“Mask Off” is a great song. Future’s video for “Mask Off” wasn’t worth the wait. Amber Rose, a chrome-wrapped Bentley Continental, and innumerable flame cannons amount to little more than Purge b-roll, albeit soundtracked by a potential song of the summer. The quality of the video, though, is besides the point. Now that the most meme-able song from his self-titled album has a video, it’s destined to climb the Hot 100 and, likely, to reach No. 1—a first for the Altanta MC. Since YouTube streams accrue in the same way that Spotify, Apple Music, or Tidal streams do, all Future had to do was release a video. Any would suffice.
Since Billboard adjusted its rules to allow for streaming—audio and video—the formula is simple: 1,500 streams (on any digital platform, like Spotify or YouTube) = 10 digital downloads (a track on iTunes) = 1 album sale. Which means it’s in the artist’s best interests to capitalize on any buzz by releasing their music on every platform available to them. Future may not have quality product on his hands, but releasing the video for “Mask Off,” as derivative as it is, is the correct move.
In certain Internet rap circles there’s been debate about whether “Mask Off” feels like Future’s biggest hit, as Complex contributor David Drake put it. This conversation depends on the inequities of streaming culture. Songs released on the black market, so to speak—outlets like LiveMixtapes and DatPiff—become popular in an unofficial capacity, but might never climb the charts. “March Madness” may feel like it should’ve been Future’s No. 1 hit, but it wasn’t made available through the legitimate outlets from the jump. And so here we are, with a more-or-less contemporary textbook leap from official album to top of the chart for “Mask Off,” the song that fans decided was most exciting and then supported via creative Internet content. The video is just the final part of the hit-making equation. No sweat; it’s a light day for Future.
Some artists accomplish this in one fell swoop. Last week, DJ Khaled released his latest star-studded bid at pop dominance, “I’m the One,” and it came with the video. Now it’s expected to debut at No. 1. This makes the video absence of Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” puzzling. Uzi knows he has an organic hit on his hand, something that went from SoundCloud to Spotify with the quickness when it became apparent that it had been anointed by the masses. It’s reached the top 10 of the Hot 100 and just needs that last push. It needs a video.
The video for “Mask Off,” which Future described as a movie, feels expensive. Pointlessly so. Uzi could release a video for “XO Tour Llif3” that consisted of nothing but still photos of the cast of Friends, with their eyes X’d out, shuffling endlessly, and it could be enough to get him to No. 1.
Presumably that’s in the works right now.