When thinking of a "sequel album," artists tend to return to a previously successful style or mindset in hopes to capture former glory. Eminem's last project, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, worked largely because it featured Slim Shady relying on the themes and concepts that made him a megastar. On Future's third album, DS2, the highly-anticipated follow-up to his 2011 breakout mixtape Dirty Sprite, the Atlanta rapper proves he's a dominant force in rap by taking the same route and showcasing his progression.

After the Dirty Sprite tape first dropped, Future seemed like an oddity. The project featured his first big hit, the YC collaboration "Racks," and his Auto-Tune-heavy, hazy style made him seem like a drugged out T-Pain. However, after the success of singles like "Tony Montana" and "Same Damn Time," as well as nods for his albums Pluto and Honest, Future went from being an oddity to a trendsetter. It's hard to see fellow ATLiens Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan blowing up like they have without Future paving the way.

Since the release of 2014's Honest and experiencing a breakup with ex-fiancee Ciara, Fewtch has been on an absolute tear. In the past 12 months he's already released three mixtapes: Monster, Beast Mode and 56 Nights -- essential listening if you're part of the #FutureHive. On DS2, the rapper has learned to trim some of the filler and fat that sometimes plagued his earlier projects. The beats bang more than ever and Future's lyrics often have an underside of pain and sadness to them.

His recent hot streak directly leads to DS2, the high point of Future's career so far and a perfect showcase of a rapper in his absolute prime. It's an album that feels like a mixtape in the best possible way. There are no attempts to cash in and make a radio song, even with the presence of his hit from the Monster tape, "F--- Up Some Commas." Future isn't a rhymer who is prone to BS; he named his sophomore album, Honest, after all.

While many of the lyrics address his drug use and sexual endeavors, there's a certain melancholy to it all. There's something harrowing on "Slave Master," as he closes with the lines, "Long live A$AP Yams / I'm on that codeine right now." Future's decision to include drug references in his raps has come under fire recently because he's criticized for glorifying addiction. By referencing a prominent figure in hip-hop who died from an overdose while claiming he's on lean at that very moment, it seems more like self-medication in time of mourning than glorification.

DS2 is also a breakup album of sorts. Rappers talk about their sexual conquests all the time, but when Future says "Now I'm back f---in' my groupies" on the aptly titled track "Groupies," there's definitely a statement of "I don't need you anymore" in the aftermath of his failed engagement. His raps about money, drugs and promiscuous women seem like more of a distraction than an endorsement. "I know the devil is real," Future states on album closer "Blood on the Money," a track about the deaths he's seen in the drug trade.

Perhaps the greatest progression shown between Dirty Sprite the mixtape and DS2 the album is Fewtch's ability to carry a project on his own. Here Future proves that he doesn't need outside help to be a success. He's carved out his own style and nobody can do it as well as he can. The original tape heavily featured the likes of Rocko, Scooter, Travis Porter and 2 Chainz. DS2 has a grand total of one guest: Drake, a rapper on a hot streak of his own and a genuine highlight on the anti-fake friends anthem "Where Ya At." The fact that the single featuring perhaps the biggest rapper in the game right now wasn't released until after the album arrived says a lot about Future's confidence in his own abilities. He's absolutely right in having that confidence.

The progression of Future as a rapper may be the biggest highlight of DS2, but a project like this certainly needs heavy-hitting production. The beats are provided by heavy hitters like Metro Boomin, Zaytoven and Southside. There aren't any other producers that can soundtrack Future's style quite like these guys. The songs particularly come alive on the darker tracks. On "Lil One," a track about being thrust into street life at an early age, the screams heard in the background serve as an especially sinister reminder of what the youth have to deal with.

Future, especially with his more unorthodox style as well as his seemingly overdone subject matter, will always be a polarizing figure. Some will see him as the model for hip-hop moving into a new direction and others will see him as a plague on the genre as a whole. DS2 likely won't change anyone's perspective on the man, but it does create the most vivid, most consistent portrait we've seen of him yet.

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