Over the last few years, Atlanta trap trailblazer Future has become something of a savant of the collaborative joint mixtape. Beginning in 2015 with What A Time To Be Alive by Drake, Future has since gone on to repeat the process with a number of his indirect scions, including Young Thug (2017’s Super Slimey), Juice WRLD (2018’s WRLD On Drugs), and most recently, Lil Uzi Vert on this week’s Pluto X Baby Pluto. The latest constitutes each collaborator’s second project of 2020 (third for Uzi if you count the deluxe version of Eternal Atake, LUV Vs. The World 2, as a separate project) and delivers more of what their fans have come to expect, trading on the duo’s established chemistry from their 2016 crossover with DJ Esco, “Too Much Sauce.”
And yes, by now, both artist’s fans know exactly what to expect from either — and thanks to their trio of singles released at various points throughout the year, what to expect from both. The duo first teased their collaboration back in May with the deep-fake-featuring “Wassup” video, which appeared on LUV Vs. The World 2. The video not only established that their working chemistry remained intact, but also that fans would greedily devour anything these two put out together. They set out to leverage this tendency — well-cultivated by each artist’s well-evinced productivity — with the singles “Over Your Head” and “Patek” in July, stoking the flames of curiosity and turning expectation into all-out frenzy.
How much mileage this tape gets from listeners will greatly depend on how much they like either artist. Neither is going to surprise anyone lyrically, as they tread similar territory to each of their solo releases this year. The 15-song set opens, fittingly enough, with the DJ Esco-produced “Stripes Like Burberry,” which smartly picks up where the duo left off four years ago on “Too Much Sauce.” It quickly establishes one of the benefits of Future’s propensity toward working with his stylistic offspring: It gives listeners the opportunity to compare the two and determine how they overlap and diverge from one another, spotlighting Future’s influence and Uzi’s innovation thereof.
“Bankroll,” “Bought A Bad Bitch,” and the standout single “That’s It,” which also received the video treatment upon the album’s surprise release Friday, are further examples of their stylistic convergence — as well of their thematic limitations. While both have proven highly capable of injecting introspection in their work (albeit mostly in passing), here most of their wordplay leans in service of their attraction to bling, their proficiency with firearms, and their delight in the carnal pleasures provided by willing female companions. In other words, there are no surprises here — which begs the question of why this collection needs to be 15 songs long when they pretty much cover all the subjects they care to by the end of “Marni On Me,” the second song of the tape.
Yes, Uzi’s solo outing here touches on trauma (“See, I saw a n**** get killed back when I was a toddler / So how I’m ‘posed to love, girl? Now how I’m ‘posed to fear?”), but what could have been an opportunity to expand his range of topics and reveal more of himself quickly regresses back into generic brags about getting head and an ugly, glossed-over reference to domestic violence: “Why you tellin’ n****s about my stash spot? / She lucky I ain’t kill her, could’ve gave her an ass-shot.” This after nearly three months of calls to defend Black women in the wake of Megan Thee Stallion’s shooting by Tory Lanez, as well as the accompanying silence of Tory’s peers and non-female collaborators… it’s a bad look.
That isn’t to say this one reference ruins all the fun, but the hedonism on display wears thin. The beats run the gamut of the sort of cartoon trap favored by Uzi more than the gloomier fare beloved by Future, which gives the latter a boost in energy. The tempo remains high-spirited enough that a club DJ could drop the needle on track one and walk away from the booth, content that the club would rock for the next hour without any additional effort. But the clubs are all closed and the world is on fire; while some escapism is nice, there’s a difference between vegging out for a bit and fiddling while Rome burns. Pluto X Baby Pluto rides the line pretty closely and while it has the potential to grow on you with enough time and repeats listens, there isn’t much here to entice very many of the latter.
Pluto X Baby Pluto is out now via Atlantic and Epic. Get it here.
Lil Uzi Vert is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.