I don’t think any musician has ever released the amount of quality music Future has in such a short time frame. Since October 2014, Future has released four mixtapes, two studio albums, and a collaborative album with the biggest hip-hop star on the planet. Releasing a huge amount of music in such a short time isn’t unheard of, but for it all to be consistently strong and inventive certainly is.
EVOL is Future’s fourth studio album, released only seven months after DS2, his third. DS2 was really the moment Future became the crowned prince of trap, having completed his rebound from the disappointing Honest. This rebound seemed to have been inspired by his split with his ex-fiancé Ciara, and the music reflected it. His lyrics became angry and bitter, his sounds desolate and harsh, and following his mixtape trilogy, DS2 was his ascendancy to the throne. Since then, he has seemingly occupied himself with smaller, transitional projects (What a Time to Be Alive and Purple Reign), which is a category EVOL falls into somewhat. However, Future has refined his aesthetic to such a degree, and is such a gifted songwriter, that even his minor works are engaging.
EVOL actually opens relatively slowly, with the first three tracks being much more sedated than most of his recent work. Like the cover artwork, EVOL at first seems to be the smouldering embers from DS2’s fire, and whilst the tracks are moody, they lack the energy and sense of audaciousness that characterises Future’s best songs. Xanny Family, the fourth track seems to climax this mini-arc within the album, but instead of sounding subdued, the track is downright predatory. The synths sounds spectral and ominous, any of Metro Boomin’s usual melodicism drained from them. Future raps about his usual decadent subject matter – “promethazine/codeine this s**t champagne for us” – but the heart underneath it is gone. He sounds utterly defeated by this lifestyle, the drugs and sex proving hollow.
However, after Xanny Family, the album takes a turn away from the smoulder and into a blaze. Lil Haiti Baby, Seven Rings, and Fly S**t Only are all certified bangers, Metro Boomin’s energetic drums working overtime. The transition from the opening tracks to Lil Haiti Baby turns out to be something of a long con, at first seeming like the density of Future’s release schedule may have robbed him of his trademark verve, but the rest of the album proves this wrong. Lie to Me is still the only track to really show off the heart that characterised Future’s strongest moments, but its brevity makes it all the more potent. He drops lines like “I got way too many issues / some are coming out on the Internet” in his signature warble, the autotune emphasising every flaw in his expressive voice, and it’s a reminder of just how special an artist Future is.
EVOL feels very much like a transitional project, paving the way for an album on the same scale as DS2. The fact that the sound of the album literally transitions midway through only furthers this. Whilst EVOL is a minor work by Future, it’s another entry in a recent canon of nothing but hits, from an artist showing no signs of slowing down.