Futuristic steps away from ‘nerd rap’ toward new themes and maturity | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Futuristic steps away from ‘nerd rap’ toward new themes and maturity

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On “Epiphany,” one of the singles from Futuristic’s December album Blessings, the rapper describes his 2016 album As Seen on the Internet as a “garbage” project filled with repetitive hooks and even a Family Guy impression. The 26-year-old Arizona native had gotten trapped in the nerd-rap gimmick he utilized well in a 2015 series of videos for which he donned oversize frames and challenged people on the street to rap battles. The videos went viral, and after incorporating similar themes on his debut album, The Rise, later that year, he became pigeonholed as a goofy persona who had more fast rhymes to offer than profound ones. Also on “Epiphany,” Futuristic says he’s changed and is “here to make music that matters.” Thankfully, neither Peter Griffin nor Shia Labeouf makes an appearance this time around, but while Futuristic tackles serious subjects like the price of fame and the dangers of drugs with sincerity on Blessings, he fails to examine them with any depth; his lyrics range from vague to corny (“It didn’t take baking soda for me to make it pop,” he raps on “Life”). The album’s ray of promise is the excellent “Talk,” which features Devvon Terrell and underground legend Tech N9ne. The latter’s speed and versatility are unparalleled, and Futuristic is also at his best as a no-holds-barred force of energy against the track’s relatively stripped-down beats. This Valentine’s Day, he released an EP of new material titled Songs About Girls. It’s a smooth ride with dancey synths and slow, reverb-laced sounds that nicely contrast with Blessings’ intense, breakneck verses. But once again, Futuristic falters in his lyrics; rhymes are meant to be deep but come off as condescending, such as on “Love > Money,” where he tells a girl she’s “superficial” right after saying she’d look better without clothes. Though Futuristic is no wordsmith, his latest material, especially “Talk,” does show his ability to deliver forceful, intense bars without shtick or pretense. And while his recent projects have garnered less attention than The Rise, a step away from the sweat-inducing spotlight that resulted in As Seen on the Internet could be exactly what he needs—allowing him more freedom to delve into new ideas and, as he raps, “make music that matters.   v

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