Future basks in the sunlight of his true self on "High Off Life."
Don’t consider Future a changed man. High Off Life is an ambitious title for a rapper who has made a career out of trap ballads that advocate for a synthetic high. After listening to the album, though, it’s quite clear that Future is still a proponent of many man-made forms of high, but perhaps his life-- filled with luxuries most of us won’t encounter even in passing-- is also becoming an adequate form of oxytocin for the rapper.
Everything about High Off Life recalls the tried and true Future blueprint, one that began to take shape around the time Dirty Sprite 2 was released. The album cover certainly harkens back to the likes of FUTURE/HNDRXX, his back-to-back releases with a pairing of muted, neutral-toned covers, featuring a quick blur of the man himself. On High Off Life, Future returns to the grey palette, with ¾ of the album cover a simple grey background before Future pops up in, in the bottom third, arms spread open and moving, hazy in the process. Future seems to be an album cover after-thought, and this idea is one that plays into his music as well.
What that means is, much in the way Future has popularized the “she is for the streets” slang-- well, Future is for the rap game. In the sense that, we know Future is no longer trapping, we know he doesn’t take the prescription drugs he’s always rapping about. He’s admitted to living a sober life as recently as last year. Yet, we accept him. He is a vehicle by which we receive entrancing soundscapes. He is a purveyor of vibes.
These are the sounds we are presented with yet again on High Off Life. That’s not a bad thing. Future has found the formula-- something he’s readily admitted too-- and he sees no real reason to change when the people love it. “I can't be a role model, 'cause I'm a trappin' king,” he raps on “Trapped in the Sun,” thus assuring us he has no desire to switch up his preferred rapping material. It’s a sentiment he echoed equally in his interview with Zane Lowe, on Beats 1: “You change when it's time to change. You change when it's...Beneficial for me at this point, because it was benefiting me to be the person that I was and be the person that I am and to be the person that everyone loved already. You know what I'm saying? So if I change, it's got to be changing for benefit. It's got to be beneficial for me to change.”
Even though Future doesn’t necessarily leave his comfort zone across the album’s 21 songs, the rapper does appear to be settling into a new season within his career and life-- that being the unapologetic, I am who I am season. “Accepting My Flaws,” which essentially closes out the album (because let’s be honest everything after it was simply tacked on to boost those streaming numbers) captures this idea perfectly. So perhaps, we have Lori Harvey to thank for Future’s new-found sense of self. It seemed we were on the precipice of something when Future reflected on the possible damage he’d incurred with the SAVE ME EP. However High Off Life is an assurance that he’s returned from the ledge, he’ll continue to forge the path he’s been carving out for himself.
“I've been tryna fight my demons, I've been tryna fight my cup
I always tell her she my therapy, I told her it was rough
She acceptin' all my flaws,”
And later, he even affirms that despite the constant influx of baby mama drama Future is entangled in-- Lori isn’t pestering Future about these concerns, itself a confirmation that she is accepting of who he is, faults and all--
“Different, you a angel, true to me
They gon' try to convince me that it's different
But I know, it's in my spirit and I can feel it, yeah
She don't bring up when these bitches bein' miserable and typical”
And earlier, on “Hard to Choose One,” he readily admits;
“Money and sex is bringin' me problems
But I'm at my best when I'm runnin' through models”
High Off Life, as a reflection of Future’s existence, offers a mix of sun-soaked records juxtaposed with songs that are drenched in clouds, reflecting a rainy day. Perhaps mirroring the ups and downs of life. The tracklisting is something Future has mastered, again a clear nod to his curatorship abilities when it comes to playlist-like soundtracks. Songs blend into another, sometimes recalling the elements of an earlier record to help with the transition, or else by way of final-moment segues such as on "Ridin Strikers."
"Trapped in the Sun" is the triumphant introduction, with a swell of piano keys rising to meet the ears, leading swiftly into "HiTek Tek," while a few elements, chiming bells and keys, continue the romp. "Touch the Sky" keeps the run of trap bangers awash in sunlight; glimmering and dancing as each ray blankets the record. Rightly so, since Future is in pure flex mode:
“I just put a brand new Phantom on my credit card
I just bought the Rollie store with my credit card
Put two hundred racks on my bitch debit card
I put two hundred racks on your whole squad
I'm a big time nigga, I don't owe no niggas.”
High Off Luxury. Future’s vast wealth is a frequent topic: foreign cars, penthouse digs, and bad bishes, among them. You can easily close your eyes and zone out, imagine life on an island, even if that isn’t your current circumstance. Thus, while the content might be familiar, and surface-level, it’s often the “vibe” that seeps through Future’s music and makes it so exciting. Equally, it’s the emotion that’s conveyed through the production, through the rapper’s cadence, and through his flow that makes each song hit harder. Even if it’s just a record about his favorite Gucci bucket hat.
On the tin-can-jangling “Ridin Strikers” Future’s begins to delve into a more moody array of records, and it feels as though clouds are beginning to cover the sky that Future referenced just two songs prior. The scratchy production creates a feeling of darkness, Future’s equally rough vocals adding to this gloomy sound, while Future begins to dig into his street-oriented past, and ponders how in the world he’s supposed to stay sober. We move from the enticing aspects of wealth to the darkside of trapping in order to gain such riches.
It feels as though the sun is coming back around by the time we get into “Up The River,” or perhaps it’s simply Future coming to terms with himself, while he encourages us to do the same--
“If you don't fuck with me, my n*gga, I don't give a fuck
I got some partners, they gon' send you up the river
I keep the same aesthetics, I got the fuel unleaded”
“Outer Space Bih,” one of the airiest records on the tracklist, finds things coming full circle with the sun fully in view, out from behind the clouds that once draped it. The simple piano keys and feel-good nature of the record is focused entirely on Future’s present, with not so much as a word to his past. This is all just a lead up to the album’s outro, the operatic and monumental “Accepting My Flaws,” which is the moment of embrace for Future. And, much like Lori, we too welcome Future, flaws and all.