“The WIZRD” review: Future is back; but is he better?

It’s 2019 and Future makes his return by hitting us with a new album, one of the first major hip hop releases of 2019. This project comes as a follow-up his pair of 2017 albums titled FUTURE and HNDRXX. The WIZRD is also accompanied by a film of the same name that was released on January 11th. The film currently only available on Apple Music.

Before releasing the project, Future released two promotional singles to raise hype. The singles were “Crushed Up” and “Jumpin on a Jet” and both of them were received well.

Future’s 2018 output could be considered slower by his standards. He released only two projects in BEASTMODE 2 and Wrld On Drugs. Both of these got mixed reception from fans and critics. But it’s 2019 now, so let’s see what he has in store for us on his seventh studio album.

First impressions

  • The Good: On my first listen through the album, there are definitely a lot of high quality and catchy tracks. The production is sensational as usual and Future recruited some great beatmakers. The features are utilized well and there aren’t too many of them. I’m liking what I’ve heard so far, let’s see if that holds up.  
  • The Bad: It’s quite a long project. Once you feel like it should be over, it keeps going. That isn’t to say that the songs are bad, there are simply a lot of them. At times it can feel like a chore getting through the full project more than once.  

Lyrics/Flow

  • The Good: On this project, Future brings his typical flows that we’ve seen quite a bit. Needless to say, they still sound as good as ever. One thing I’ve enjoyed about Future’s career progression is that he isn’t afraid to use higher pitched flows on his tracks. We hear that quite a bit on this project and I think it makes the songs more interesting and raises the quality of the tracks.
  • The Bad: In terms of lyrical content, Future doesn’t bring much new in that category on this new album. There are a couple tracks on which we hear him more reflective themes, but for the most part it’s the typical stuff about trapping, drugs, money, clothes, and cars. This isn’t the biggest knock on the project as Future isn’t the most lyrical rapper, but it can get annoying at times hearing the same words in most tracks.  
  • Score: 7/10

Beats

  • The Good: As I mentioned above, the beats on this project are great. We hear Future Hendrix go in over some typical trap production but also a few beats that stand out from the rest. Some of the best beats on this project include “Crushed Up”, “Tricks On Me”, “Temptation”, and “Never Stop”. Producers that contributed to this album include Tay Keith, ATL Jacob, Southside, Wheezy, and Ricky Racks.  
  • The Bad: Hearing Future over typical trap production can only sound interesting for so long. While the beats on this project are high quality, a lot of them sound pretty similar. For the most part, this project’s beats are comparable to 2017’s FUTURE album and that isn’t necessarily a good thing considering the repetitive nature of that project.   
  • Score: 6.5/10

Replayability

  • The Good: If you are a fan of Future, you’ll be able to shuffle through this album quite a bit and hear many different tracks each time since the project is so large at 20 songs. It is honestly good enough to give a second listen through. There isn’t an easily identifiable theme, so no need to worry about finding a deeper meaning behind this album.  
  • The Bad: If you’re looking for a cohesive and narrative driven album, this isn’t it. It feels simply like a collection of songs much like some of Future’s other albums. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just doesn’t have much of a deeper meaning behind it like some fans would have hoped. If you aren’t the biggest fan of Future, I wouldn’t recommend listening to the entirety of this album more than a couple times simple because of the length.
  • Score: 6/10

Standouts

Final thoughts

When Future first announced this project, I was really hyped for it. It had been quite a bit of time since we last received a proper studio album from Future, with 2017’s HNDRXX being the previous. That album was great, so I expected Future to follow it up quite well after a somewhat lackluster 2018 output.

I wasn’t necessarily disappointed by this project, but it could have been better in my opinion. There are some great tracks for sure, but way too many fillers that didn’t need to be included. The inclusion of 20 tracks may be another outcome of the streaming era that sees artists wanting maximizing their streams/sales.

This is by no means a bad project and Future fans will certainly love it. But from a critical standpoint, I’m not too sure where Future goes from here. It seems that he’s done most of the things he set out to do in the hip hop game, and the quality of the music validates that point. One thing I know for sure is that Future will continue to drop bloated albums that his fans will eat up, only to receive more mid reviews from critics.   

