As COVID-19 ravages the United States, artists are continuing to flood the market with music. Since touring is now impossible and fans are holding onto their dollars to pay for essential expenses over merch, streaming may be the most consistent form of payment artists can receive right now, outside of BandCamp who continues to be the best way artists can be paid directly. This morning the King of Codeine FUTURE HNDRXX returned with another long 20+ song, 60+ minute album High Off Life to bless FUTUREHIVE and the streets he is so obsessed with.
Anyone who has been following my journey on GSC or Twitter knows that I am a Future fan through and through. For better or worse, I have always been a consistent listener ready to defend or criticize the man for his art. Commercially, Future is at the top of the game. He has been breaking records for some time now. Before I even woke up, the album had already gone gold. His business plan is clearly working, but the High Off Life art direction will surely divide casual and intense fans.
Future seems to have become aware that his toxicity has reached meme status, leaning into this persona knowing full well the internet will go absolutely nuts for it. Photoshopped images of Future as Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King Jr., Beyonce, and Kobe Brytant are undeniably hilarious and probably shared throughout male dominated group chats across the globe. However, I’m worried that Future’s overreliance on this persona is becoming a detriment to creating new peaks of influence in the rap game.
After the SAVE ME EP, Future appeared as if he was ready to open a new chapter in his artistic life. After years of reveling in toxic behavior, his cries of desperation were scary but welcome. His stans who listen to his music religiously must have had some concern for his behavior and hopefully reflected on their own possibly aligned exploits in dating and relationships. Three years of therapy have changed me, and as I mature into my late 20’s the idea of thriving off the pain of others and cheating myself of happiness for short term physical thrills no longer delivers the dopamine rush of a younger man. As someone hilariously pointed out on Twitter, dude is 36.
As I guessed last year, it seems that SAVE ME was either a gimmick meant to generate a discussion he had no intention of following up on or a fleeting moment that he quickly moved on from. High Off Life starts off strong. For the first half of the album, over somewhat repetitive trap beats, Future appears focused and in a flow that is similar to the classic 56 Nights. On the album opener “Trapped in the Sun” he admits to feeling bored and openly tells fans, “I can’t be a role model,” the kind of words used to excuse the behavior of those in the spotlight since the 90s.
He’s conflicted, admitting he, “still fuck an average bitch, I be on some savage shit” on “Posted with Demons” before later stating he, “always keep me a ten.” This inconsistency can be found throughout the album. On the one introspective track, album closer “Accepting My Flaws”, he admits new girlfriend Lori Harvey is “my therapy.” I don’t think I have to explain why a man using his significant other as his emotional fix is problematic, but if so, just know that it is wrong. He’s been “missing out on real love” but also that he would have “cheated at 3pm” on the track before.
Self-growth comes from within and I believe Future is too busy making countless millions while being cheered on by toxicity memes to really care. On “Outter Space Bih” he reveals, “I ain’t never gonna change I’m worth a hundred mill.” Money making is an addiction and Future’s willingness to do the least to make the most will surely hold him back from going for fan favorite deep tracks over the pop culture changing hits such as “Mask Off,” the guaranteed post-quarantine anthem.
Despite his incredible influence on the genre and mainstream, Future clearly still sees himself as an underdog, reminding the listener on “Trillionaire” that, “from rags to riches, I got me some bitches and I changed up how I come” and how he “feel like they don’t feel me now” which is funny, since the album went Gold instantly upon release. This underdog feels the need to fight back against naysayers that no longer exist, as he is arguably a Top 5 rapper right now. On “Up the River” he boasts that, “if you don’t fuck with me, my nigga, I dont give a fuck […] I keep the same aesthetics” but also tells his audience “don’t get too comfortable” despite this being a collection of straightforward tracks with little to no experimentation or personal reveals minus name-checking his already known celebrity girlfriend.
On “Too Comfortable” he claims that he has, “been through more shit this month than a nigga been through in a lifetime,” which is strange considering over 30 million Americans are on unemployment and tens of thousands are dead. Future seems disconnected from reality here, which isn’t surprising considering his massive wealth, but the flex just comes off as too absurd even for him. This self-claimed victimhood cannot be happening in 2020 for a man literally chilling on yachts and in mansions.
A hard truth for FUTUREHIVE to swallow is that High Off Life is solid, not great. With only one true deep introspective track, he is far removed from last year’s overlooked Future Hndrxx Presents: The Wizrd which has introspective bangers like “Temptation”, “Krazy But True”, and “Tricks on Me” that harkened back to the days of his incredible mixtape era tracks like “Codeine Crazy” and “Throw Away”. Future is still dropping bangers, but that is something he can do in his sleep or on auto-pilot. Like the recent Drake release, the bangers are there but do they have staying power? It’s hard to know without any strip clubs, dance floors, or BBQs to spin these tunes. With another long release, it feels as if he’s just hoping that one track will get radio play while simultaneously racking up streaming money, perhaps to pay his newest baby mama the child support he owes for his 7th confirmed child (that we know of)!
The songs are heat and welcome to any Future fan, but the stagnation worries me that an aging party hedonist might be too stuck in his routine of toxic behavior and counting absurdly large checks to care to change his ways. Drugs, depression, and self-hate do not lead to healthy lifestyle choices or relationships. If Future continues to make banger after banger without allowing himself to actually express what he’s feeling, the shtick will get boring and revert him to a follower of the flex instead of passionate revealer like he became known for on 2014’s Honest. For now, take the 70 minute album at face value, get that hour plus cardio in, and keep the body as healthy as possible during this pandemic. Knowing the Promethazine Prince, he will drop another project randomly this summer offering what this project does not. Whatever happens, I will be there ready to hold him accountable and tell it like it is. Until then, I guess this will be fine.