Drake, Future | United Center | Hip-Hop | Chicago Reader
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Drake, Future

AP; Courtesy the artist

When: July 26-27, 7 p.m. and Wed., Oct. 5, 7 p.m. 2016
Drake has become a superstar by selling his emotions. On April’s Views (Young Money/Cash Money/Republic) he corners the market like Tony Montana, walling himself into a lavish mansion and trudging through piles of his own feelings, his real woes: paranoia, euphoria, sorrow, confusion, hope, anger, and some all-of-the-above combo. Drake presents a caricature of himself on a large portion of the album, forcing big, self-referential brushstrokes that feel rote—he’s sometimes keen to remind listeners of the fact that he’s not perfect, but the subtlety that guides his most engrossing material is in short supply here. “I’m happiest when I can buy what I want, get high when I want,” Drake glumly half-sings—almost like he’s trying to convince himself—at the end of “Weston Road Flows.” That track bleeds into the solemn “Redemption,” on which he raps, “Why do I want an independent woman to feel like she needs me? / I lost my way.” It’s a cogent, lucid moment that suggests Drake’s still capable of escaping his echo chamber and delivering the good stuff.

What’s new is old with Future. The Atlanta rapper’s incandescent, evocative, and idiosyncratic warbling landed him on the cover of Rolling Stone this month, just a handful of weeks after Jamie Foxx parodied his likeness for a Verizon ad during the NBA Finals (he played Future’s dad, Past). Future’s je ne sais quoi is in demand, and plenty of rappers are using his blueprint for their own devices. NYC rapper Desiigner lifted Future’s fluid flow for “Panda,” which became a juggernaut hit after Kanye used the tune as the foundation for “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2” (Desiigner later signed with Kanye’s GOOD Music label). All of this is to say that as Future’s left-field sound has moved to hip-hop’s center, he’s done little moving himself, and though he can still make his recorded performances feel alive, his recent work is repetitive enough to forget. On June’s Project E.T. Esco Terrestrial, a DJ Esco mixtape that features Future on nearly every track, the rapper’s contributions are so familiar they melt into the background more often than not. However, Future’s near-hoarse gasps on the lilting “Married to the Game” offer hope that he hasn’t quite plateaued.

— Leor Galil

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