Future, the new album from Future, is mean. Middle school playground, pick on the meek, weak, and ugly mean. Future, though, is pushing an ambitious, generous perspective on the project that wants to refashion the album’s 17 venomous tracks into social service. But it might just be mean.

From the caption of an Instagram post depicting Future staring at his feet, hands clasped below his waist in a gesture somewhere between bashful and penitent: “I’m asking you to be loving, patient, and kind enough to understand my creativity is to heal wounds, not make new ones. However, the greater the risk, the greater the reward.”

Future—still hurting from the dissolution of his relationship with Ciara, more recently cackling from an alleged affair with Scottie Pippen’s wife Larsa Pippen—wants you to hear his latest album as a trial by toxin that will result in a new and improved state of mind. “I'm at a place in life where I wanna make my weaknesses my strengths to become a better person than I was yesterday,” he writes.

I bought it. Future first reminded me of the thrill-seeking men (and it’s always men, isn’t it?) who get into stupid shit like buying rare snakes and submitting to their torturous bites in order to tolerate more venom, from increasingly dangerous specimens. Or, if you prefer your analogy more highfalutin and, most importantly, fruitful, an English country doctor putting the pus from a smallpox victim into the bodies of his family at the close of the 18th century, creating the first vaccination. Imagine the certainty and terror braided together in him as he tagged his infant son with smallpox pus.

With his IG post, Future positions this album as the latter, but it might be the former. Could be that Future is only hot-sounding villainy without any beneficial side effects. Could be that Future is selling beautiful, compulsively listenable snake oil.

“Your baby mama fuck me better when the rent’s due,” he raps on album opener “Rent Money.” That’s an eye-widening, nostril-flaring admission of rottenness. Likewise, “She sucked my dick, she came home, I bet she kissed you.” And “That's yo' bitch? I just bought her.” And “Fuck your squad, they some queers.” And “I hate if you love her, I'm gon' fuck her." 

His disrespect isn’t limited to misogyny and homophobia. The skit tacked onto “Zoom” ridicules his biters, seemingly Desiigner and his penchant for over-the-top adlibs. (If you agree with Future's criticism, this is one of the only rights, technically speaking, found on the album.) The special verbal effects Future slips into his own performance—the uhm-uhm noise on “Popping Tags,” the mmm-hmms littered throughout “I’m So Groovy”—feel like further shots, opportunities to dismiss his imitators as uncreative, gaudy knock-offs.

He sprays this bile over immaculate, tempo-diverse beats from Southside, Metro Boomin, DJ Spinnz, Zaytoven, Tarentino, and Jake One, to name the strongest contributors. “Draco,” “Mask Off,” “POA,” “Outta Time,” “Might as Well,” “I’m So Groovy,” “When I Was Broke,” and “Feds Did a Sweep” are memorable songs, each showcasing Future’s myriad talents. You hear the versatility of his voice and flow on the sprightly, cartoonish “Draco.” “Feds Did a Sweep” furthers the case for Future the lyricist, especially when it comes to starkly painted imagery: “The feds did a sweep/Picked the dogs up like an infant.” He knows it’s a powerful line, and uses it to punctuate the skit that breaks the song in two.

Still, there’s nothing as emotionally poignant or candid as “Codeine Crazy” or “Throw Away” or “Perkys Calling” on Future. The lyrics revel in scoundrel-dom without much self-analysis. In his IG post, he asked that we bear with him through his “wrongs and rights.” Bear is the operative word. Imagine what would have been had he bared something nuanced and scary.

This is a very good album that doesn't do much to deepen or enrich the Future persona. You'll probably love it. Pick your poison.