Hip-hop star breezes into the Ritz...

A mumbling dungeon family affiliate drowning his sorrows in codeine-filled soda, a kid who made his college selection to be closer to Gucci Mane and OJ Da Juiceman and the Monday night resident DJ of Atlanta’s hottest strip club; Future, Metro Boomin and DJ Esco were the holy trinity of hip-hop in 2015.

Having grabbed Future’s career from the clutches of a major label system hell-bent on glossing him over, the trio reacted to the underwhelming reception to his second album Honest, with a trilogy of mixtapes that took him back to the essence. Monster, Beast Mode and 56 Nights recaptured the raw emotion and energy that captured fans imaginations in the first place, seizing back creative control for Dirty Sprite 2, a major label album that hit number one on US Billboard charts and opened with a track about sodomising other people's girlfriends wearing designer sandals. And if that wasn’t a fine way to spend a year already, they triumphed once again, enlisting a certain Canadian rapper to join in the party on collaborative mixtape 'What A Time To Be Alive' which was released at retail, clinching a second Billboard number one.

Despite making several references to hanging out in England – we are a classy point of reference, after all – throughout that impressive catalogue of releases, it doesn’t appear that Future Hendrix has graced these shores, fat least not for live performances, since his recent run took off. In fact, last time Future and Esco made it to Manchester, the show had to be downgraded to the venue’s VIP room due to lack of ticket sales - even if you were at the back, you were three rows from the front. It was a hell of a show, built on a punk energy that kept it short and sweet, but was a whirlwind Future experience in half an hour. This time feels lot more grandiose, the monarch of our wonderful #FutureHive has returned triumphant – full of energy still, but his tied dreads stay intact – he knows exactly how to work his audience but does so sparingly, hitting a single dab evokes an eruption of appreciation from his people.

After struggling through the fatigue of returning to work after having two weeks of being completely idle, chanting along to ‘March Madness’ feels therapeutic. DJ Esco, a certified rock star in his own right, takes Future and his fans on a tour of the previous 18 months’ best bits. The way in which these anthem tracks resonate with the audience, and the scope of the music feels like most rappers’ greatest hits shows, and it’s easy to forget that more than half of these tracks hold the Metro Boomin tag, and even more where released across the same 12 month period.

While that last show, in the VIP section, was more about performing well known guest verses and hooks performed for other artists, this one is where the Freebandz general and his crew take everything back into their own world. It's as much about the crowd play just as much a part of performing, singing along to every word, in the presence of the guy who expertly crafted them in his legendary studio binges, as it is about Future spitting his lyrics over the backing tracks. When his gargantuan club smash ‘Commas’ finally drops, streamers filling every corner of the room, we get the feeling that this show is just as much a celebration of success for Future and Esco as it is the fans.

The past 12 months were more fruitful for Future than a decade for most artists, and we certainly can’t wait to see where he takes things from here.

Words: Grant Brydon

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