Final Score: 6.7/10    

Part 2: Top 10 Hip Hop Albums of 2018

Continuing right where we left off, here are the top 6 hip hop albums of 2018. If you somehow missed out on part one, check that out by clicking on my name and scrolling down. Feel free to message me on Instagram @youngthuggamanekyle and give me your feedback on my list.

Albums 6-1

6. Victory Lap – Nipsey Hussle

2018 started off with a bang when Nipsey Hussle dropped his highly anticipated debut studio album Victory Lap in February. The project, which contains 16 songs, is a modern west coast G-funk-influenced masterpiece. This is essential listening for fans of west coast hip hop that has both substance and swagger, and the skill to back it up. This is one of the best west coast releases in 2018 by far.    

5. Daytona – Pusha T

In April 2018, Kanye West announced that his label GOOD Music would be releasing a series of 5 albums starting in May and ending in June. The first of these albums to be released was Pusha T’sDaytona. The album followed up Push’s 2015 effort King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude. It was originally supposed to be called King Push, but was renamed before release. The album contains 7 tracks, each produced by Kanye West. This album is so good because of the sheer quality of each track. Pusha spits some of his hardest bars ever over super fresh beats that don’t get old even if you listen to the tracks over and over. This is an amazing album that I would 100% recommend.

4. KOD – J. Cole

To get straight to the point, J. Cole’s fifth studio album KOD was one of the best of 2018 for many reasons. It is a concept album that discusses drug abuse, addiction, taxation, and much more. The project contains different elements of hip hop including jazz rap, trap, and conscious rap. It was especially relevant because of all of the overdoses that keep occuring in the hip hop community and world in general. Cole also took this album on the road and performed sold-out shows all across the country, including in Utah. This album took J. Cole to a new level that he hadn’t explored until now, and the only way for him to go is up.  

3. Astroworld – Travis Scott

There were many artists that broke out in 2018, but none became bigger than Houston’s own Travis Scott. La Flame unleashed his long-awaited third studio album in August after working on it for almost three years. Astroworld contained 17 tracks with features from Drake, Gunna, Kid Cudi, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, and many more. The album took listeners inside Scott’s mind and allowed them to feel what he experienced when the Astroworld theme park in Houston was closed. The project performed well commercially and was met with critical acclaim from many outlets. This is without a doubt a standout project in a year full of so much amazing music. Scott is currently in the midst of a world tour in support of the album.

2. CARE FOR ME – Saba

While the casual hip hop listener might not be familiar with Chicago rapper Saba, that should not discount the skills that he possesses behind the mic. Saba has been active in the game for 6 years now, steadily growing his fan base each year. Care For Me is by far his most personal work yet. The album details the events leading up to the murder of Saba’s cousin John Walt in February 2017. Topics discussed on the project include depression, anxiety, and the emotions Saba felt while the whole ordeal was happening. Care For Me has received mass critical acclaim from critics far and wide, with praise stemming from the topics discussed and the production quality of the tracks. If you haven’t checked the project out yet, you are severely missing out and I’d suggest listening to it as soon as possible.  

1. Kids See Ghosts – Kanye West & Kid Cudi

Kids See Ghosts was the third album released out of five by Kanye West’s label GOOD Music in the summer of 2018. The album is 7 tracks long and has a run time of 23:53. Upon release, it was met with widespread acclaim from many critics. Some of the biggest praise that the album receives stems from how great West and Cudi sound together. The use of other musical styles such as psychedelic, rock, and rap rock are high points of praise as well. Overall, this project is the best of 2018 because of the influence that it has already begun seeing in the musical world. Check this album out immediately if you have not heard it yet.

Conclusion

Overall, 2018 was an amazing year for hip hop. It was one for the ages because so many high quality projects were released. 2019 is already shaping up to be another great year, but only time will show us what is in store.   

Part 1: Top 10 Hip Hop Albums of 2018

At the end of every year, there are always some people that regard the year as “the best year in hip hop since [insert random good year for hip hop]”. I usually avoid making those types of statements, but I can’t help it this time around. 2018 was truly a memorable year for so many reasons.

Many amazing bodies of work were released in all different parts of the hip hop spectrum this year. This is by no means a fully cumulative list, it is simply my top 10 hip hop releases of the year. I also included some honorable mentions that almost cracked the top 10. Without further adieu, here is part one of the list.

