Photo courtesy of Future / Twitter

Future Reflects on His Past in Album 'High Off Life'

It’s been a rough few years for Future. Despite being one of the most prolific and consistent artists of the 2010s and boasting more No. 1 albums than any other artist since 2015, his past three albums have been widely considered to be disappointments. With his last great album coming in 2017, many were beginning to believe Fire Marshall Future had burned out.

High Off Life seems to be exactly what Future needed to resuscitate his career. This bounce-back can largely be attributed to production by DJ Esco, who last teamed up with Future on his Purple Reign and 56 Nights mixtapes during his famed 2015 run. The album serves as the newest chapter in chronicling Future's complicated relationship with hedonism. He wrestles again with his addiction to drugs and sex over the course of the album, teetering back and forth between viewing them as a means of alleviating psychological pain and as an end in themselves. 

In some ways, High Off Life is a return to normalcy for Future. After experimenting with new flows and instrumentation on his SAVE ME EP, his new music evokes the sounds of his earlier albums. Yet, his work continues to stand apart from traditional trap music. The beats are less energetic and intense. He lacks the same unapologetic tone he had on previous albums such as DS2 and Beast Mode. This is a big part of what makes this album successful—after attempting to go mainstream on projects such as WRLD ON DRUGS, High Off Life serves as a bridge between his unique trap sound and the mainstream sound of modern pop-rap.

The greatest achievement of Future’s newest album is its consistency. Outside of “Outer Space Bih”—which lacks energy, is lyrically subpar, and often sounds repetitive—there isn’t a bad song on the album. All the tracks through the formal end of the album flow smoothly, particularly on the transition from “Touch The Sky” to “Solitaires.” In this sense, High Off Life is cogent, feeling more like an album than his other recent projects, which often felt more like collections of songs. 

The track order is crucial when evaluating this album: Future’s decision to open with “Trapped In The Sun” and close with “Accepting My Flaws” wasn’t accidental. In the intro, Future raps about guns, drugs, sex, and cars, highlighting the toxic masculinity that characterizes much of his earlier catalog and much of the rap industry. By contrast, when he marks the formal end of the album with “Accepting My Flaws,” he is leaving his obsession with material wealth and misogyny behind. Right from the interlude at the beginning of the track, we see Future as emotionally raw and open as he’s been since “Codeine Crazy” in 2016. In the one-verse climax of the album, Future discusses his struggles with addiction and his public perception. He continues to explain how his relationship with Lori Harvey, model and daughter of Family Feud host Steve Harvey, has helped him to escape the mistakes he made in the past. In this way, the album is the perfect way for Future to close this chapter of his life and move on to the next.

Another one of the album's major strengths is its use of features. Future’s album features always seem to perform up to or above their potential, and High Off Life is no exception. The chemistry between him and Lil Uzi Vert on “All Bad” sounds like what Eternal Atake was supposed to be. Travis Scott delivers another high-octane hook on “Solitaires.” Youngboy Never Broke Again exceeds expectations on “Trillionaire,” crooning about his rise from rags to riches before trading bars with Future in the first verse. Shockingly, the only feature that didn’t perform was Young Thug. Thug is famous for his chemistry with Future, as seen on their 2017 collaborative project SUPER SLIMEY. On "Harlem Shake," however, Thugger just doesn't sound like himself. His timbre and flow sound out of place, resulting in the duo’s first miss on a track together.

The album's biggest weakness is its singles. The songs themselves aren’t the issue—it’s their placement within the album. With the exception of “Last Name," they all feel out of place. They miss the tone and aesthetic of the album, causing them to seem like they were hastily tacked on to the end as a clunky means of bolstering first-week sales numbers. The album was released during a quarantine, so a population starved for content would likely have listened to the album regardless, making the singles a non-factor in High Off Life reaching No. 1 on the Billboard charts.

While High Off Life isn’t in the rap album of the year conversation due to fellow Atlanta-native Lil Baby’s My Turn being head-and-shoulders above the pack, it still marks a significant step in the right direction for Future. While it’s not in the same tier as his previous projects DS2 and Monster, very few trap albums are. High Off Life still warrants a strong 8.6/10. This could very well be the pivot point in his career that he had promised after The WIZRD, and it will be interesting to see what Future Hendrixx has in store next.

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Jake McNeill