With an onslaught of Future music comes an onslaught of cheesy emojis. There was the diamond for What a Time to Be Alive, the purple umbrella for Purple Reign, and now the rose and fire emojis for EVOL (pronounced “evil”), Future’s newest album. After premiering on DJ Khaled’s new Beats 1 radio show, fans were quick to dutifully litter ex-girlfriend Ciara’s Instagram with the emoticons and shout “Fire!” throughout the Twitter-sphere.
But the pettiness of these social media gimmicks does injustice to the Atlanta rapper’s rapidly expanding discography. His relentless pace of releases over the last year and a half has been nearly unparalleled, and is a refreshing contrast for fans given the recent trend of major artists holding back and cutting down on their production. EVOL, coming just three weeks after Purple Reign, is his latest solid release of smoky-room trap.
“Low Life,” the first taste of the album, was released on Christmas and features a characteristically dark and murky collaboration with The Weeknd, an artist who talks about drugs almost as much as Future does. It’s predictable, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “I just took some molly, what else?” Future states, acknowledging that we should be fully aware of the life he lives at this point. He doesn’t need to advertise — this is common knowledge. This complete self-awareness is obvious through the track.
That release set the tone for EVOL. There’s nothing here that we haven’t heard before. As expected, the album is filled with prescription drug references (“Promethazine/codeine this shit champagne for us”) and subliminal Ciara disses (“I know you ain’t saving that pussy / You know somebody play in that pussy”). Still, EVOL manages to keep its head above the sea of strong Future releases and stake its own claim.
“Xanny Family” captures the aesthetic of the album particularly well. Melodic rapping, hallucinogenic production and constant tempo push this track forward. It’s a hedonistic night of debauchery during which Future takes just enough time to look around, comment on his surroundings, and move on. The entire album is the same, hardly ever slowing. Where his last release Purple Reign put on the brakes with “Perkys Calling,” a ballad of sorts, EVOL powers through for 40 minutes without sign of letting up.
With this relentless pace, Future leaves behind the syrupy dissatisfaction that consumed DS2, his critically acclaimed album from last year. On “Kno the Meaning” from DS2, he stops rapping and simply talks over a quiet piano note, explaining the context of his mixtape 56 Nights. He follows this with the croon “there’s so much more I gotta endure.” Drug addiction and meaningless sex weighed heavily on Future on that album, and it was a cry for help masked with trap production. EVOL removes the lament and sees Future full-heartedly embracing that foggy world.
Future comes to own his rapping style here as well. His skill has always been in delivery and memorable one-liners, and EVOL doesn’t disappoint on this end. “You n****s don’t exist, we eat filet mignon” is a clear example from “Photo Copied.” What does that even mean? Regardless, it’ll stick with you afterward.
Stylistically, EVOL has close ties to “March Madness,” the single from 56 Nights. “Fly Shit Only” recalls it especially, angry and pummeling headfirst, but with an added cinematic feel. Future is looking down on the world from above, listing off the reasons why he’s the “only one that’s ballin.” That kind of outer-worldly quality is honed throughout this album. Take the track “Photo Copied,” an ex-girlfriend diss. While lyrically it’s relatively petty, it manages to transcend with production that punctures the air like some kind of alien-space ship.
Apparently no longer bridled with the intense emotional pain of DS2, Future’s latest album is above all a victory lap. “Seven Rings” establishes this album as the latest trophy in the line of his six previous. On track “Lie to Me” Future yells “I’m a motherfucking boss,” and while it’s only track eight, it feels like the final statement that this album leaves off with. There’s no “I think I went over my limit” here — Future has no limit.
Adding yet another ring to his hand, Future gives his fans everything they could ask for. And while the formula will inevitably become tired, EVOL is fresh enough to keep us interested.