Honorable mentions

Even though this is a top 10 albums of the year list, there were plenty of albums that came out this year that were good but just outside the top 10. Here are 3 projects that nearly snuck their way into the top 10.

Tha Carter V – Lil Wayne

This highly anticipated album was one of the best surprises of 2018 for many reasons. It had a mix of older tracks as well as some that were clearly newer. The project contained 23 tracks, which many considered kind of bloated. However, most of the songs were quality and showed why Wayne is still one of the best pure rappers out there. If it was cut down to 15-18 tracks, this project may very well have earned a place in the top 10 of 2018.

Redemption – Jay Rock

After a few years of crafting this new project, TDE mainstay Jay Rock finally released his highly anticipated new album in June 2018. On this project, we heard Jay Rock attempt to crossover a bit into the mainstream realm with tracks such as “Tap Out”, “Win”, and “Knock It Off”. Regardless of his attempt at becoming more mainstream, this is Jay Rock’s best album thus far. This was a last minute scratch from my top 10, but it’s still a very good project.

I Am > I Was – 21 Savage

It’s safe to say that 21 Savage ended 2018 with a bang when he dropped his sophomore album. We got a small taste of what 21 had been cooking up from his features on Metro Boomin’s album Not All Heroes Wear Capes. In terms of trap albums, this is almost as good as it gets in 2018. However, it isn’t simply a trap album. Savage was able to refine his sound and improve in every way on this project. It was a super hard decision for me to not put this stellar project in the top 10, but you’ll soon find out why it wasn’t included.

Albums 10-7

10. Championships – Meek Mill

If we’re talking about best stories of 2018, we have to include Meek Mill’s release from prison. Following his release in April 2018, Mill went back into the lab and recorded his “comeback” album. The album was released in November 2018 to positive reviews from critics, and it is very easy to see why. With an all star feature lineup including Cardi B, Jay Z, Future, and former foe Drake, this album just reeks of success and realness. This is probably Meek’s best project yet, so check it out.

9. DiCaprio 2 – J.I.D

Dreamville Records artist J.I.D released his sophomore album DiCaprio 2 earlier this year to critical acclaim. The project contains 14 tracks with features from J. Cole, Joey Badass, 6lack, and more. One of the reasons that this project is so special is because of the versatility that J.I.D displays on many of the tracks. For example, songs like “Off Deez” and “Workin Out” don’t sound similar in the slightest, and yet they fit perfectly well on the album. This album introduced the J.I.D to the masses and it’ll be interesting to see what direction he goes in next.

8. Taboo – Denzel Curry

Florida’s Denzel Curry released his third studio album Taboo earlier this year after working on it for over 2 years. The project is split into 3 parts; Act 1: Light, Act 2: Gray, and Act 3: Dark. Similar to J.I.D on DiCaprio 2, Denzel Curry conveys the topics he is discussing in a variety of different ways and they all work together to form a cohesive and interesting project. Standouts from this fantastic project include “CLOUT COBAIN”, “BLACK BALLOONS”, and “PERCS”.       

7. TESTING – ASAP Rocky

Ever since he entered the rap game 6 years ago, ASAP Rocky has been an enigma. Each project that he’s released has become subsequently more experimental. TESTING features an aesthetic that matches its name: the testing of new styles. This project wasn’t as well-received by fans as I’m sure Rocky would have liked, but it is still amazing nonetheless. To be honest, the project just works. Everything from Rocky’s vocals, the featured artist lineup, the production, and the atmosphere sound so good together. I applaud ASAP Rocky for taking a chance with this album because it paid off.

That’s it for part 1 of my top 10 hip hop albums of 2018. Be on the lookout for part 2 coming soon!    

Grief on Campus

This week, The Rostrum spoke with the Counseling Center’s Christina Kelly LeCluyse and Jake Van Epps, to better understand the university’s response in the hours, days, and weeks after two consecutive years of campus shootings and how the actions helped with students’ stress, fear, and grief. We also discuss how the university has improved their response and how they might be better prepare for the potential of another university tragedy.

Counseling Center: counselingcenter.utah.edu/

Music: bensounds.com