Since their emergence in the early ‘90s, the Dungeon Family has taken some strange turns. OutKast and Goodie Mob are respectively celebrating or inching toward the 20-year marker. Meanwhile, Killer Mike is holding down the DF’s second generation with arguably some of the most important Hip Hop made in recent years. Among the accolades and commercial success, it’s easy to forget Organized Noize co-founder Rico Wade’s cousin, Future. As it regards the Dungeon Family, Future partially inhabits the space Andre 3000 used to occupy in 1994, when Dre was more prone to talking about nickel sacks, drinking Martel and rendezvous at the local Howard Johnson. T-Mo may have evolved past the patented recipe of “Lemonhead Delight,” but Future is perfectly happy to keep trapping.
Not much has changed since Pluto, as the Freebandz General is at his best as a facilitator. He’s a mediocre rapper at best, and the gravelly warble he “sings” with is an acquired taste. The appeal of Future lies in his ability to enlist and emote over top-notch production while showcasing hand-in-glove chemistry with his featured guests. Honest’s top single, “Move That Dope,” pairs Future, Pusha T, Pharrell and Casino over a cascade of burping Mike WiLL Made-It synths. Future rhymes Maserati with Maserati and whips his dope like Roots protagonist Kunta Kinte: nothing spectacular or new in the way of brick talk. But his time penning songs for the likes of YC, Ciara and Rick Ross pays dividends in other ways, as he co-opts common rhyme cadences from Migos (“Move That Dope,” “Special”) and Ace Hood (“Benz Friendz”).
When left up to his own devices, Future often falters both conceptually and as a performer. T-Pain’s criticism that he’s yet to master the finer points of employing Auto-tune holds merit. In addition to recycling the same hook format as Rocko’s “U.O.E.N.O.,” “Honest” may be the rare pitch-corrected song that is still off-key. “I Won” flies in the face of the traditional R&B ballad, as Kanye West boasts about claiming his trophy wife over NBA and NFL players. Future holds serve with the following:
“Get to fuckin’ on the dresser, just to make that pussy wetter / Gotta put you in that vintage, now you rockin’ Perry Ellis…”
While he doesn’t completely remedy the flaws that held back Pluto, “Future Hendrix” has incrementally improved. He’s still plauged by bouts of lazy writing and the inclusion of older songs such as “Karate Chop,” “Sh!t” and “Honest” have the unintended effect of making the project feel stale at times. “Move That Dope” and “Benz Friendz” may contend for two of 2013’s best collaborations, and having focused assists from Pusha T, Pharrell and Andre 3000 don’t hurt. As a soloist, Future is learning to play to his strengths. No one realistically expects Future to make the type of leap Three Stacks did between Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik and ATLiens. But if he expounds on the type of substance he hints at on “Special,” his album cuts will be as equally potent as his singles. For now, he’s returned with a slightly updated, less flawed version of 2012’s Pluto. It’s not the classic balance of style and substance ushered in by the Dungeon Family’s first generation. But it does help further the argument that both elements aren’t mutually exclusive.