In rap, nothing is proprietary. Be it a unique production choice or a novel flow or inflection, every stylistic innovation is piped directly into the genre’s public domain, where it’s swiftly copied, co-opted, and exhausted. Future understands this better than most. In a few short years, his signature delivery, a melancholy garble that imparts emotional gravity to even the most unassuming sentiments, has been claimed by countless successors, particularly in his native Atlanta, where seemingly half the city now raps in his unmistakable emotive croon. Rather than cede his terrain, though, on his cocksure sophomore album, Honest, Future reasserts ownership of the sound he popularized, handily outshining his many imitators. In a ketchup aisle that grows ever more crowded by the day, he’s the clear Heinz.
On his 2012 debut Pluto, Future prioritized earnest love songs over the rumbling street rap of his mixtapes, a gamble that paid off with several sterling hits, but on Honest that soft, fleshy heart has been replaced by an impenetrable slab of granite. The rapper charges through Mike Will Made It’s frenzied “Move That Dope” and Sonny Digital’s quaking “Covered N Money,” tossing off cold boasts with almighty authority. For an A-list rap album, Honest is refreshingly small in scope. It resists grandiose production flourishes, message songs, ambitious themes, run-on suites, and most of the other tropes rappers over-rely on to telegraph importance. Instead it just lets the bangers rip, freeing Future to cruise down his preferred lane unimpeded. Some of his major-label peers might do well to think this small from time to time.