Desiigner’s “Panda”: it sounds a lot like Future, and it’s the biggest mistaken-identity meme since that UB40 song everyone still thinks is Bob Marley. The fact that “Panda” has charted infinitesimally higher than anything Future’s done – yes, even “Jumpman” – adds more fuel to the fire. But “Panda,” both in terms of its structure and what makes it ultimately work, is distinct enough from anything Future’s done as to make it a bit of a stretch to call it a ripoff.
For one, “Panda” is more virile than the bulk of Future’s work. Future’s big talent is to make everything sound boring, even having 60 naked bitches in the bed. Desiigner sounds like he’s whispering dirty talk in your ear. Listen to that bedroom chuckle when he whispers “Panda;” it’s one of the most sensual noises I’ve heard a pop vocalist make since Beyonce’s orgasm-laugh on “Drunk In Love.” Considering he’s talking about a car, it’s not hard to interpret it as the reverse of Future’s nihilistic materialism. He loves his Panda so much he almost wants to fuck it.
The biggest thrill of “Panda” is the power Desiigner’s tiny voice has on the landscape. He barely sounds like he’s out of bed during his intensifying chant of “panda-panda-panda,” though the beat’s already revving up to full throttle. And after the bombastic intro is over, hearing him lick his lips and get ready to spit is thrilling. Oh, and let’s not forget the pitch-shifting on his first “panda.” If you listen closely, there’s two of him going at the same time, one voice slightly lower than the other. It’s a blink-and-miss moment. One wonders what motivated producer Menace to employ this trick so briefly. It’s like Miyazaki painting an extra spirit in the corner of the screen.
Here’s what Desiigner had to say about “Panda” sounding like Future:
“God gave him a blessing, but he gave me a blessing too. I ain’t gonna doubt the man’s music. He make beautiful music too. Music is made every day. Big ups to him, big ups to Future. I actually like Future’s music. I like his music, you feel me. I’m not a hater or a critic on him, you know, I do me. God bless him, God bless me.”
Me thinks he doth protest to little. People who rip off other artists defend their work to the death. Desiigner sounds like he couldn’t give less of a shit if people think he sounds like Future.
“Panda” isn’t the best song in the banger canon. It certainly doesn’t hold a candle to “Hotline Bling,” “Jumpman,” or most of Fetty Wap’s singles. It’s not terribly catchy, and anyone dealing with post-TLOP trauma might just associate it with “Pt. 2.” But it doesn’t deserve to just live in Future’s shadow, and it’s certainly no ripoff.