DJ Esco might have been a local celebrity in Atlanta thanks to his Magic Monday sermons for strippers, but after serving 56 nights in a Dubai jail, he would become famous. Future promptly immortalized the man with the 56 Nights mixtape, the third of his now-infamous trilogy and the one that made everyone officially recognize him as the hottest rapper of the year.
The tape is an exercise in stark, iron-grey production and stream of consciousness raps, with Future upping the agility of his flows to heights never before seen from someone known for catchy hit records. Across just eight tracks, Future and producer Southside maintain a mood so focused, it feels like a short, clear elucidation of a singular idea. It’s an uppercut to the chin, and by the time you shake it off, you’re ready for another one.
The last three songs, starting with the people’s choice “March Madness,” form a magnificent suite of emotional power. “Trap Niggas” was another song that organically became a hit, forcing its way onto Future’s third album DS2, but perhaps the most underrated song is the last one. Future has always excelled in expressing pain through his voice, not his words, and on “56 Nights,” he sounds so depressed it can almost weigh you down. That is, however, the strongest pull of his music: the pain he pours out on a record might well deliver you from your own.