Has Future’s sweet spot become too stale?
Anyone that has had Southern cooking knows how it soothes the soul. Fried chicken, macaroni, cornbread…the South is home to some of the most consistent dishes in the game. Even if you know that your arteries will go through hell when you fix yourself a plate, you go through the bodily lows to experience the tremendous highs of savory delight.
It only makes sense that Atlanta’s premiere superstar, Nayvadius Wilburn, has mastered the art of auditory Southern cooking. On High Off Life, Future Hendrix has fully embraced his role as the Atlantan prophet, sharing his pain and success in a format that’s as familiar and enjoyable as a plate of your favorite comfort food…but that may not be appealing to everyone.
Future is on a roll. Whether it be his string of incredibly successful projects like The Wizrd, his accumulation of online fanatics preaching his Gospel, or his almost mandatory appearance on any mainstream rap album, Future’s life is good. It only makes sense that he says as much on “Life is Good”, a two-part clash of titans between Drake and himself as they revel in success. This is essential to High Off Life: Future’s very success intoxicates not just him, but his own audience. It’s what makes his music so enjoyable for so many, even if they can’t relate to his background.
Intoxication is often a common motif in Future’s music, and the same goes for this record. Future’s choices in production often produce a woozy backdrop for Future’s own victory lap. As a news broadcast describes Future’s criminal activity in “Ridin Strikers”, a sour chord progression turns the typical trap song into a terrifying monster: it sounds like the one hit that was too strong. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Future’s crooning over luxurious pianos on “Outer Space Bih” paints the high as being as smooth as an AP face.
But we’ve all been to this same soundscape before. For better or worse, High Off Life is a quintessential Future production. It feels incredibly familiar, like you’re with Wilburn as he cruises in his Maybach. He has nowhere important to go, but he’s still out to show the block his stripes and stacks of money. As soon as we relax amidst his piles of money on “Up the River,” Future prays for more supply on “Pray for a Key”. It’s a formula that, while not groundbreaking, still does the job.
Thankfully, Future’s stripes have a surprising amount of weight when he dives into his past: “Posted with My Demons” tackles Future’s drug-riddled past in a way that is as emotional as a blank face. His rhymes, which typically sound better than they read, are monstrous here, as on the minimalist “One of My,” where he describes his rogues gallery of gang connections. Future rarely steps out of his lyrical and performative comfort zone on this record beyond these moments, something he did much more on The Wizrd…
But if the formula works, why tweak it? The goal of comfort food is to make you feel good; Future’s brand thrives on utilizing the core trap sound and toxic lyrics to scratch those itches, so why switch it up? When I hear the murky “Trapped in the Sun” or the 56 Nights-esque “Touch the Sky”, my mind has two simultaneous thoughts:
“He isn’t really showing anything out of the ordinary”My first thoughts on “HiTek Tek”
“But it still rides”My other first thoughts on “HiTek Tek”
The only things that don’t truly sit well with me are Future’s guest collaborators. Travis Scott fails to make an impact on “Solitaires”, Youngboy’s crooning on the Jeff Bezos national anthem “Trillionaire” sounds poorly mixed, and Young Thug lacks his usual fire on “Harlem Shake”. While I enjoy Drake on “Life Is Good” and Meek Mill on “100 Shooters”, the songs fail to make up for the lack of feature presence on the album’s deep cuts…
But features have never been Future’s bread and butter. No, his bread and butter has been melody, oozing a sense of pain and swagger, and bringing the force on psychedelic production. High Off Life brings that on many of its tracks, something that Future fans and mainstream rap fans can easily enjoy…like a plate of their favorite food. But for those that seek a more varied serving of trap music, they may want to order in from somewhere different.
Tracks to Save: “Trapped in the Sun,” “Touch the Sky,” “Posted with Demons,” “Too Comfortable,” “Outer Space Bih,” “Life Is Good,” “100 Shooters”
Tracks to Skip: “Solitaires,” “Trillionaire,” “Harlem Shake”
What did you think of High Off Life? Sound off on the comments (or Twitter @Tommy__31_ ) to let us know!