Back in June of 2012 Future announced he’d be naming his sophomore studio album Future Hendrix, and the Internet instantly attacked. He found himself defending the title as though he were crazy enough to blasphemously blend his name with Jesus. He explained, “Future Hendrix just comes from being different. Jimi Hendrix, he always stood out, and I always like the way he stood out…it’s striving to be different.”
As the title remained intact, Future told Sermon’s Domain that the album would be more R&B-based, with “more substance, more passion.” As a fan of Future’s auto-tuned crooning, I mentally heard an album with 10 variants of “Turn On The Lights” and I was in my glory…
Fast-forward to Leak Day 2014 – Future Hendrix is long gone. Here is Honest, its primary sound, Future said, dictated by the recording session of the single (and deluxe edition extra track) “Sh!t.” My initial listens had be questioning why “Sh!t” wasn’t the title track. Honest opens with four consecutive “street bangers,” as Future likes to call them. Where were the passionate R&B tunes that Future had promised?
It wasn’t until my fifth full listen of the album, on the fifth track (the second single and the album’s title track) Future comes trilling through, “That’s what I doooo,” I finally accepted Honest for what it was. It wasn’t Future Hendrix or my idea of what Future Hendrix should be, instead, it was completely Honest and it was even better than I could have imagined.
Take “Honest” the track, and here, perfectly personified in 3 minutes and 23 seconds is the artist that Future is. If you were to read the lyrics to the song before listening back in August, you’d think this was another banger, a classic case of hip-hop braggadocio. “Rock star my swag, I’m just honest/ Everything exotic, I’m just honest/ Gold all on my neck, I’m just honest.” Then you pair these repetitive, vapid lyrics with Future’s rocky, wobbly vocals and DJ Spin & Metro Boomin’s production fit for an R&B Diva’s latest song possibly about bedroom parties, and somehow, beyond plausible explanation, you have magic. You have Future. You have Honest.
Leading up Honest’s release, Future told Huffington Post that he’d created a “timeless,” “classic album.” As a fan, these words peaked my interest. As someone set to review the album, however, these words assured that I’d compare Honest to the classics its creator now thinks it’s akin to.
On the opening track, “Look Ahead,” Future delivers. His first words are “Be bold,” and that he most certainly is. “Look Ahead” is how hip-hop albums are supposed to start, knocking down the doors, celebratory flags waving, victory horns blaring through the air. Reminiscent of other perfect intros, like Jay’s “The Ruler’s Back” or T.I.’s “56 Bars,” this song assures you’ll listen to the rest of the album, likely with the windows rolled down and the volume on full blast.
The second and third track, “T-Shirt” and “Move That Dope,” Future reunites with the producers that have shaped his sound almost as much as he did – Nard B and executive producer/SPIN’s 2013 Artist of the Year Mike WiLL Made It. These anthems, though at times tiresome, are the songs that assure Future will get his play through your radio airwaves.
Another certainty that you’ll hear a lot of Honest are due to the features. On Honest, there’s only room for mega-names – Drake, Wiz, Andre 3000. As a collective, however, save Pharrell with his “Gandalf Hat,” Kanye with his “Bound Bike,” and Andre with his “Simplism, symbolism,” half of the features are a pointless break from the voice that you want to be hearing – Future’s.
For me the, the most stellar track is the subtle “I Be U.” For some, this song will be skimmed over. By design, it doesn’t thump heavily through your speakers like the rest of the album. The low-key song isn’t meant to stand out and that’s exactly why it does. (I’m already in contact with Mr. Nayvadius Wilburn’s people on what it’ll take to have him perform this at my wedding.)
The album’s conclusion is as fitting as its opening. “Blood, Sweat, Tears” is Future’s ode to Future, a sort of turned down version of Pluto’s “You Deserve It.” Future congratulates himself on another successful endeavor, and wishes the naysayers could see what it took for him to claim his chart-topping position.
At a concise 47 minutes, Honest is the product of an artist grinding to find his sound and now finally coming as close to perfecting it as possible. With Honest, Future delivers an album that is focused, scarce on filler, and could only be crafted by him and his most trusted producers.
So, is Honest a “classic?” Upon first several listens, my gut tells me no – but for many, same could be said for Yeezus upon release and less than a year later folks are already telling “Ye we need another Yeezus.” Is Honest “timeless?” Obviously, only time can answer such a question, but with Honest, Future assures he’ll be around for the foreseeable future.
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