Future sneaks up on you. Way back in April, when he released his debut album Pluto, I enjoyed it, all its beeps and croaks and Auto-Tuned wails. But I never seriously considered naming it Album Of The Week over Spiritualized’s Sweet Heart Sweet Light. As the year wore on, though, I caught myself putting Pluto back on everytime I couldn’t decide what to listen to, returning to it every time I had a bad day or a viciously drained-out case of writer’s block. Every moment started to take on totemic significance: The all-out bluster of “Same Damn Time,” the gnostic repetition of “Magic,” the open-hearted emotive gush of “You Deserve It.” By the time year-end list had come around, it had handily leapfrogged Spritualized into my top 10 list. (And that Spiritualized album is still great, still made my top 20.) Future is fun to think about; he’s a flawed and thoroughly medicated human being using technology to make himself sound simultaneously more mechanized and more human. He’s brought feelings of delusion and inadequacy and mind-blown insignificance into Atlanta strip-club rap. He’s a conundrum. But he’s also a sneaky-great melodic mind, someone whose every utterance sounds like a hook. Consider the footage, in this Pitchfork Selector episode, of him muttering nonsense over a TNGHT beat, keeping going longer than he probably should, but those utterances slowly developing their own melodic shape out of nowhere.
More than Pluto or even last year’s Astronaut Status mixtape, the new F.B.G.: The Movie mixtape is a big of a sprawling mess, a 74-minute bath in Future’s sensory deprivation tank. It feels more like a standard rap mixtape than a considered and cohesive full-length. It’s there to introduce Future’s Free Band Gang crew, but all those guys come off like bit players, and none of them seize the spotlight for even a minute (though it’s fun to hear the rapper Maceo, who made the great hypnotic 2005 single “Nextel Chirp” and then promptly disappeared, suddenly bursting back into existence). On “You Wonder,” Busta Rhymes ruins the delicately sleepy vibe by snarling and drooling his way through his guest-verse. Lil Wayne’s recent Future-collab single “Bitches Love Me” didn’t need to be here, but it’s here. So are all the unfocused intros and outros and DJ Drama between-song rants that so many mixtapes have and so many actually need. (I like how Drama is content to make even less sense than usual, though.) In short, it’s a puffed-up mixtape, with more filler than anyone needs to hear. It has its problems.
And still, it’s something, because it’s Future. I’ve only been living with this thing for about a day now, but its sublimely spacey hooks are already starting to sink their way into my brain. His voice strains and cracks through its spaceship filters with all the wounded intensity it’s always had. The beats, from producers like Mike Will and Nard & B, stretch and stumble and find different ways to continue shifting their bass-rumbles. “Fo Real,” the Drake collab that serves as the de facto opener, is underwater sci-fi murmur of the highest order, and it’s probably my song of the year thus far. “Mark McGwire,” a pitched-up and fearsome scream of steroid-addled dominance, is nearly as exhilarating as “Same Damn Time.” “Karate Chop” has a Themerin effect that just screams at you. Sisqo, of all possible people, shows up on closing track “See It To Believe It,” a nice nod toward someone who was crafting hypnotic hooks long before Future. And the whole thing grinds and pounds and wobbles the way only a Future tape can do. It’s not his best, and it’s not the place you should start, but there’s still magic in it.
Download F.B.G.: The Movie for free here.