Before Future released his new album, High Off Life, he spoke about his current headspace during interviews.

“Mentally, life is good, it’s just a state of mind,” he told XXL. “I want to send a positive message through hard times for me or anyone else. Just always have that saying “life is good” and you can always reflect back on it. You know, cheer yourself up and put yourself in a better mood.”

At the time, he was planning on calling the album Life Is Good, but he made a last-minute change and opted for the similarly high-spirited High Off Life instead. And, as he put it, he was making an effort to try new things on this album, without abandoning his core fans. “This album right here defines me at a creative level. Going to the next level where you just going to the next level and always going outside the box, but still remaining true to my core fans and my core audience.”

Did he accomplish his mission? After a few spins, we put together a list of 10 first impressions and takeaways from High Off Life.

There are quarantine bars, but this isn’t an album for quarantine

He couldn’t resist. Sixty seconds into “Solitaires,” Future fires off his first COVID-19 bar: “Coronavirus diamonds, you can catch the flu.” Later in the same song, Travis joins in, rapping, “When they let us off of lock, man, we gon’ make that shit pop/Been humpin’ wifey for so long, she got a limp when she walk.” That’s where the quarantine parallels stop on High Off Life, though. This is an album that needs to be heard at 3 a.m. on the way back home from a drunk night out. There have been some albums released over the past couple months that lend themselves well to quarantined listening—think dvsn’s A Muse In Her Feelings or Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters—but this isn’t one of them. A lot of these songs are reminding me of mid-2010s, mixtape-era Future, and it’s killing me that we can’t hear them outside this weekend. —Eric Skelton

Has anyone found more success mining a singular emotion and sound?

Future is like an NBA player who’s only great at one thing; that one thing just happens to be dropping 35 points a game. He has used the same sound template, the same vocal register, and the same production to conjure the same feelings through the same vocal themes for nearly a decade. He probably calls himself the Wizrd, because somehow this shit never gets old. It’s remarkable. Throughout High Off Life, he talks about the same haunted relationships from the same twisted perspective, and yet we keep on listening track after track, album after album. Future has tapped into the raging id within all of us and has mined it relentlessly, straight to the top of the charts, again and again. —Will Schube

There’s no obvious hit

High Off Life is street music. It goes harder and sounds meaner than Future’s past few full-lengths. On each of his previous LPs, there was an obvious radio hit, or a jam that was destined to be played everywhere all summer (remember summer?). Here, the songs are still begging to be played outside, but it’s from a slowly cruising car, rather than in a club or at a house party. FUTURE has “Mask Off,” which I think I can still hear being blasted at frat parties; HNDRXX has the one-two punch of “Use Me” and “Incredible,” and THE WIZRD boasts the hypnotic aviation anthem, “Jumping on a Jet.” High Off Life has a number of great songs, but none are immediate standouts the way his previous LPs featured immediate standouts. This is an album for late night rides, to drown in, to fuel your sorrow and revenge. —Will Schube

He’s still a savage

Future has earned the title of “toxic king” on Twitter, and it’s safe to say he lives up to his role on the album. He’s growing in some ways, but he’s still a savage, and he isn’t afraid to show it. “Won’t enjoy life if it ain’t toxic,” he declares on “Ridin’ Strikers.” And throughout the rest of the project, Pluto sprinkles in lyrics that reflect his reckless, bachelor lifestyle. On “Hard To Choose,” he makes it known that he isn’t a fan of monogamy, rapping, “Hundreds of baddies, it’s hard to choose one...  I’m at my best when I’m runnin’ through models.” He continues to rap about his struggle with relationships on “Too Comfortable,” spitting, “It’s hard to stay faithful when you winnin’.” Some things never change. —Jessica McKinney

… but he gets vulnerable about some things that made headlines

Future is used to being a part of the daily news cycle. Leading up to High Off Life’s release, he was at the center of several news stories. On the album, he takes a moment to address some of the things in his personal life that have made headlines recently. The first is his relationship with Lori Harvey. On “Accepting My Flaws,” Future name-drops his girlfriend as he discusses how she has helped him overcome some of his worst demons. “Give me glory, give me Lori, that’s victory,” he raps. He doesn’t just talk about his romantic relationships, though. He also opens up about his family situation. In February 2020, his eldest son was reportedly arrested for charges related to criminal gang activity. On “Too Comfortable,” he seemingly goes into detail about the incident, rapping, “Can’t event pay for my son, he on probation, they revoked his bond, yeah/Gotta light another blunt, yeah/I’m now a publicity stunt, yeah/I done been through more shit this month then a nigga through in a lifetime.” Future fully embraces his dark side on the album, but he also surprises fans with vulnerable thoughts about his personal life. —Jessica McKinney

