The Future-versus-Desiigner debate got some more fuel this week thanks to a tweet from a music critic. More than a month after Future took the stage in New York (Desiigner’s home) denouncing all copycats and proclaiming “There’s only one Future,” Al Shipley inadvertently set the pro-Desiigner argument ablaze when he reacted to news that the Brooklyn rapper’s breakout single, “Panda” was charting at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“‘Panda’ has charted higher than anything Future has ever done without Drake, America is trash,” Shipley tweeted seemingly out of frustration with the idea of an artist with one song (two, if we’re talking SoundCloud catalogues) netting more chart success than an artist as prolific as Future.
It doesn’t mean the ”Panda” lovers out there just netted a victory in their argument that Desiigner is just Future with better enunciation. Quantity sells, but productivity and quality are far betters measure of success. And Future ranks far ahead of Desiigner in both.
Yes, it’s true: Future’s highest-charting track from one of his solo studio releases was “Where Ya At” featuring Drake, off of Dirty Sprite 2. That single peaked at No. 28. The next closest single for the Atlanta emcee, “Move That Doh,” peaked at No. 48. However, “Jumpman,” from Future and Drake’s What A Time to Be Alive topped out at No. 3.
Here’s the thing; Mr. Shipley shouldn’t worry about the implications of Desiigner’s chart success, and he shouldn’t be surprised. Regardless of whether Desiigner wants to tab Future as an inspiration or not, he’s found success using every element of his predecessor’s current formula and made it work on the first try. What is that formula? In a nutshell; it’s the kind of quick-spit, warble-skat, mumble rap about trapping, pistol toting and drug taking that helped launch Migos to stardom.
This is important, because after singing and rapping for a bit like his buddy Drake, Future went into mixtape mode a la Lil’ Wayne between Tha Carter albums. Like pre-prison Weezy, Future’s new muse seemed to be less a focus on hits and more an affinity for sex, dealing and doing drugs (a lot of them), and rock and roll; while doling out countless musical ruminations on that lifestyle via mixtapes, guest features or albums.
By count of the end-of-year lists, Future was the man in 2015, but Desiigner might have rap’s biggest record of 2016 thus far. There are arguments that “Panda” being sampled by Kanye West on The Life of Pablo, or Desiigner signing to Ye’s G.O.O.D. Music imprint may have helped in the song’s chart climb. Others say that, like Action Bronson’s alleged swagger-jacking of Ghostface Killah benefits his cause, Desiigner’s eerie sonic resemblance to Future’s voice inflection, cadence and ad libs help make him a success.
The fact is that “Panda” — whether rapped by Desiigner, Future or my baby cousin — is a good song. It’s fun, dumb and harmless, and in the age of Bruno Mars borrowing swag from Trinidad James and finding bigger success than the source material, it seems natural he’d surpass a few current favorites. Like Andre 3000 said at a recent memorial for the late Phife Dawg, “All this old n—-s hatin on the young n—-s, that shit got to stop. It’s all music. It’s all influence. It’ll keep going because we’re all connected.”
Just like Future found new fire in younger cohorts like the aforementioned Migos, the younger generations are also taking cues from him. There’d be no Desiigner without a Future no matter how hard Kanye West would try and convince you otherwise.
And let’s be honest, whether or not Desiigner’s been to Atlanta is irrelevant because it’s obvious the spirit of the city’s sound is his current wave, and you can chalk his not thinking that’s a big deal up to his teen naïveté. If we’re being technical, he can have “broads in Atlanta” without ever setting foot inside the perimeter, (there are these things called “planes”), that’s not the problem. Somewhere in the dabbin’ at SXSW, and naming singles “Pluto,” we’re right to question his motives and his acting too cool for a city that clearly fuels his musical fire. Even his producers on “Panda” (Menace) and “Zombie Walk” (The Shell God) seem to take cues from Future’s go-to, Metro Boomin.
(Ugh, let’s hope he trusts them, too).
It doesn’t take the tragic one-hit wonder story to remind you that a single record doesn’t mark success. It may be good for PR, but Nas didn’t “Ether” Jay-Z with an assist from the Hot 100. Hell, E-40’s spent the last three decades changing the way hip-hop lovers in the Bay Area and beyond talk, and he’s never gone higher than No. 13 on the Hot 100. Unfortunately, the charts don’t take cultural significance into account.
Ultimately, Desiigner trumping Future in chart success means nothing in the grand scheme of things. It might rile Future up, and that’s a good because the right motivation can make for great music. Future’s proven his durability, marketability in and musical credibility over the past few years, and hasn’t shown signs of letting up. Chances are he sees Russell Wilson as more of nemesis than Desiigner. He shouldn’t lose sleep over the young man’s latest bit of good news. We shouldn’t jump to conclusions either.