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The Definition: Why Future Is The Most Important Artist of the Past 5 Years

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By Justin Tinsley | @justintinsley

Everyone has an opinion on Future.

His AutoTune-tinged delivery?

Fans playfully refer to him with nicknames like Future Vandross, Future Ruffin or Future Levert.

But they don’t front on the hits.

While leaning on Auto-Tune does remind a lot of people of T-Pain, Future established a cult following through ATL’s underground. And despite how much more popular he’s gotten in the years since, he’s always kept one foot in the underground/strip club/ratchet scene and the other with obvious pop-driven records to appease both sides of his fan base. Unlike many artists who attempt to do the same, too, he doesn’t catch much flack for it either.

Yet, the importance of this next album, Honest, for Future’s career and how a well-received follow-up to Plutoem could further cement him as one of the most important artists of the past five years or so, is drastically being undersold.

Let’s revisit how he got here.

Future’s debut, Pluto, was preceded by unending assault of street projects in 2011 and writing credits on one of the year’s biggest singles, YC’s “Racks.” What tapes such as Dirty Sprite, Free Bricks, True Story and Streetz Calling did for Future was draft him as arguably the most recognizable new name in Atlanta’s storied and thriving “underground” rap landscape. Add to that his familial ties to the famed Dungeon Family.

By the time Pluto impacted a year later, Future’s introduction was already stamped by heavyweights like Young Jeezy, T.I., Drake and more. Giving the project its premiere form of credibility was the roll out of singles. From “Magic,” “Tony Montana,” “Same Damn Time,” “Neva End” and “Turn On The Lights,” Future’s momentum mutated in the summer of 2012 with each nightclub and strip club his music commandeered.

Now?



By the time Honest hits shelves in less than a week, 700-plus days days will have passed since his debut. Two years in music is a long time. Two years in a Social Media-obsessed climate with a never-ending army of new artists is an eternity.

Yet and still, the curiosity around Honest is healthy, largely due to the countless features and mixtape hits he’s logged since. Executive producer Mike WiLL Made It already touts the album as a game changer. Future told Pitchfork earlier this month it ranks as his most personal project to date. “I’m telling you certain things on these songs I shouldn’t even say. But I’m willing to step over my boundaries to be able to explain to my fans the man that I’ve become,” said rap’s most sought-after hook savant.

More than a great majority of artists, Future understands the complexity of his sound. There’s a reason why he’s able to weave in and out of bonafide bedroom staples with Rihanna, Ciara (his fiancé) or Beyonce and then, in the same manner, hit as aggressive with numbers like “Sh!t,” “Karate Chop” or “Chosen One” that land with Floyd Mayweather-like precision. The balance to appease both has always allowed him to.

Thus brings the discussion back to Honest. More eyes are on Future in April 2014 than there were 24 months ago. More expectations, too. A “Bugatti” hook here and a stellar mixtape a la F.B.G.: The Movie there can do that for an artist. The worst case scenario, the project is weed plate material. The best case scenario, Honest is a cohesive body of work reflecting his sound and growth, much like YG’s My Krazy Life proved last month. No true in-between option exists either.

Unbridled success shouldn’t be followed up with half-assed, lackadaisical efforts. Pending he succeeds with the latter, Future’s impact during his brief time in rap, pop or however one choses to classify him becomes that much harder to discredit.

The platform is there, as are features from Kanye West, Big Rube, Drake, Andre 3000 and more. All that’s required of Future is what he’s done since 2010—deliver. A new child, a new wife and a new hit album isn’t a bad way to usher in the summer. Now all he has to do is not pass out in the delivery room, say “I do” and make good on his vow.

The nuptial and musical one, of course.

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