Future Sound Academy, Toronto ON, December 15

Future Sound Academy, Toronto ON, December 15
Photo: Shane Parent
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Whether you see the double cup of dirty Sprite half empty or half full, Future is set to close out 2015 as one of the foremost figures in hip-hop. And after the year he's had, why wouldn't he be? The Atlanta native's well-documented run of successful projects has been virtually inescapable in the conversation surrounding the genre this year, from the emotional Zaytoven-helmed Beast Mode to the celebratory drug-fuelled hedonism of DS2, and even the middling, yet still incredibly popular collaborative tape What a Time to Be Alive. It was this year's body of work that many have hailed as essential in reinvigorating his career.
 
In one of the final shows at the Sound Academy before its impending closure, Future looked to play all the necessary cards in reflecting on said career year with the sold-out Toronto crowd. After DJ Esco prompted the crowd remember his early successes in "Same Damn Time" and YC's "Racks," the Freebandz founder leapt from stage left largely masked by his hooded jacket and reflective sunglasses, teasing the first verse of "Never Gon Lose." As bleak as the song may be in the darkness of 56 Nights, it was an affirmation of the high energy levels in the set's early going.
 
Quite sharp in cutting together his aural clipshow of both old and new, "Karate Chop" and "Itchin'" saw Future pace the stage with a spring in his step while leading the crowd. Not unlike his fellow AutoTuned contemporaries, his forceful shouts at times clashed with his backing tracks, though the jam-packed venue was with him every step of the way in reciting the hooks and verses of newer favourites "Monster" and "Peacoat."
 
"I go by the name of Future Hendrix, and I want to take that 6ix side shit to the next level," he demanded. Much to the crowd's delight, they were treated to a slew of the man's finest DS2 smashes, covering everything from Gucci flip-flops to serving the base. As the beat dropped for "Where Ya At," the crowd raised their phones in hopes of an appearance from Drake, but it wasn't to be, as Future led the crowd through his collaborator's verse as Esco busted his signature dance moves.
 
The ensuing run of "March Madness," "Trap N****s" and "Real Sisters" did well in energizing the crowd but less so the man performing. While not as energetic and expressive as earlier in the set, boosting the volume of the backing tracks did Future no favours in having his vocals punch through the mix. The problem carried through to a section of What a Time to Be Alive cuts, with Drake's voice on the recording effortlessly overpowering both Future and the crowd.
 
The celebratory nature of "Fuck Up Some Commas" was boosted by a confetti and fog cannon display that would have been a more than suitable finale, though the two ATLiens saw fit to run through "Sh!t" and "Diamonds Dancing" before giving the crowd gracious thanks. Having just witnessed their 2015 hip-hop hero in the flesh, audience chatter on the way out of the venue ranged from "that was fucking lit" to "I can't believe I paid over $100 for this." Perhaps Future's impact on hip-hop this year was better represented on record than on stage.