#12. Future: DS2
In 2012, Future was on the cover of XXL Magazine’s annual freshmen issue, alongside other hip-hop hopefuls like Macklemore, Hopsin, Danny Brown, and French Montana. Unlike most of his peers that year, Future chose the slow boil over the quick burn. In hindsight, it was a smart move. By the end of 2015 he hadn’t just become the most relevant rapper on that dated list of budding stars—he’d become one of the most relevant rappers, period.
In 2015 alone Future released four separate projects. Three of those were mixtapes so polished they could’ve been albums in their own right. Two of those even found their way onto several end-of-year lists: the 808 Mafia-produced 56 Nights, and more notably the renowned collaborative mixtape with Drake, What a Time to Be Alive. But none of those mixtapes matched the impact of his 2015 studio album, DS2 (an abbreviation for Dirty Sprite 2). Unfortunately, despite the album's critical acclaim, the best thing about it is probably its cover art.
The beats on the album are as syrupy as the codeine-laced sprite from which it gets its name. Each track sounds like it’s being heard through a drugged-up stupor, from the gloomy (“Thought It Was a Drought”) to the raw and aggressive (“I Serve the Base”) to the “romantic” (“Rich $ex”). DS2 is likely going to be remembered for these distinct beats and the way they compliment Future’s auto-tuned warbles, rather than for its lyrics. Future’s got some stereotypical hobbies for a rapper, and his verses about sex and cough syrup are not exactly on the cutting edge of lyrical ingenuity as far as subject matter is concerned. “I just took a piss and I seen codeine coming out” is an interesting way to mention cough syrup, but there are only so many ways to rap about the drug, and after the umpteenth reference the lyrics start to feel tedious. “Where Ya At” is a welcome respite from the repetitive tales of drugs and sex. It features Drake—DS2’s only feature from another artist—and further proves that when these two men team up they're one of the most successful duos around.
Another noteworthy track is “Rich $ex,” which finds Future singing about—you guessed it—being rich and having sex. Future cranks up the seduction as best as he can over a beat that’s somewhere between hip-hop and R&B on this fan and critic favorite. However, despite his best efforts to come across as a romantic misfit and showcase his soft side, it’s a pretty repetitive song that lyrically boils down to “hey, let’s have sex with our jewelry on” (I’m paraphrasing here, but this is frightfully close to the song’s actual lyrics). It’s hard not to crack up when Future spends four minutes crooning with a straight face about wearing nothing but his watch and chains. With tracks like this, it’s a wonder that DS2 hasn’t been dubbed as the quintessential collection of 21st-century rap clichés. It’s even more surprising that it ranks this high on an aggregated list of the best albums of 2015. DS2's main saving grace is the high level of production value that went into making it. For better or worse, there are a lot of artists trying to make this flavor of hip-hop, and as of right now Future's undeniably the best at it.