I Never Liked You continues Future’s streak of doing nothing more than the minimum, with moderately successful results.
It’s been a while since we last heard from Future — if, and only if, one goes off of his previous track record’s metrics. For a while there, starting in 2010 and continuing into the next decade, fans could, at a bare minimum, reliably expect one, maybe even two or three (if you count the occasional EP and sole OST) releases from the Atlanta powerhouse in a given year. His influence on hip hop music seemed to grow exponentially — while also in tandem — with this flourishing output. More specifically, his run from 2015 to 2017 was a period of white-hot creative intensity that saw him at his absolute artistic and commercial peak; this was, as he so beautifully put it on his collaborative mixtape with Drake released after his magnum opus DS2, what a time to be alive. But since then, Future hasn’t been making the same type of record (qualitatively speaking) as he used to, spinning his wheels instead of pushing his sound forward — but considering the impact that he’s had on the culture at large, that’s okay in the grand scheme of things. I Never Liked You, his first album in two years, is further proof of both his consistent, borderline autopilot excellence and his more phoned-in qualities of late. There’s a certain sort of greatness here in how much mileage Future can get out of doing the bare minimum required; in that respect, call him the rap game Clint Eastwood.
Sure, he’s so jaded nowadays that he can’t write a halfway decent love song anymore (there’s the excruciatingly awful “Worst Day,” him at his whiniest) and he definitely plateaued at making these types of formulaic songs sometime around 2018. Yet, his delivery has also gotten so casually expressive that he can make even the most transient of songs here (the scorching opener “712PM”) stick with a slick-enough melody guiding it along. This, along with The WZRD and the criminally underrated High Off Life, form a nice little late-period run fueled by pure rockstar charisma, exercises in vocal swagger from a master of mumble rap. It’s a one-dimensional approach to songwriting (and, at times, taken to comically moronic ends like on “For A Nut”), but it’s always enjoyable to some degree, mainly when it’s up-tempo — which, thankfully, I Never Liked You is for the most part. “I’m Dat N***a” has him sauntering around like a total scoundrel caught in the act, slowing his second verse down for a fiendish emphasis (“Fucked her in the ass, made her pee pee,” the little rascal boasts) that helps to distract from how commonplace these lyrics, flow, and delivery are in the grand lineage of Future sex raps. “Massaging Me” is just as generic, vulgar, and immature; it also has lines like “We do this without any shenani’,” where the way he modulates his enunciation of “shenanigans” into an entirely different word reminds us of what we’ve been missing for the past year or so. “Gold Stacks” doesn’t even really embody the regular characteristics of a traditional rap song — it’s more just Future ranting about making straight women bisexual over a fast-paced beat in a manner that suggests he’s rapping.
Things, unfortunately, and also rather quickly, begin to lose steam with the one-two boredom punch of “Wait For U” and “Love You Better,” two tedious ballads (the former copy-and-pasting Tems vocals from another song) from a man who’s long-abandoned attempting sincerity — but the album regains its mojo with the aforementioned “Massaging Me,” where, again, he’s doing the same routine with little permutations. The best tracks after (the EST Gee-featuring “Chickens” and “Holy Ghost,” the most exciting thing going on here production-wise from ATL Jacob) get evened out by some questionable choices: former partner-in-crime Drake absolutely embarrasses himself with a forced “Thotiana” reference on “I’m On One”; there’s also that obnoxious guitar riff on “The Way Things Going.” And exactly where did that glib Talking Heads sample go from the now-finished version of “Keep It Burnin” that appears here? (That one comes a lot earlier, but the question is still worth asking.) This all adds up to another uneven, if somehow still fundamental, release from Future that typifies our current expectations: in equal spades smashing and slapdash, scattershot and sensational. At this point, would we really want it any other way?
Published as part of Album Roundup — April 2022 | Part 3.