The future is often said to be uncertain, but Future — Future is nearly always a sure thing. On his latest full-length release, High Off Life, he proves this case, for better or worse. After charting new territory on his prior release, 2019’s The Wizrd, he retreats to the safety of his most well-trodden topics on his latest, perhaps wary of wandering too far afield for his fans or maybe just hunting for some sense of stability in disconcerting times. Whichever reason it is, it’s tempting to call it a disappointment, but Future’s competence in crafting his reliably scummy hits keeps High Off Life afloat, even if listeners might have wanted to see some true elevation from the 10-year veteran.
Fortunately, Future’s penchant for crafting inescapably crafty choruses of semi-intelligible but murky chants remains intact, buoying the proceedings accordingly. “Ridin Strikers,” “Posted With Demons,” and “Too Comfortable” are prime examples of the sort of refrains that Future’s crackling baritone makes sound like the sweetest poetry. Future makes short work of sneering precepts like Future’s ironclad inability to love these hoes or his tendency to sic his shooters on anyone who draws his ire. Get drunk, stay up way too late, sing these in an inebriated stupor — that’s what they’re made for and how they’re best enjoyed.
The production is, as usual, top notch as well, with clattering 808s and snare rolls that are easy to fall into as veteran producers CuBeatz, Southside, Tay Keith, TM88, Wheezy, and a cadre of their trap-traipsing brethren do what they do best. It’s all tied together with expert vision by executive producer DJ Esco, Future’s longtime collaborator and DJ who helped craft one of his career high points, the 2017 double album Future/Hndrxx. Their easy chemistry is evident in how smoothly the project glides along; Esco knows what sounds work for Future, how to sequence them, how to keep the moving pieces of an album churning along with well-oiled efficiency. It works.
Except, maybe it all feels too easy. It’s Future on autopilot, doing the same things he’s always done the same way he’s always done them. It feels like a tactical retreat to the familiar, unwilling to take any creative risks. There’s value in knowing your lane and sticking to it, but when it all starts to sound the same, maybe it is time to try something new — especially after Future showed what he might be capable of on his last full-length project, The Wizrd. While he’s always offering a glimpse of the heartbreak behind the callous exterior — “Accepting My Flaws” stands out here — it’d be nice if he got into specifics after 10 years of vague paranoia anthems sprinkled with dazzling flexes.
But hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Anything I could complain about here — the length, just over an hour, was something I actually praised on The Wizrd, while the boasts continue to encompass the usual, clothes, jewels, girls, guns, cash — is just part of the equation for a Future album. At this stage, what Future offers is the equivalent of comfort food, something that satisfies a specific hunger for a time until the next helping. Future’s specific formula fills a lane that only Future can — indeed, it’s a lane that Future himself helped create along “Life Is Good” co-conspirator Drake.
As the Torontonian artist points out on the hypnotic hook of that track, “Working on the weekend, like usual” is routine for them. With the world seemingly falling apart around us, who can begrudge Future’s fans for indulging their craving for musical junk food? High Off Life is escapist fantasy, harkening to a time when you could resist getting close to someone for fear of emotional trauma rather than risk of respiratory illness. It seems we all feel wistful for simpler times; if we can’t have them, than at least we can enjoy the simple pleasures that remind us of them.
High Off Life is out now on Epic Records. Get it here.