Future emerged on the scene as a genuine emo rapper. His debut record, 2012’s "Pluto," is an incredible, alien-R&B testament to the difficulties of relating to other people and the absolute euphoria when you finally meet someone that does. Obviously we now know that around this time the man born Nayvadius Wilburn was courting Ciara — and we can understand why dating Ciara would cause someone to be vulnerable and elated in public.
But then, something happened. Ciara and Future called off their engagement after the latter was caught cheating and he submerged deep into a self-imposed cynicism. In 2015, he emerged as a grim, back-biting cynic — filling his aching soul with every pill and woman he could get his hands on. Maybe it was supposed to send a petty message to his former fiancée, or maybe he was just genuinely lost, but it resulted in a truly incredible run. Most rappers would be geeked to have a single work like "56 Nights," "Dirty Sprite 2" or "Beast Mode" in their career. Future had all three in a single year.
Today, Future released his self-titled sixth studio album. To celebrate, we’ve gathered the 10 best songs from a career that’s already on the cusp of the greatest-of-all-time conversation.
10. "Stick Talk"
"Stick Talk" made it on "Dirty Sprite 2," the nihilistic atom bomb that serves as Future’s third studio album. No intro, no outro; there’s a Funkadelic squeal and Future is immediately in the cut. "Took a shot of Henny I’ve been going brazy brazy." It’s a total blunderbuss of drugs, sex and expensive automobiles, but occasionally Future pulls back the curtain just enough for us to understand the void he’s hiding. "10 million dollars cash, fuck a friend, started sipping syrup I’ve been geeked ever since."
9. "Turn on the Lights"
In which Future desperately pleads the doorman to illuminate the club so he can find the love of his life. It has been a long time since the Atlanta hardhead was this emotionally available. This song was a preamble to his once-in-a-lifetime romance with Ciara — we all know how that turned out. But still, a syrup-soaked romance can be beautiful, and we hope that someday Future feels comfortable enough to love again — because he sure sounds great when he’s completely smitten.
8. "Just Like Bruddas"
Future’s 5 a.m. croak has always paired perfectly with tales of post-breakup debauchery projected directly from the bowels of a sweaty club. Here, he places it over a celestial, virtuosic piano-driven beat served up by Zaytoven. Much has been made about the despondence central to Future’s musings during his legendary 2015, but "Just Like Bruddas" is one of the few times he sounds genuinely happy — like the first few cracks of daylight, the moment you finally wake up without thinking about the empty side of the bed.
7. "56 Nights"
"56 Nights" has one of my favorite Future videos. He walks down an endless street in a hyper-saturated black and white with a couple of girls, gently unfurling his bars. It’s the most generic rap clip ever, but stripped down to its bare essentials, perfect for cold-as-ice punchlines like "try to sell some dope and eat caviar." All Future needs is an 808 throb and a steadicam to remind you that he’s still the coolest guy in the world.
6. "Astronaut Chick"
There are tough songs on Future’s auspicious debut album "Pluto." The coke-talk of "Tony Montana," the excess of "Same Damn Time" — all that stuff would become more prominent as Future brooded on his throne. But there’s also fluttery R&B ballads like "Astronaut Chick," an open-hearted elegy that’s uniquely vulnerable in hip-hop. "You an astronaut chick, and that’s the only thing that matter to me, you was made for me." Songs like this supply the context for the anger and vengeance that surfaced later in his career.
5. "Blow a Bag"
Future is 33 years old. He spent a ton of time getting digested in the endless mixtape shell game, before finally achieving real success at the tail end of his 20s. He’s waited a long time to be famous, and as such, he’s entitled to the occasional “N****s in Paris”-style celebration. "If Snupe was living I know he’d be proud of me, if Lonzo was living, I know he’d be proud of me" — the excess might be a little gaudy, but never forget who he’s thinking about.
4. "News or Somthn'"
Future occasionally calls himself "Future Hendrix," a nod to the legendary psychedelia and sex appeal of Jimi Hendrix. A lot of Future’s contemporary music doesn’t really evoke the Woodstock icon, but "News or Somthn'" — with its extended, acid-wash guitar solo and domesticated verses — would probably make him proud. Future has already proven to be a chameleonic artist, and I think we’d all be interested in hearing him embrace his '60s crush full throttle.
3. "Fuck Up Some Commas"
Future had an awful 2014. Creatively he slumped with the mediocre (and much-hyped) Honest, Ciara called off their engagement after claims of infidelity and he responded with the pathetically petty "Pussy Overrated," which did him absolutely no favors. He entered 2015 as a pariah, but he seemed to embrace his newfound villainy as best he could. "Fuck Up Some Commas" is purple mafioso-rap, the pinky-ring taunts of Raekwon served with a southern slur. There is no better paper-stacking anthem in all of hip-hop, which is saying something considering the competition.
2. "March Madness"
This is the song that capped off an incredible 2015. Future spent the year banging out hit after hit — “Where Ya At,” “News or Somthn,” “Fuck Up Some Commas” — but before it was done he had producer Tarentino drum up a crackling Super Mario beat that meshed perfectly with his holler. The result is an indelible slab of grim, dazed trap. It has absolutely nothing to do with March Madness itself, but it’ll still become the event’s national anthem.
There is a moment on Jumpman where Future makes himself known on the creaky Metro Boomin’ beat by just rapping "Jumpman, Jumpman, Jumpman, Jumpman, Jumpman." He continues to tribute a private dinner in LA, a mix of codeine and alcohol and the “chicken wings and fries” he buys his trysts. It’s all good, but I still feel like if Future just repeated the word "jumpman" throughout his entire verse it could’ve been one of the greatest moments in hip-hop history. The man is blessed with a rhythmic, naturally hypnotizing voice, and he’s at his best when he’s completely obtuse.