Energised and committed, Future’s ninth album takes all the necessary pitstops to continue his reign as the trap lord.
There may not be a rapper more blatantly cocky than Future. His attitude is one that must be backed up by the accolades. But what’s a bigger accolade than being the most influential artist of the last decade? Trap is now the most popular sub-genre in hip hop, so much that it’s been adopted by pop stars left right and centre. Future’s seen the fruits of that labour, maintaining relevancy at the highest point in ways other trap rappers couldn’t. His latest album is I Never Liked You, a title clearly influenced by the ‘toxic king’ trope that online communities adorned onto him.
A decade on from his debut, Future keeps finding ways to deliver addictive trap music, in touch with the melodies and production that make him stand out.
This is Future’s shortest album since 2016’s EVOL, its standard edition carrying sixteen tracks and a runtime of 48 minutes. It works favourably for Future, providing the exact dose needed at this stage in his career. There is plenty consistency here; the sequencing is thought out, creating a fluid listening experience that is often absent in trap albums.
Compared to the ominous minimalism of High Off Life, the decibels are turned up for I Never Liked You. Production is handled mainly by ATL Jacob, alongside Wheezy, Southside and TM88 – reminiscent of the high energy found on Future’s 2017’s self-titled album. It opens strong with “712PM”, a sliding attack on the senses with its Eastern sample and alarming synths. ATL Jacob earns his money on “Keep It Burnin”, a belligerent collaboration with Kanye West that fulfils everyone’s capabilities. Further beats impress on “Holy Ghost” and “We Just Wanna Get High”, examples of pure professionals at work.
Future’s performances always mesh with the beats he’s selected. His flow switches every four bars on a plethora of tracks, each one as addictively melodic as the last. It’s no wonder Future is one of the best rappers when it comes to flows.
I Never Liked You takes a sidestep from the energy in a few moments. “Wait for U” with Tems and Drake has established itself as the hit of the album, based around the Nigerian singer’s track “Higher”. It is undeniably tender, and shows that Future and Drake work better on these sort of songs rather than their trap snoozers (“I’m On One”). “Puffin on Zootiez” is Future’s most hypnotic song in a while, tranquil in its production and deliveries.
Though consistent, the album is met with a few low points. “Voodoo” gets lost in its generic production and Kodak Black’s annoying vocals. “For a Nut” passes checks in the production area, but feels like a collaboration stemmed purely from the success of “Pushin P” – and this time the writing is a bit too ridiculous. These tracks could have been replaced with some of the deluxe tracks, namely “Worst Day” and “Just the Beginning” which would have been elite album standouts.
Aside from “Wait for U”, the songs on I Never Liked You lack the ‘it’ factor. There’s consistency but lacks weight in the way previous Future albums provide career highlights. High Off Life granted “Life is Good”, “Too Comfortable” and “Accepting My Flaws”. The Wizrd had “Baptiize” and “F&N”. Self-titled’s highlights stemmed further from “Mask Off” with “Rent Money”, “Super Trapper”, “POA”, “Poppin Tags” and “Feds Did a Sweep”. To be among Future’s best albums, I Never Liked You needed a few songs of that calibre.
At times, you have to wonder whether the heartbreak Future’s feeling is really real, or whether he’s feeding into the ‘toxic king’ trope that’s made him more popular. It feels more genuine on 2019’s SAVE ME, where the toxicity meets trauma quite effectively. Even though the album doesn’t require substance, this is the first time Future is breaking the fourth wall and fully embodying the toxic image. I Never Liked You would be better off without its blatant acknowledgement.
It’s clear at this stage of his career that Future knows what he’s doing. He continues to reign the trap lands, his music still in high demand by the masses that know he is the best that trap has to offer – and it’s all without coincidence.
7.5 / 10
Best tracks: “Puffin on Zootiez”, “Keep It Burnin”, “712PM”, “The Way Things Going”