Since at least 2012, Future has been invoking Pluto, that lonely hunk of ice and rock drifting through the outer limits of our solar system. All at once, Pluto embodies Future’s emotional detachment, his drug abuse, the impossible heights his career his scraped, the emptiness of money, fame, and casual sex, the creative distance he perceives between himself and his peers. Pluto is heaven and hell, to Future what Europa is to Adrian Veidt.
Future once said that he makes “astronaut music” because “it takes an astronaut so long to get to space—that’s how long it takes to catch up on my music.” But he is only the second-most daring cosmic adventurer on Pluto X Baby Pluto, his new album with Lil Uzi Vert. (That said, it may be his best collaborative project this side of Free Bricks.) While he sounds flat at moments—he appears to be positively winded on the opener “Stripes like Burberry”— Uzi’s Naruto-loving luminescence radiates from every bar. For his part, Uzi is eight months removed from Eternal Atake, his space odyssey of an album that cemented his status as a rap superstar, and it is his presence that seems to jolt Future to life, not the other way around.
Pluto X Baby Pluto is an attempt to fuse the two rappers’ aesthetics, with equal time apportioned to the sparkling, almost campy dance-pop synths of Eternal Atake production braintrust Working on Dying and the brooding trap beats supplied by Future staples like Zaytoven, DJ Esco, and D. Hill. (The 24-track deluxe, released a few days after the standard version, features six new songs that amount to a 4th 6-song side of EA.)
Sometimes, Future and Uzi egg each other on with supportive gestures; on “She Never Been To Pluto,” when Uzi brags, “I done carried the game, I ain’t weak in my legs,” Future bursts in like the Kool-Aid Man, echoing Uzi with his own passionately sung ad-lib: “I carried the ga-a-ame!” But for the most part, the album carries the sporting energy of two playboys in a friendly competition to outspend, outfuck, and ultimately outflex one another. On “Marni on Me,” they become immersed in a verse-long game of one-upmanship regarding push buttons. On the standout “Real Baby Pluto,” Future slyly repurposes Uzi’s cadence on his own verse; where Uzi rapped, “Met her at Lenox and took her to Phipps,” Future raps, “Met her at Phipps and flew her to Paris.” His competitive nature is further apparent in the toxic, self-referential Futurisms he scatters everywhere. The line “I put my thumb in her butt for my legacy” in particular makes plain his refusal to be outsleazed.
Ironically, Pluto X Baby Pluto arrives at its centerpiece when Future and Uzi retreat to their respective corners for a pair of solo songs, “Rockstar Chainz” and “Lullaby.” On “Rockstar Chainz,” Future isolates himself deep in Pluto’s recesses: “Ain’t tryna be cool with no rap n*gga, I’m fucking they ho, dawg/ Took two Addys, then counted an M and damn near dozed off/ I’m in the stars driving myself, I feel like autopilot/ Designer Goyard bucket, I’m my own stylist.” On “Lullaby,” Uzi uses a breakup song to delve sidelong into childhood trauma: “I saw a n*gga get killed back when I was a toddler/ So how I’m supposed to love, girl? Now how I’m supposed to fear?” These tracks—two moments of solitude—are a reminder that Future and Uzi don’t really need each other as collaborators. Still, it’s exciting to see two stars collide.