What is Future doing? We told you he was on a mixtape hot streak, but will he ever stop going in? Last night, out of nowhere, he dropped 56 Nights, a ten-track mixtape produced primarily by Southside of 808 Mafia. The title, as well as its Arabic styling, refers to the amount of time DJ Esco spent in Dubai jail. Future's last tape, Beast Mode, came out only 65 nights ago itself, and he has already announced Dirty Sprite 2.
It takes the short, cohesive aspect of Beast Mode and applies it to a lot of what people liked about Monster. No love songs, not a lot of drawn out singing.
What's compelling about his current streak is that, unlike, say, Gucci Mane's ever prolific jail output, each new Future project is a fully formed idea. Perhaps this is due to the way he commits to producers. Though Monster combined the talents of the Atlanta producer illuminati, it was tied to an aesthetic curated by Metro Boomin. Its robotic synth and trembling bass palette could have served as the soundtrack to intergalactic laser warfare. Then Beast Mode switched up that entire wave by bringing it back to the organic, the near acoustic. The tape was so short and so tied together, sonically, that it almost just sounded like a single, extended song. Zaytoven flaunted his piano proficiency with rich melodies woven into each beat. It deserves its own "Future Unplugged," if that were to ever exist.
A first impresssion of this new tape suggests a closer similarity in texture to Monster than to Beast Mode. This makes sense. Southside had his hands (that high-pitched screech is a dead giveaway) in Monster almost as much as Metro, if not the same. Criticisms of Monster included the idea that it might have been too long, or could have been tightened up by cutting out some tracks. I disagree. Its length allowed for an arc within the tape. It started out with street anthems, ballooned out into some heartrending break-up reflection (the bipartite "Throw Away"), and resolved itself back into street anthems and an ode to codeine. 56 Nights, then, is the reduced Monster. There is no arc. It takes the short, cohesive aspect of Beast Mode and applies it to a lot of what people liked about Monster. No love songs, not a lot of drawn out singing.
The intended comic relief lies in the opening and concluding skits, which speak to Esco's time in Dubai and Instagram ("Da Fam On Da Gram"), respectively. They don't add much to the tape other than a brief moment of relief from the pummeling you've just received before the slower denouement of the final track, "56 Nights." Future rarely, if ever, appears in his own skits, which often make them feel tangential. No single song seems out of place, but "Trap N*ggas" and "No Compadre" are obvious standouts.
56 Nights doesn't advance the Future persona, it fortifies it.
He has his street formula back down to a science, and for now, he's straying from the pop experimentation that we saw during his Miley collaboration days. Though it may seem counterintuitive, his most experimental work often finds itself on his actual studio albums. But what is a stretch beyond his comfort zone is often what has the most mass appeal, like "Turn On The Lights." His mixtapes serve a function, they are meant to feed the streets. 56 Nights doesn't advance the Future persona, it fortifies it. Perhaps we'll have to wait until his next album before he truly opens up again as the vulnerable, lovestruck Future that we have come to expect. For now, respect the trilogy that he's just completed.
Alex Russell is a writer in New York. He's in his rarest form on Twitter @alexrussellglo.