Elliot Wilson in a feature for GQ recently deemed Future the ‘Best Rapper Alive’. That title is a staple debate in the realms of hip-hop. Some lean to the rags-to-riches lyricism of a Jay-Z or Nas, others lean to the wordplay-rich rapid fire of an Eminem. It’s a topic that never ends in a definitive agreement, especially when it comes to sticking the title on an artist like Future. He’s an underdog pick in this discussion, especially with his output existing outside of the style box people deem the ‘Golden Era’. But with unprecedented consistency and longevity, it’s time to give the Atlanta legend his flowers.
With the release of his new album, I NEVER LIKED YOU, the argument for Future to be deemed the ‘Best Rapper Alive’ has never been stronger. He’s 9 studio albums, 19 mixtapes, 2 EPs, and 5 collaborative projects deep. This latest album is on track to become his 7th consecutive No.1 on the Billboard Charts. It’s a future that didn’t seem apparent under his old moniker Bonehead, and his days as an extra in the Dungeon Family entourage. But in 2022, he stands tall as an OG and influencer who paved the way for many of rap’s off-kilter subgenres. What makes this even more impressive is that at 38 years old, he still hasn’t lost a step.
I NEVER LIKED YOU feels like Future owning his title as one of the greatest. This is an album from someone who knows they’re freaking good. Popular pundits such as Shawn Cee have already deemed it ‘album of the year’. It’s a victory lap at its highest pace, kicking off with the motivated flexes of ‘712PM’. It features him rapping “Every time I re-up, they gotta’ advance at least twenty M,” as if he’s reminding us of his stature in the music scene. What follows over the remaining duration of the album is a hunger-rich Future, delivering everything from slow, woozy cuts like ‘PUFFIN ON ZOOTIES’, to vulnerable trap ballads like ‘LOVE YOU BETTER’, and mega doses of energy like the Kanye-assisted ‘KEEP IT BURNIN’.
So why does someone with as many accolades as Future feel like they have something to prove? Well, it’s because he’s never conformed to contentment in his artistry. When he became a comfortable chart staple with his sophomore album Honest, he decided to take over Datpiff with a legendary mixtape run that included Monster, Beast Mode, and 56 Nights. When his sound became a staple in the mainstream, he went full R&B on the fan-favourite album Hndrxx. On I NEVER LIKED YOU, he’s meshing everyone he’s ever done together, working with familiar producers like Southside and TM88, while building new dynamics with prospects like ATL Jacob, who leads Future in his darkest directions on tracks like ‘HOLY GHOST’, and his smoothest sonics on tracks like ‘WAIT FOR U’ with Drake and Tems.
This latest opus from Future closes out with the song ‘BACK TO THE BASICS’, which finds him reflecting on his journey, the riches he’s accumulated and the heartbreak he still experiences. His voice warbles with emotion, leaning on the same open-book soliloquies that fans have connected with over the last decade. Throughout his sound changes and risks, his vulnerability has always been an anchoring factor. It’s the reason why songs like ‘Codeine Crazy’ still play, and a major part in why these emotions are accepted in hip-hop today. In any one of Future’s 35 projects you choose, you can find pieces of the man behind the moniker, which you can connect over his timeline of creativity and consistency. To add even more content to his masterpiece career, an additional 6 songs have even been added to the project, with features such as BabyFace Ray, Lil Baby, Lil Durk, 42 Dugg, and Young Scooter. No matter your definition of the ‘Best Rapper Alive’, it’s undeniable that Future belongs in the conversation. And if you don’t agree, it doesn’t matter; he never liked you anyway.
Follow Future here for more and stream the new album I NEVER LIKED YOU here.