Future | 56 Nights
Future is lashing out. Last year, in a 20 minute sit down with Tim Westwood filmed while on tour in Europe, Future spoke for nearly all of it — about recording new music, his state of mind in the wake of a tabloid split from ex-wife Ciara, and returning to the early, gutter sound of his Dirty Sprite-era mixtapes. Coming off a year that saw the release of his second studio album and the parting of ways for Atlanta’s first couple, the ATLien has clearly had a lot on his mind, and even more to get off his chest. Since October, he’s released a string of mixtapes — Monster, Beast Mode, and March’s 56 Nights — signaling a creative resurgence and revealing an artist exorcising demons, old and new, as he works through the baggage of a public breakup. Released with little to no warning, 56 Nights finds Future in a state of blitzed self-medication, indulging in the rockstar carousel of drugs and empty sex full tilt and with complete detachment, but once again certifying his standing as one of the most engaging voices in contemporary rap music.
Named after and inspired by the haunting prison sentence of tour DJ and close friend DJ Esco, 56 Nights captures a mood that Future has glanced at in the past with tracks like “Deeper Than the Ocean” and the recent standout closer “Codeine Crazy” from 2014’s Metro Boomin-produced Monster. But here, he’s fully let go of himself, falling deep into a chasm of storytelling that shifts between paranoid hustle tactics, explosive street creeds with operatic tension, and late-night confessionals fraught with a sobering emptiness underscoring genuinehurt. The hooks blast off like runaway trains, careening into cortexes with irresistible melodies and iron-coated boasts that beg to be barked. It’s almost hard to believe the warbled grunts that lace the death march of “Diamonds in Africa” share real estate with the wiry, sing-song flow accompanying the brilliant, song-of-the-year contender “March Madness”. The flawless cut, which alludes to NBA franchises, police brutality, and Atlanta strip-clubs over starry-eyed production from 808 Mafia affiliate Tarentino, is an all-star showing from Future at his creative peak, tossing gems in the pot bar after bar with a grace that overwhelms in its flurry.
The production on 56 Nights, helmed by 808 Mafia honcho and visionary Southside, features some of the weirdest sounds from rap’s heavyweight class. The idiosyncratic beats bring out the freak in Future, a proud experimentalist who loves to foment new flows and regularly push the boundaries of coherence, language and style. Varying in tempos and tones, the tracks provide the perfect template for Future to showcase the wide spectrum of flows and limitless imagination he has at his disposal. Glitchy drum patterns, droning basslines, and synths that evoke the euphoria of the Northern Lights partner finger-in-trigger with the lurid imagery and blunt honesty in Future’s rhymes. The stream-of-consciousness opener “Never Gon Lose” details a laundry list of weed, lean, and mindless fornicating plucked straight from a journal: “I said I wasn’t gonna fuck with that bitch, then I fucked her again / I scream out the gutter, the sewer, the streets turn a boy to a man / I nutted off with that Ruger, I took your bitch to Aruba / She fuck with Super cause she got that super, When I say super that’s just Super Future.” 56 Nights sounds like a battle cry and the worst hangover, all at once.
56 Nights is less than a month old, but its thunderous brilliance is readily apparent. The lean 8 piece meal of bangers may be the closest Future has come thus far to perfection. It’s a distilled, focused effort from a moment in time — right now — that operates on a smaller scale in its themes but is endlessly enjoyable to listen to. Musicians are famous for producing some of their bravest and most daring work in the wake of broken vows or relationship woes — albums such as Here, My Dear, 808s and Heartbreak, and 21 each dealt with the emotional fallout of breakups, and in the process, garnered acclaim and innovated their genres by ushering in new sounds that would later pave the way for a new generation. The lasting allure of records like these lies in the universal romanticism of heartache that everyone experiences at some point in life. On 56 Nights, the rawness, vulnerability, and sui generis space-trap soundscapes place it firmly in a category all its own. Love cuts deep, even for a monster.