'Wrld on Drugs' is trusting of its stars' powers, and of their mutual love for vices and crooning

  /  10.24.2018

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Future and Juice WRLD on Wrld on Drugs are the equivalent of best friends jumping rope together in front of a bodega in 1980 because there’s nothing else better to do, in effortless unison. Their styles meet in the middle with gripped hands and bulging biceps like the popular meme depicting compromise, only instead of it being something that neither have mastered, their connection comes without sacrifices. Wrld on Drugs is a surprisingly polished, succinct look at two of rap’s premier crooners, determined to outdo each other in increasing ways. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it makes sure that it’s in tip-top shape.

At first, seeing Future’s name next to Juice WRLD’s is a little jarring; Juice WRLD, after all, just became a mainstream draw when he released “Lucid Dreams.” His voice is broader and flatter than Future’s, yet invokes some of the same haunted emotion. But when you sit and think about it, the collaboration makes sense. Both are emotional rap-singers with grainy voices that prefer trap adjacent beats. Drugs are both of their vices—at least according to the publicized sermons they deliver in their music. The only thing separating them is years of polish in the game. Aside from that, Future and Juice WRLD are damn near the same person.

This uncommon sync immediately makes itself apparent with the idea of Wrld on Drugs, from its aesthetic to execution. It’s a dark flip on what feels like J. Cole’s K.O.D., enveloping the world in murky narcotic sheen instead of realizing the sicknesses we inflict on our youth with rap’s obsessed drug culture. While K.O.D.‘s beats are largely a mixed bag of atypical rap backgrounds, Wrld on Drugs digs into the Metro Boomin-esque trap for soundtracks to popping pills for endless nights. It’s not for the fan looking for groundbreaking social commentary from the two; and if that’s what you came here for, you should check to make sure there isn’t a carbon monoxide leak in your house. Wrld on Drugs is the audio representation of “I’m here for a good time, not a long time.”

One of the project’s best tendencies is that it knows when to smash its stars together, and when to let them breathe. Collaboration albums often suffer from an air of claustrophobia; in an attempt to push the fact that they’re finally working together in your face, artist often stick close enough to be able to discern what the other ate for dinner last night. But Wrld on Drugs is intelligent and trusting of its stars’ powers—probably since they’re already so damn close aesthetically. On opener “Jet Lag,” the seamless weaving of the two is akin to, ironically, jets flying in air shows, zooming around each other with unbridled elegance. Young Scooter is the unexpected element that helps darken this track’s ambience some, and it works. His casual observation of trap rap is always on brand; Juice WRLD and Future may give the song some weight, but Scooter’s the one that really brings it home.

Elsewhere on the album, features break up the pace, but the single songs are what makes the project tick. Juice WRLD breaks away for “Make It Back,” a bombastic and vibrant look at the past that invokes Future’s 2015-era silky sheen. The production on the track falls right in the middle of standard trap and explorative new- age hip-hop, along the lines of what producers like Pi’erre Bourne and Stoopidxool make. It sounds more in line for Future; so when Juice WRLD successfully tames it, the euphoric feeling comes nearly immediately. “Oxy” by Future follows, and it’s about, you guessed it, oxymorons (rolls eyes), featuring Lil Wayne, with the duo glorifying their use of the coping drug. They sound like mesmerized lovers, with Future’s heart-eyed refrain of “Oxy-Oxy, OxyContin” making the drug appear as if it comes with a pin-up poster. Although the song is unapologetic with its dark fetishization, its unique production and soothing melodies make it a high point.

These sound good and all, but we all know why we’re here: we’re looking for how good they work together. Like when you go to a race track to see a race; you’re expecting things to go smoothly, but you bring binoculars just in case because there could always be a crash. It’s smooth racing over here—exemplary, really. The two sound like they’ve spent eons together learning each other’s intricacies, becoming like another in the process. Juice WRLD often leads the way with his breezier voice before Future comes in with the darker, more bleak vocals. “Fine China” is a peak moment, with a carnival-esque atmosphere permeated by two polished verses of love-struck iconoclasts. The immersion breaks whenever Juice WRLD threatens to kill his lover if she ever leaves him (seriously, who ever signed off on that line needs a swift kick in the vas deferens). But other than that, the track’s enlightening atmosphere helps to define the mood with its beauty. “7 AM Freestyle” shows that the pair are so intertwined that they can just hop into the booth and throw words at a dartboard. The two take turns stringing together empty rhymes that sound surprisingly filling thanks to the two’s cohesive atmosphere.

Weaknesses in the project’s structure are slim; to find them, you’ll have to be actively searching. The duo’s chemistry works so well that ordinarily weak songs are bolstered by good creative decisions; “Different” sees Future make a blunder of what a purposeful mysterious verse, only for Juice WRLD to hand-deliver one of his best choruses of his career, with Yung Bans also helping to alleviate Future of some of the pressure. “Realer N Realer” almost sounds like filler before you realize that Juice WRLD and Future are trying their best to match each other’s voices; it makes their mid-track baton pass all the more thrilling knowing that you’ll have to listen close to when they actually switch off.

If there is one thing to pick about, it’s that while the album is strong, it doesn’t feel special. Consider it the Future Effect. When he drops one of his coveted mixtapes, so much of it works that nothing really jumps out at the listener. Eventually, it becomes dispensable. BeastMode 2 lacked any visible low points, but it lacked thrilling highs either; it almost immediately lost its importance. Wrld on Drugs similarly is, for the most part, technically sound, but there’s nothing here that makes for a thrilling case for it being important next month—next week even. Especially with our bubble gum-chewing way of consuming music in the streaming age; it’s a piece of Hubba Bubba loaded with flavor, but we’ll be looking for the next once it dries out. It looks like it will fast, too.

Wrld on Drugs is a surprisingly good, sometimes thrilling, body of work from two of rap’s most important figures right now. Although the rappers are separated by a generation, their love of drugs and melodic crooning brings them together for a tightly polished body of work that showcases just how good they are together and apart. While it may not stay on your mind forever, it’ll make a hell of a car stereo bruiser until something else better comes out next week. Not to say that it won’t happen because it can, but artists will have it hard to beat this one anytime soon.

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