Nothing was the same. Well, it hasn’t been for a while. A lot has changed for Future since the release of his last mixtape, 56 Nights almost a year ago.

Future scored his first #1 album, a full collaborative tape with one of rap’s biggest stars (which also went #1), and a nationwide tour that sold out in minutes. In the past year, Future has ascended to his true astronaut status of rap superstardom. So when he lets a tweet go that simply says “11:56 PM EST,” Twitter stops and listens. And by the next morning, we had Purple Reign.

Purple Reign is Future’s first non-commercial mixtape in almost a year’s time. Unlike 56 Nights and Beast ModePurple Reign features production from a wider variety of beatmakers and thus a more expansive sound. Familiar faces like Metro Boomin and Southside are present, but Future also brings in some of his old collaborators like DJ Spinz and Nard & B. Future is in his comfort zone for the vast majority of Purple Reign, and the ease at which he progresses through his songs is evident. He keeps to his current sound with spacey, hard-hitting tracks like “No Charge” and “Hater Shit,” but also throws it back on other parts of the tape. “Never Forget,” an autotune-less banger full of Future’s triumphs and regrets, sounds like it could’ve been left off Streetz Calling or Dirty Sprite 5 years ago.

The Nard & B-produced “Inside The Mattress,” while a fan favorite, is essentially a carbon copy of “March Madness.” From the subject material of Future’s trials and tribulations to the lush instrumental juxtaposed with the darker vibe of the tape, the song feels a little too familiar. It doesn’t help his case that “mattress” rhymes with “madness,” but considering the amount of music Future releases, it comes as little surprise that some tracks sound the same. DJ Spinz deserves plenty of credit for producing 2 of the best tracks on Purple Reign (“Salute” and “Run Up”), mainly because “Salute” gave us this treasure. Long Live Dabbing Squidward. “Run Up” is one of the more interesting songs that Future has put out in a while. The minimal bass-heavy beat paired with Future’s low mumbles proves to be an entrancing combination. The final four tracks comprise an impressive run leading up to Future dropping an emotional RKO on “Purple Reign,” the tape’s melancholy last track.

What’s better than getting a Future project 2 weeks into the new year? Another one, two weeks later. Fresh off a new deal with Apple Music, Future wasted no time dropping his first album since last July’s DS2. Like DS2EVOLwas announced merely days prior to its release. With all that he’s done in the past year, who needs a formal album rollout?

READ OUR REVIEW OF: DRAKE & FUTURE – WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE

EVOL, which was originally the title for 2014’s Monster, sticks to the script that has worked for Future thus far. He doesn’t need anyone besides himself and his team of in-house producers. The hypnotic opener “Ain’t No Time” sets the scene for most of the album, and Future does little to deviate from that style. At this point fans know what to expect lyrically: a lot of drugs, a lot of models, and the drugs that these models take with Future. But like all skilled artists, he can find interesting ways to say the same things. Nothing kickstarts a song like opening with a line expressing his desire to fuck the face of the district attorney. “Xanny Family” is a depraved and addicting song that sounds, for lack of a better word, evil. Energetic tracks like “Maybach,” “Program,” and “Seven Rings” solidify his consistent catalog and proves once again that Future knows a) what he’s best at and b) what the fans want. There will always be a positive correlation between the quality of song and the amount of 808 Mafia sirens.

Future’s songmaking ability is undeniable, but in some places the high energy present throughout EVOL tapers off. “Lil Haiti Baby” feels like EVOL’s main event, and while bombastically overshadowing the other songs on the album, it dips in excitement as the track seems to stretch on longer than it should. “Photo Copied” suffers from a repetitive beat that leaves plenty to be desired. That being said, both songs are still enjoyable, but they lack some of the aspects that make his other tracks so remarkable. Of the 11 tracks on EVOL, Future only switches up the style on a couple songs. “Fly Shit Only” is a well-executed changeup that flaunts Future’s versatility and progression of his sound. The lighter, carefree “Lie To Me” is a stark contrast to the dark mood of the album and is reminiscent of his Pluto days.

The way the projects are laid out, Purple Reign sounds more like an album and EVOL sounds more like a mixtape. The classifications are arbitrary, as both projects have their merits. But Purple Reign displays Future taking risks and delivering a more diverse project than the one-dimensional EVOL. Songs like “Perkys Calling” and “Purple Reign” show the introspective side of Future that was near absent on EVOL. Combine the best of the two projects and you have yourself a DS2-level album. However, the massive response to both projects — millions of downloads of Purple Reign and a huge 1st weekfor EVOL — proves that Future has the winning formula and that there’s no end in sight. Oversaturation might be a problem for less talented artists, but Future is now 7/7 since dropping Monster 16 months ago. Besides, if you’re complaining about too much music, just become a Jay Electronica stan instead.

Purple Reign: 7.7/10

EVOL: 7.6/10

Words by @richhomiekhan