With Future approaching his 35th birthday next month, a look back on his past decade shows both pain and fortune, much of which he's outlined in his music. His age implies he was old enough to witness and experience the aggressive drug epidemics of the ’80s and ’90s. Meanwhile, his collaborative partner on joint album WRLD on Drugs, 19 year-old Juice WRLD, was born in the rap era of drug users who aren't afraid of candidly expressing their recreational use of Xanax, lean, and the like.
With Future from Atlanta and Juice WRLD hailing from Chicago, there’s a harmonious marrying of contrasting voices on the project that strips away geographical differences. Instead, we see that in the world of trap-inspired beats with drug use as the primary lyrical focus, rappers' origins bear little weight.
Future is no stranger to teaming up with other rappers on full-lengths. Previously releasing joint projects with the likes of Drake and Young Thug, WRLD On Drugs had lofty ambitions, particularly when you consider how those mixtapes, What A Time To Be Alive and Super Slimey, accentuated the Atlantean’s prolific record. In Future's latest collaboration, his melancholic yet melodic tales of woe and debauchery go hand-in-hand with Juice’s wide-eyed vibrancy.
In his recent podcast with Pusha-T, Joe Budden postulated that because rappers spoke about dealing drugs for decades, it was inevitable that the next generation would express their experiences about being end users. On WRLD On Drugs we see the result of years of rappers detailing their own stories of drug use coming to an apex, particularly as we see a mentor-like figure in Future and his apprentice Juice WRLD. But Future isn’t here to guide nor educate his younger colleague on this occasion— he’s gone from dealer to user but its his tales of the latter role that shine brightest on this record. It shows that the misuse of drugs and the personal issues that lead to them aren't affected by age. On the contrary, it indicates that across the board, the taking of drugs can lead to misuse and a plethora of circumstances can individuals on that path. In Future, Juice WRLD is able to see his own potential fate, if he doesn’t get a better handle on the things in life that haunt him.
Future still has his demons but as always, he finds a way to contextualise his pain into something his audience have come to know all too well. “If I’m sober, I might be dead,” Future solemnly raps on the titular track. Some may feel that he bears some responsibility when collaborating with a younger artist, particularly in a year where we lost Lil Peep and Mac Miller. “I don’t sell drugs, I cop them,” raps Juice on the hook for “Aint Living Right.” More than anything, it reveals Future’s role not as a mentor but someone who has experienced both sides of the drug market, and how easily one can become an end user.
Although there are moments where Future glides and soars, it's a project that didn't need his contribution and at times, Juice WRLD doesn't quite manage to step out from his shadow. With Beast Mode 2, Superfly and Super Slimey, not to mention *that* verse on “King’s Dead,” there was little Future could say that we haven't already heard this year. Nonetheless, Future’s ability to still deliver his best, no matter who stands opposite him in the booth, is one of the reasons why his run has lasted this long.
A 16-track album isn’t necessarily a bloated affair, but on this occasion, there are moments where the project would have benefited from some fat-trimming. In a way, the vivid vibrancy of the artwork by PaperFrank, featuring an illustration of a cocktail of drugs, highlights the expansive, loud but sporadic worlds both Future and Juice WRLD navigate in their music. Interestingly enough, it sounds as though many of the tracks, if not all, were recorded in one take. That kind of synergy can only occur if both artists are coming from the same point of origin– which judging by “7 A.M. Freestyle” is an all-nighter after following a debaucherous night of drug taking. You have to wonder what the studio sessions must’ve been like. While Future and JuiceWRLD are in different stages of their career and lives, the inebriated candidness allows them to bounce off one another.
The strongest moments on WRLD on Drugs are where listeners are shown that despite his rap omnipresence in recent years, which can border on oversaturation, Future is able to concoct familiar stories. But as with all of Future's releases this year, WRLD on Drugs could have benefitted from more precise and careful craftsmanship. For now, Future and Juice WRLD have given listeners an inspired glimpse of what could be a promising partnership– if they so wish to continue.
Future & Juice WRLD's 'WRLD on Drugs' is available to buy or stream. For more of our album reviews, head here.