The same week Future announced the release date for Dirty Sprite 2, his third official retail release, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft completed the first-ever flyby of Pluto. Its data has been revealing the dwarf planet as an icy, complicated world, still in geological flux, marked by a bright, heart-shaped feature in the center of much darker terrain. It's not just an apt parallel for the rapper, who named his expectation-defying debut after the misunderstood planet: it's the ultimate symbol for the latest and most relevant phase of Future's career. The stars have never been more uncannily aligned for the man born Nayvadius Cash, the reigning king of Atlanta who's deployed a trilogy of album-quality mixtapes since last October to recapture some of the goodwill lost as he's figured out what kind of artist he wanted to be over the past three years.
There's been a backlash against sophomore album Honest in the past year-even Future has distanced himself from the project, which he released before the ugly demise of his relationship with ex-fiancée Ciara. But Honest wasn't a bad album by any means; it was just confused. It was obvious Future was being tugged in too many directions at once: the sledgehammer street bangers, the poignant lone ranger ballads, the big-name collabs with Kanye and Pharrell.