “I only call you when I’m faded,” this is a return to the world of HNDRXX, but far more lugubrious. This is short, but it’s a mood-setter.
2. “St. Lucia”
The words are fluid; the lyrics are just flooding out of him. I'm sure his life can't be real. How he sings about women, and the imagery of their relations, always sounds surreal. "I'm in a whole 'nother league, but I'll fuck fans." Hahaha, I really need a reality show about Future's real life. In Future’s world, even the pastors fall to temptation. There are only sinners, no saints. Another short one. He isn’t making songs, he's recording vignettes. It’s the storytelling of a documentarian who lives only in moments. I love Future’s brevity, though. I can picture Wayne on this one. I miss their collabs.
3. “Please Tell Me”
I'm loving how serene this sounds. I didn’t recognize that producer tag. Whoever made this beat gave Future a nice groove. I had to look on TIDAL; should’ve known it was Richie Souf. Richie and Future make magic every time. Yep, by far the best record yet. There's a soft bounce to it. The type of song you play on repeat for hours with no complaints. Future sleeping in all his jewelry is hilarious. Not a club record, but I can hear this on the radio. I would love a documentary on all the women that inspire Future’s songs. Drake says names, Future gives no one that acknowledgment. We never know the muses behind the music.
So far, Save Me is a melodic journey that isn’t striking, but it absorbs listeners into the atmosphere. This is a very specific world. Oh, Future sampled Ciara’s “Promise.” I'll assume he cleared this sample. Imagine if your former lover sampled one of your biggest records without your knowledge? On the flip side, that keeps money in the family. Get that pub, Cici. I don’t love these drums, but musically, the song is a vibe. The mix sounds, odd. I can’t put my finger on it. Future's vocals usually sit on top of the beat, but here, he sounds underneath. This is HNDRXX. He’s singing his promethazine heart out. "Shotgun" is like the romantic sequel to the first half of "Throwaway."
[Editor's Note: According to Genius, Future does not sample Ciara on the track].
5. “Government Offical”
If I know Future, based on this title alone, "Government Official" will be a banger. Yep, it’s rocking harder than the cast of Jersey Shore at an open bar. Did he just make a Putin reference? Hahaha. I like this change of pace, but I'm not blown away. Where does Future find these twin sisters? I feel like this isn’t the first time he mentioned twins. Are they the same twins? Does he have a Tinder-esque app that matches him specifically with twins? I need to know. “When I drink codeine I get in my feelings.”
Two more records. I like this one, too. Oh, yeah, this is the one! The production is building up beautifully. “I can make it hard for you to fall in love with me.” This is Future tapping into trap soul. I love the background vocals. This is a song. “Pour me another one.” He doesn’t make it sound like he’s enjoying this extra life. I wouldn’t call the song misery, just melancholy. Despite living under the spotlight, there’s no brightness to this lavish life.
7. "Love Thy Enemies"
These chords. His singing! This little piece of music, with no drums, has me wondering what Blonde would sound like if someone took Frank's production and placed it behind Future vocals. I would love a guitar-driven drum-less Future album of ballads. He’s singing his soul out. “They wanna take my soul, save my flesh.” Oh yeah, Future has reached a different zone. “You wasn’t considerate to how I was feeling.” That cough. Do you know how in the zone he is for the cough to make the final mix? “I need angels, I need angels.” You better sang! Future is deep in his vulnerable bag. Keeper. I’m putting this one on an infinite loop.
Final (First Listen) Thoughts on Future's SAVE ME:
SAVE ME is a different shade of Future. Musically, the EP is a close relative to the candid, R&B-inspired HNDRXX, one of his best albums. Future's tone and textures feel weighty here; the melodies have only gotten more melancholy. Heavy is the heart of Nayvadius.
Personal reflection isn’t new terrain for Future, he is consistently poignant, but SAVE ME is lifestyle music that stares in the mirror. We hear a playboy fatigued by the playing; a drug user who is feeling the abuse; the rich rapper who can’t save his soul with cash.
Future isn’t misery in search of company, though. Life is still good, he's still the monster of love; there’s just an elevated level of self-awareness present. This appears most clearly in Future's songwriting, a strength that continues to improve from project to project.
The music is good, even great, but there is nothing new under the sun on SAVE ME. On a fundamental level, Future updates his iOS every project. This EP, like most of his music, is for Future fans who, after all these years, find his life and times enamoring. It's unlikely Future will ever unmask the real person behind the persona, but every song he digs deeper, getting to the core of a continuous transformation.
SAVE ME is the latest, melodic version of a man we recognize, but will never really know.
By Yoh, aka Love Thy Yoh, aka @Yoh31