Arizona native rapper Futuristic chronicles the struggles of existing between emerging fame and obscurity in his new record, “The Rise.” In the title track, Futuristic toes the line between celebrating the success that he has already achieved as an independent artist. All the while realizing that he is standing at the precipice of larger and much more mainstream success. As is such, he stands in the unique position of being both a veteran and a perpetual beginner.
The song captures this feeling with its laid back R&B vocals, courtesy of Devvon Terrell and Futuristic’s increasingly fast paced and aggressive delivery. Terrell, to his credit, adds to the deep sense of sincerity that the track embodies with the simplicity and rawness of both the lyrical content and his voice. “The Rise” is easily one of the strongest tracks on an already solid album, mainly because it effectively captures the essence of the entire record in three minutes.
“The Rise” smoothly transitions into the autobiographical final track,“Music Saved My Life.” Which is in no way as cheesy as the title suggests. Instead, Futuristic lays bare of the frustrations that he feels at this current moment in his life and career. He laments, “I still ain’t made a name for myself and its gettin’ old. How many more words can I enter into this phone, without running out of topics and dropping interesting quotes?” He does this with a stream of consciousness style delivery without a chorus or any other musical break. In this track, Eminem’s influence it obvious. As is Frank Ocean, whose voice Futuristic sounds almost identical to at moments.
Overall, listening to the song is difficult, as the empathic listener may begin to feel as though she too is spiraling downward emotionally along with the artist. Thus, critiquing it, seems overly invasive and downright cruel. This is due mainly to Futuristic’s confession of a suicide attempt which was foiled by song lyrics that sprang to his mind just as he was about to pull the trigger. He then wonders aloud if “maybe music saved my life.” It is the last thing he says on the album. In his absence, for the remainder of the song a saxophone emotes the feelings that Futuristic no longer has the language to convey.
These reflective and introspect last songs stand in stark contrast to the album’s beginning. On “The Greatest” Futuristic explores themes that are typically found in commercial luxury rap: sex, money and braggadocio. “Got a crib in LA and a crib in AZ…I make dollars, you make cents nigga…pissin’ on ‘em like a urinal.” His rhymes are both clever and original, even if the content is not. But near the end of the track, the production slows down and Futuristic begins to chronicle all the things he has lost on his journey. He also begins to repeat “Now, I’m feeling like the greatest” again and again, each time with more apprehension, as though he is trying to convince himself.
The next offering, “No Way,” is lyrically one of the strongest tracks on the album. Stand out lines include: “I’m like a kid who ain’t got no hands, I don’t play no games” and “This my life, you treat this shit like a hobby, like a old bitch doing crochet.” It is one of the most upbeat songs on the album and the most fun; although the production doesn’t live up to the quality of the rap. The unfortunate backing track sounds as though it were made with a Casio recorder and some tin cans in the rain.
Again, at the end of “No Way,” Futuristic slows down and becomes more introspective and vulnerable. Drake’s influence is felt as he whispers to himself “I’m not okay.” Truthfully speaking, this section could (and maybe should) be expanded into its own song.
“Man on a Mission,” unlike the previous tracks begins with vulnerability and becomes more and more aggressive as it progresses. Contrary to “No Way,” the production of the song is perhaps the strongest on the entire record. It is etherial and haunting, and draws influence from the current trip-hop inspired R&B of Jhene Aiko, FKA Twigs, Frank Ocean and SZA.
“OD” begins a succession of filler songs, with the exception of “Whatever I Want,” which is single quality. Unlike most artists, this description is by no means an insult or a suggestion that the songs are of lower quality. In Futuristic’s case, it just means that they are all just good. He’s good. And at this point in the album, there is not much else one can say.
There are two songs, “Let’s Do Something” and “Catch” in which he shows his more romantic side. “Let’s Do Something“ is a fun and funny song, about a day spent trouble making with a love interest.” Again, it is good, but would be enhanced with a female feature, preferably another rapper, who can match his silliness tit-for-tat. In “Catch” he ensures his paramour that “it’s okay to fall in love” though the vulnerability and sincerity of his other tracks it is missing here. As though Futuristic is just saying the type of things all guys say, before doing all the things the claimed they would never do.
Overall, the album is excellent. And by the end, the listener will agree that Futuristic is indeed one of the greatest rappers int the game right now. The influences, of Drake, Eminem and Frank Ocean are clear on the record, although he never sounds like an imitation or in any way unoriginal. His struggles and stories are all his own. And though the same level of misogyny is found here as in any other hip-hop record, including his penchant for receiving though never reciprocating oral sex,“No way, No way,” (aside: ladies, walk way) it is balanced out with honest lyrical content about who Futuristic is now and whom he aims to become.
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