High Off Life is the first Future album since January 2019 — an eternity by his standards. It’s been a rare breather for the hardest-working rapper in the solar system, the Atlanta trap legend with a voice full of the Auto-Tune blues and a head full of astronaut status. Future was originally planning to call it Life Is Good, but he changed the title at the last minute in response to the global health crisis — a rare case of Future adjusting to the realities of any world outside his mind. High Off Life is Future at his most optimistic, as the man from Pluto decides to send out a positive message. But it’s still got the spaced-out melancholy that always fills his sound, as he clocks some serious demon hours in the late-night druggy strip-club haze of his soul.
Future has been one of the most reliably brilliant songwriters anywhere over the past decade, keeping up a relentless creative pace of albums, mixtapes, collabos, and loosies. And he’s always had a healthy ego about his poetic eminence — his 2017 gem, Hendrxx, had the immortal boast “I invented doors.” But he sounded down on The Wzrd and his subsequent EP, which was such a blatant cry for help he called it Save Me. It kicked off with a heartbroken tale of love addiction called “XanaX Damage.”
High Off Life is definitely a thematic switch. In “Solitaires,” he and Travis Scott talk about living their best lives during COVID-19, with Future boasting, “Coronavirus diamonds, you can catch the flu.” Travis gets explicit about quarantine claustrophobia: “When they let us off of lock, man, we gonna make that shit pop/Been humpin’ wifey for so long, she got a limp when she walk.”
But the man who once called himself Extravagant Hendrix does not trim his albums down to size, or stick to any concept too long. Over the 21-track sprawl, one moment he’s praying for forgiveness, the next he vows, “Won’t enjoy life if it ain’t toxic.” He likes to begin his workday by declaring, “Take a few Addies, then go in a coma.” For the pop smash “Life Is Good,” he re-teams with Drake, five years after their mix tape, What a Time To Be Alive, which has kept the world fiending for a sequel ever since. (The remix adds DaBaby and Lil Baby.) The first half of the song is all Drake, as Aubrey Graham complains about a typical set of Drake-ian problems, from ladies who won’t return his texts to “Haven’t done my taxes, I’m too turnt up.” Future takes over for the second half, with his own dilemmas: “I got pink toes that talk different languages/I got Promethazine in my blood and Percocet.”
Lil Uzi Vert goes into Baby Pluto mode for the duet “All Bad,” boasting, “Everything I get turn to brulée.” Future trades bars with Baton Rouge phenom YoungBoy Never Broke Again in “Trillionaires,” while he teams up with producer Whizzy and Young Thug for the not-very-New York but definitely intense “Harlem Shake.” In “Posted with Demons,” his voice is choked with sorrow as he confesses his sins over an eerie swirl of flute and violin. In “Outer Space Bih,” over jazzy R&B piano, he toasts his collection of watches, earrings, and cars, while riding dirty through California with bad little hotties who know Pilates. “Hard to Choose One” breaks down his addictive sex-and-drugs cocktail of Addies and baddies, over a space-paranoia beat from VOU and Southside: “Money and sex is bringing me problems/But I’m at my best when I’m running through models.”
For his biggest personal statement, there’s “Accepting My Flaws,” where the Wzrd tries to start a new life with his girlfriend, model Lori Harvey. Even though he admits he’s the “Grim Reaper in a Rolls Royce,” he tries to get sober and go straight for the love of a good woman: “Give me glory, give me Lori, that’s victory.” He’s always had a flair for love songs since the early days of “Turn Out the Light” and “Astronaut Chick.” But it’s touching to hear him say, “I’ve been suffering withdrawals missing out on real love.” If you’re one of the many people who had to cancel a wedding this summer, you can console yourself with the thought that now you have time to add “Accepting My Flaws” as your walking-down-the-aisle music. It doesn’t get much more romantic than “Shine on my demons/I feel it in my bones when you’re taking out my semen.” (That’s amore.)
Future adds, “I’m not Catholic but had to have a talk with the priest.” Better set some time aside for this one, Padre — it might be the longest confession you’ve heard in a while. Maybe listen to Beast Mode or DS2 for research? But the man keeps building one of the most expansive catalogs in the game. Like the Fall’s Mark E. Smith in the 1980s, Future is capping off a decade of nonstop prolific output, overall excellence, consistent sticking to themes, a vocal flow nobody else can match, superhuman drug stamina, and a heroic commitment to being a mess at all times. High Off Life proves that Future shows no signs of slowing down now.
ByROB SHEFFIELD of Rolling Stone