Future is Not the Greatest Rapper Alive

Future in a Zoom session.

I’m not going to spend too much time on this.

Recently, Elliott Wilson, a writer I deeply respect, wrote something so misconceived that it angered 95% of hip hop heads—and the other 5% just have not read his article yet.

In the May issue of GQ, Wilson penned an article entitled: Future is The Greatest Rapper Alive.

Yeah. He said that.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Future is good. He’s had some hits. Who could forget his 2015 song F*ck U Some Commas. There is also Codeine Crazy, a song off his 2014 mixtape Monster that is at once vulnerable and catchy, a song that brought him to my attention as someone to watch. Then who could forget Mask Off—the song that was so ubiquitous that it inspired millions of memes and went eight times platinum.

Like I said, dude is good. He’s had some hits. But to say he is the greatest rapper alive?

Here is Wilson’s argument:

“…no other artist has been as consistently excellent, or as influential, for as long as he has. He invented his own sound, which has since become the dominant style in rap. He has delivered hit after hit after hit. And he’s done it all on his own terms.”

Now, this is a compelling argument. If it was 2016, I would say the best rapper is Kanye West—both for his rapping prowess and his production. (It cannot be denied that Ye remains one of Hip Hop’s most important figures, even if he has made trash interpersonal and political decisions and, lets just be honest, has made subpar music since he found Jesus in 2019.) Jay-Z is still alive, but, admittedly, has not released a solo album since 2017. Of course, there is Kendrick Lamar, but, as Wilson points out: “can you really be the best rapper alive if you haven’t given us an album in five years?”

So, OK. He wants to make the claim that for a rapper to be the best alive, they have to be releasing music consistently, have deeply influenced the culture, and be a hit maker.  I could make the argument that J. Cole is the best rapper alive. Or I could say it is Black Thought. What about Meg Thee Stallion…or Lil Baby or Tyer, The Creator? Hell, even though he has fallen from grace, one could make an argument for Da baby.

But if we want to use Wilson’s criteria and not be controversial, the right answer must be Drake. Hit maker? Yes. Changed the game? Affirmative. So popular that others emulated him? Yep.

Even though I find the dude corny, Drake is the answer given the standards set by the article.

As for Future? Sure, he has made some hits. I won’t deny that. And I won’t be a hater and say he sucks because he doesn’t.

But is Future the greatest rapper alive?

Nah.

He isn’t even the best rapper with the word future in his name.

Lawrence Ware is a professor of philosophy and diversity coordinator for Oklahoma State University’s Ethics Center. He can be reached at:  Law.writes@gmail.com.