After suffering a five-month delay and going through a name change-in the process, receiving notably less hype than 2012’s Pluto-Atlanta rapper Future’s sophomore album Honest finally dropped this week, and it was worth the wait. The journey to complete the album, announced two summers ago as Future Hendrix, was extensive. The 22-month period was marked by major events in Future’s life, including his engagement to R&B artist Ciara, and a number of successful features including massive hits like Ace Hood’s “Bugatti” and Rocko’s “U.O.E.N.O.” With Mike WiLL Made It, SPIN Magazine’s 2013 Artist of the Year, acting as executive producer of Honest, Future comes up with a solid product, finding a healthy balance between delicate, emotionally intelligent songs and hard-hitting bangers.
Future’s vocals are assisted by auto-tune on every track of Honest. The technology is often criticized for compromising the beauty of a song, but in the case of Future, his rhythmic, passionate voice is greatly enhanced. On the album’s title track, Future’s rattling voice emerges from the speakers with great finesse and emotion. He repeats the lyric “I’m just being honest” after almost every line throughout the song, yet, the phrase never comes close to feeling repetitive, as his varying pitch and tone make the lyric feel different each time it is delivered. “I Be U,” one of the most successful songs on the album, has a similar effect. While a number of the lyrics are difficult to understand through the auto-tune, the ambient beat and enchanting sound helps the listener empathize with the topics Future is rapping about.
Although Future’s magnetic voice can be credited with much of the album’s success, it certainly does not carry all of the weight. The production quality of Honest is incredible-Mike WiLL Made It provides a diverse set of beats that will keep a listener’s head nodding through all 18 tracks. The opening track, “Look Ahead,” has an irresistible beat. The danceable, fast-paced track gives the delayed album the exciting start that it needs. “Move That Doh,” the third track, features G.O.O.D. Music’s Pusha T, i am Other’s Pharrell Williams, and Free Band Gang’s Casino. The stubborn beat has burps of powerful synths that work perfectly with the styles of those featured, creating a street-rap track that makes a listener want to get up out of his or her seat and break something.
Along with “Look Ahead,” “I Be U,” and “Move That Doh,” “Never Satisfied (feat. Drake)” and “Benz Friends (feat. Andre 300)” are the highlights of the album. Both of these tracks show off Future deviating from the mold of present-day rappers. On “Never Satisfied,” Drake explains his voracious appetite for women and material wealth that can never be satisfied (“Money’s all I get and still money on my mind / But I ain’t never satisfied / I found the one and say I’ll never cheat again / We don’t talk for like some months / I ended up f-king with her friend”). Future seems to have a slightly different, more sophisticated understanding of success, as he explains that loyalty to his crew forever takes precedence over money and fame. In “Benz Friends,” arguably the best song on the album, the dissonance of Future’s thoughts on material wealth becomes more apparent. Andre 3000’s familiar voice opens the track, repeating, “I told that girl I don’t give a damn ’bout no Benzes,” followed by Future emphasizing a similar ideal (“These cars don’t mean s-t / These h-s don’t mean s-t / These clothes don’t mean s-t / This show don’t mean s-t”). The Atlanta rappers both spit powerful verses stressing the importance of loyalty and the insignificance of money, cars, and clothes.
While the album as a whole does have some weak moments, including songs like “Shhh…” which is basically a poorly executed rip-off of Que’s “OG Bobby Johnson”), the positives heavily outweigh the negatives. Mike WiLL Made It provides spectacular production, the record’s featured artists exceed expectations, and Future delivers with beautiful, electronically enhanced vocals that tie it all together. Overall, the project exceeds expectations, and it shows off an artist greatly improved from his debut album. Whether you like it or not, you have to respect his honesty.