2018 has been a massive breakout year for Juice WRLD. The Chicago rapper burst onto the scene with his chart-topping single “Lucid Dreams” and subsequent album Goodbye and Good Riddance, which peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200. Now, he seeks to continue his hot streak with WRLD ON DRUGS, a 16-track mixtape with mumble rap pioneer, Future.
Although Future had an outstanding year in 2017 with two chart-topping albums and Super Slimey, a well-received collaboration with Young Thug, he has been quieter so far in 2018. Aside from his mixtape Beast Mode 2, which debuted to moderate success, and a somewhat meme-worthy contribution to “King’s Dead” off the Black Panther soundtrack, Future hasn’t released anything of significance this year. A successful collaboration with an up-and-coming rapper like Juice WRLD has the potential to turn things around and put Future back on top.
While both rappers employ melodic flows and a heavy use of autotune in their individual discographies, their styles have been distinct enough to make this collaboration sound good on paper. Unfortunately, the pairing simply doesn’t work. Neither artist plays to their strengths, and the performances on the tape are generally underwhelming. Paired with a lack of original subject matter and a slew of uninspiring instrumentals, the project drags into mediocrity.
Future is arguably a better rapper, while Juice WRLD is a better singer. While it would make sense for both artists to stick to their strong suits, they instead opt to cross into each other’s lane. Future’s slurred singing is not improved by the large amount of autotune applied to it, and Juice WRLD’s rap delivery often feels like a pale imitation of Future’s. Each artist tends to use the same style as the other – almost every track contains either only rapping or only singing. Songs such as “Realer N Realer” and “Fine China,” which feature Future and Juice WRLD staying in their respective comfort zones, stand above the rest. However, these cuts are few and far between.
Juice WRLD showed promise as a songwriter in Goodbye & Good Riddance, which featured strong themes of heartbreak and loss. However, we don’t see this potential in WRLD ON DRUGS, which almost exclusively contains generic, uninspired subject matter. Although he has denounced the use of most drugs, Juice WRLD’s lyrics focus heavily on them, as the mixtape’s title might indicate. Other topics covered include watches, cars and guns – hardly unexplored territory for a trap rapper. While this is familiar ground for his counterpart Future, Juice WRLD’s contributions lack the feeling of emotional honesty that helped elevate his debut album.
Also uninspired are the majority of the mixtape’s beats. Wheezy primarily handles the production, and while the instrumentals aren’t awful, they are exceedingly bland. The conventional trap sound is rampant throughout the project, and very few beats are at all memorable, let alone high quality. This only serves to make the album feel more generic and uninspired. That said, there are exceptions, and cuts such as “Jet Lag” and “Afterlife” contain stronger instrumentals that bring out better performances from each artist.
Above all, WRLD ON DRUGS feels wholly unnecessary. Neither collaborator excels on the mixtape, and both seem to be dragging each other down. Future’s and Juice WRLD’s individual styles simply do not mix well, and their attempt to do so is thoroughly unremarkable. Their strengths overpower each other, leaving their artistic weaknesses exposed. While this is especially disappointing for Juice WRLD given his string of successes this year, his fans can take solace in the fact that WRLD ON DRUGS will be swiftly forgotten by many.