Welcome to the Future, where the burden of having rapper affluenza really is a thing and trapping is somehow still king.
And where the rapper Future, who is 35, enters his hip-hop midlife crisis with a new album that touts all the spoils of his never-ending trap and rap game, while simultaneously stressing over them in a way that only he can.
His seventh and latest full studio effort, Future Hndrxx Presents: The WIZRD, debuts atop the Billboard album chart this week and continues the rapper’s long-running narrative that is its typical ratio of 3-to-2 braggadocio-to-burden, although given his monotone cadence it’s sometimes hard to tell exactly when Future is happy about his riches or troubled by them.
Indeed, being rich enough to “park a ‘Vette and never get back in it” would be problematic for any poor soul, and Future (as he raps on new album track “F&N”) clearly is no exception.
As usual, he seems happiest when expressing love for his jewelry – specifically those encrusted with diamonds or of the Richard Mille variety – or all the “Foreigns” in his driveway (they number in the double digits). But he also struggles – or at least it seems – with finding any kind of love in the many faceless women the father of six raps about “f%#king on.” (He dubiously gets creativity points for finding a way to rhyme “average” with “bad bitch” on the album’s fourth track “Temptation,” though.)
Future is content – we think – when taking off in his private jet or dropping ten “M’s” on a house he’ll never inhabit, but still struggles with the resultant paranoia that requires him to “take an AK to a dinner date,” as he also bemuses on “F&N.”
It’s no surprise then that the new album’s No. 1 placement on this week’s Billboard 200 chart is, similarly, a blessing/curse story.
For starters, the good: WIZRD is Future’s sixth No. 1 album, which places him in a tie (with Nas) for fifth place among all rappers. Future and Nas trail the big four of Jay-Z (14 No. 1s), Eminem (9), and Drake and Kanye West (each with 8). (Btw, Drake’s and Future’s numbers include their 2015 collaboration, What A Time To Be Alive.)
In the world of hip-hop where having the most of anything is the ultimate badge of honor, to be in that kind of company is truly an accomplishment for a trap artist like Future.
That’s the blessing.
The actual consumption numbers on WIZRD though? Not so much.
The album moved the equivalent of 125,251 units (11,829 pure albums) during the tracking period, which, in a soft release week, was enough to place it at No. 1 and is respectable. But it also doesn’t show any discernible streaming growth for the Atlanta rapper.
The album’s numbers are on par with his earlier solo efforts FUTURE and HNDRXX. But given the high anticipation of WIZRD – his first solo release in almost two years – and the exponential growth in hip-hop streaming since 2017, one would think his return would net much more than the mediocre numbers WIZRD put up during the tracking period.
Not to mention that WIZRD boasts 20 strongly produced tracks, which is on the high side and usually translates to larger streaming numbers. That wasn’t the case for this album and, quite frankly, none of the pre-released singles from WIZRD, such as “Crushed Up” (No. 46 debut on last week’s Hot 100, No. 59 this week) and “Jumpin On A Jet” (No. 80 this week), did much to build buzz around the album.
Then there’s the fact that WIZRD is also Future’s first No. 1 album since March 2017 when FUTURE and HNDRXX did the trick in consecutive weeks. That’s a long gap for someone of his stature, and it wasn’t for lack of trying on his part.
Future released four albums between HNDRXX and WIZRD, including three collaborations (with Young Thug, Zaytoven and, most recently, the up-and-coming Juice Wrld) plus the Superfly soundtrack he curated. Yet none of those sets topped the chart, a fact that – when coupled with the low numbers on WIZRD – suggests Future’s rap career may have actually reached its plateau.
Indeed, WIZRD – and Future in general – may be suffering from oversaturation or too much self-indulgence, which is ironic because the latter is the foundation on which hip-hop was built… even some of the best hip-hop.
Yet with so much product on the market, there are only so many ways you can slice an 808-heavy trap beat or rap about waking up in drug-induced hazes, boning grimy women, owning multiple foreign whips, living (or not living) in newly purchased eight-figure homes and giving (unpaid) endorsements to expensive Richard Mille watch brands.
This is especially true of Future, a rapper that’s been at the top of the trap game for close to a decade and whose next major milestone birthday is 40.
Future has thus reached elder statesman status, which becomes evident on the new album’s “Krayzie But True,” where the rapper asserts to his trap progeny: “I’m god to you niggas/I worked too hard just to spoil you niggas?/You need to pay me my respects.”
But getting to hip-hop godfather status can also mean the following: 1) younger fans will soon think you’re too old, even when you’re not; 2) hip-hop is an unforgiving genre that will pass you by if you don’t evolve with it; and 3) the fans who grew up with you will eventually get bored and stop consuming your material.
When all is said and done, Future is indisputably No. 1 this week, and maybe getting pure unadulterated Nayvadius on an album is what was needed to put him back on top.
And the trap king is still one of the best at evoking wild imagery with those vivid tales of his past – which somehow still sound like his present.
But, without stretching himself artistically beyond the normal topics that WIZRD so relentlessly recycles, there’s no guarantee that even the next solo Future album will top the chart.
So it took Future returning to his solo game to get him back to the top in Billboard, and being solo is a formula that’s working for a number of rappers these days.
In fact, the last seven number one albums have all been by solo male rap artists. They account for every number one since December 8 when Travis Scott, who also contributes to WIZRD, returned to No. 1 with Astroworld. Scott was followed by Meek Mill, XXXTentacion, Kodak Black and 21 Savage in rapid one-week successions.
The previous record of six was then established two weeks ago by A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s ascension to the top.
And now Future’s WIZRD makes it seven in a row. It’s a streak that could come to an end next week when the band Weezer’s new album Teal debuts, but hip-hop fans can rejoice in knowing that seven different hip-hop albums held court for nine straight weeks on the charts.