The height of Future’s hedonism coincided with a marvelous mixtape/album run from 2015-2017. One that included a toxic breakup with Ciara, a lovely relationship with DJ Esco and Zaytoven, and probably the only classic anthem dedicated to codeine. The music was bountiful but Future’s mental condition was clearly deteriorating. Dirty sprite, empty one night stands, and raging misogyny percolated throughout glittering piano keys and chest-pounding 808s. Nayvadius Wilburn quickly morphed into a rapper that everyone hated to love. From a stylistic standpoint, he also became one of the godfathers of modern trap music.
Fast forward to 2020, and Future still maintains those titles (and his sometimes controversial brand). In a bizarre Twitter montage prior to his newly-released album High Off Life, the Atlanta pioneer sparked minor controversy with this non-contextual statement involving some unnamed woman. The comment ignited a virtual debate about outdated sexism with regards to Future’s brand; sentiments that were only brushed over for a brief period before the actual music was released.
This isn’t the first time Future has made questionable decisions before and after an album release. After 2019’s WZRD hit streaming services, the rapper found himself in hot water after supposedly denying a woman entry into a club because she was “too large.” Once again it was an outlandish situation with cringe-worthy connotations. The one everyone hates to love, am I right?
Thankfully none of these scenarios have ever extended beyond their tone deaf measures. Future’s intentions usually derives from constant pain and suffering from a lackluster relationship or too many synthetic drugs. He doesn’t necessarily harm anyone other than himself. Going into High Off Life, I expected a brand change, or at the very least, happier music. But for the most part, the project submerges into the same tropes as every other Future project from the past decade.
He’s still hypnotized by jewels and perpetual partying, as so transparently laid out on the glistening headbanger “Solitaires” (this line sucks though-“Coronavirus diamonds, you can catch the flu”) He still manages to have a hard time choosing what girl he should hook up with at the club (“Hard To Choose One”). And of course, like any Future album, he still finds a way to be anti-chivalric (“Too Comfortable”). In the intoxicating world of Hendrixx 2.0, girls and diamonds are as disposable as condoms.
The track-list is as bizarre as it is money-grabbing. Both “Life Is Good” renditions (boy that song has not aged well) are featured, as are multiple previously-released tracks like the Lil Durk-assissted “100 Shots.” The latter proves that Future is at his best when he’s crooning about his closest instigators over a medieval flute. Durk meanwhile still proves that he can make any instrumental a pocket for heartbreaking medley.
To be quite frank, this is probably Future’s most overindulgent album to date, which is saying something considering the fact that he released two projects in a span of two weeks in 2017. There’s moments of swift exhilaration, but there’s also some missed opportunity. “Trapped in the Sun” is a catchy intro, but the drums don’t hit as hard as they should. “One Of My” features a classic Atlanta hip-swayer of a beat from ATL Jacob, but Future carries the same flow for almost three minutes (“One of my n****s got rich of bricks”). He’s in his pocket right away, but the song overstays its welcome for obvious reasons.
Since Future’s repertoire has increasingly become limited, it’s nice every once in a while when some tiny idiosyncrasy is added to the production. “Posted With Demons” is hauntingly sinister because of a crying baby in the background of the DJ Spinz and TrellGotWings-produced beat. “Trillionaire” is a passionate fortune-telling story thanks to Future and Youngboy’s outstretched vocal performance. The back-in-forth tennis match is a gorgeous stylistic maneuver, and confirms that Future still embraces his unique voice (“Wish I had a cure on sickle cell, hate to see my sister suffer/You can never put a price on how much I love her”).
Moment such as those only happen intermittently throughout High Off Life. Future mostly plays a caricature of himself, being a hedonist for the sake of being a hedonist. “Accepting My Flaws” is a an introspective outlier that features Future pouring his heart out with gasoline and purple drank. He can still rap his ass off, even if he doesn’t do it as much anymore.
The most glaring disappointment lies in the Young Thug-assisted “Harlem Shake,” a song that basically acts as a lethargic riff on the 2012 smash hit. It’s not as captivating as one may assume. Thug and Future just can’t get it right together (except “Relationship”). Outside of the Youngboy track, Future’s only poignant collaborations are with Travis Scott and Lil Uzi, mainly because those cuts don’t sound smashed together like a cut-and-paste Photoshop project. “Life is Good” sure as hell does though; sorry Drake.
At face value, High Off Life is a by-the-numbers Future release. There’s still something for everybody, even if the album isn’t as condensed as it should’ve been. If he wasn’t chasing streams, we could be talking about a typical mixtape classic from one of our trap gods. But instead, much like in the case of his lifestyle, Future continues to chase the excess.