Baby Pluto and Future are a hell of a duo

By the time we make it to “All Bad,” the fourteenth song on High Off Life, the energy is dragging a little, but Uzi jumps in with a much-needed shot in the arm. Channel his Baby Pluto persona, which is a clear hat-tip to Big Pluto Fewtch, Uzi taps into the same kind of headspace he was in when he made dance-friendly Eternal Atake standouts like “Celebration Station” (which might have something to do with the fact that both songs feature production from Brandon Finessin). Unlike the pair’s EA collaboration, “Wassup,” Future contorts himself to match Uzi’s frenetic pace on “All Bad,” instead of the other way around. In turn, we get Future’s most high-energy performance on the whole album, and the most fun song on the the tracklist. We really need to hear this one outside. We need a collab album between these two. —Eric Skelton

It could have used a little trimming

High Off Life is solid. There aren’t any complete clunkers on here, but after a couple listens, you get the feeling it would be have been better with a shorter tracklist. Some of the songs in the middle of the album, like “Up the River” and “Pray For a Key,” feel a little redundant and bog down the pace of the whole project. Future has a habit of focusing on the same few topics anyway, so over the course of 21 songs, he runs out of new ways to approach each record. High Off Life would be getting a stronger reaction if it was a little shorter. We get it—the album wouldn’t have gone Gold immediately if previously-released songs like “Life Is Good,” “Life Is Good (Remix)” and “100 Shooters” weren’t strategically tacked on, but it does take away from the experience to wade through some of these unnecessary songs. —Eric Skelton

Are Future and Drake sitting on a lot of music?

Back in April 2019, Drake and Future seemingly teased the release of What A Time To Be Alive 2, a follow-up to their 2015 joint project, on Twitter. Months later, in January 2020, they dropped “Life Is Good,” fueling rumors that another joint album was on the way. So it was confusing when Drake dropped Dark Lane Demo Tapes on May 1, with only one guest spot from Future. And now, High Off Life features just two Drake appearances (on the pre-released singles “Life Is Good” and “Life Is Good Remix”). So, it seems like they might be saving their collaborative songs for something bigger. Where is that joint album from Future and Drake that everyone has been waiting for? In Drake’s two-hour interview with Rap Radar, he revealed that the two are “always working… We got some stuff,” so they are likely sitting on tons of unreleased music, but it looks like we’ll have to wait a little longer. —Jessica McKinney

The YoungBoy Never Broke Again appearance is telling

The guests appear on High Off Life as follows: Travis Scott, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert, Drake, Lil Durk, Meek Mill/Doe Boy, and Drake/DaBaby/Lil Baby. It’s essentially a who’s-who of rap’s upper echelon, give or take a few MCs. The list itself isn’t surprising, but the fact that Future taps YoungBoy for a bar-for-bar duet causes an initial pause. Perhaps it’s a cynical way to accrue streams (YoungBoy brings in serious numbers), or maybe it’s a changing of the guard. In the past, Future has gone toe-to-toe with Thugger and Drake. Now, he’s looking towards the next generation and inviting Baton Rouge’s finest to carry a track. “Trillionaire” is an album standout, and Future and YoungBoy have surprisingly strong chemistry. Both rappers adlib during the intro, and the first verse and chorus find the two MCs finishing each other's lines. It’s a nice effect, and the two rappers have enough stylistic similarities for their voices to blend really well together. They carry the track together, but Future goes solo on the second verse. While he let’s YoungBoy ride along throughout, this is still Future’s show. —Will Schube

“Posted With Demons” is the most ‘Future’ song here

From the title alone, you can tell that “Posted With Demons” is an all-time Future song. It’s not all-time in terms of radio impact or cultural presence, but in the way it gets to the very heart of what Future is about. His flow is the perfect mix of menacing and vulnerable, ready to fight anyone that crosses him, but despondent over the fact that he still has enemies in the first place. He somehow makes his AutoTune cry, layering the vocal performance in depressive tendencies and short lived highs. He raps, “I can’t never forget when I was starvin’, that shit make me sick,” only to turn around two bars later and analyze his ice with the precision of a doctor reading a CT scan. Throughout the song, Future cops to his wrongdoings, but firmly admits he’d do the same shit again for the same results. Future’s not only addicted to success, but the struggle that comes with it. The pain pushes him, and the money wouldn’t stack as high without all he went through to get it. —Will Schube

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