the inside track

Lil Uzi Vert Is Leading Future Now

Baby Pluto has eclipsed Daddy Pluto, at least on their long-awaited, long-rumored joint album. Photo-Illustration: Vulture and Getty Images

Lil Uzi Vert wouldn’t be the rapper he is without Future. The shadow of the prolific Auto-Tune rap leader looms large over the genre today, with most of its current chart-toppers and climbers owing some amount of debt to the Atlanta superstar. Uzi wears the influence on his high-fashion sleeve, taking on the alter ego of Baby Pluto in part after Future’s own 2012 debut album, Pluto. By the time Future released his crowning 2015 achievement, DS2, hazy, confident, and brimming with quotables, Uzi’s star was on the rise with his mixtape Luv Is Rage that same year. Since then, Future hasn’t bothered pushing the envelope much further, instead leaning into his “more is more” ethos by releasing a few projects a year and saying yes to every feature request he gets. He can still occasionally surprise, but these days, his disaffected slurring can drag a song down just as easily. Uzi, however, has ascended to his own Future-like perch as a forefather of emo-rap, one of the biggest, best musical developments of the past decade. Earlier this year, Uzi released his own masterpiece, the high-energy space odyssey Eternal Atake, an hour of him gliding over beats with his trademark poise.

So it feels a little late for Pluto x Baby Pluto, the long-rumored collaboration that Future and Lil Uzi Vert surprise-released this week. Baby Pluto is just a name to Uzi now, as he makes hits and breaks the rules like a seasoned giant; Future, meanwhile, oscillates between elder statesman and washed-up star by the day. For a lot of Pluto x Baby Pluto, Uzi is clearly setting the pace, while Future struggles to keep up. But for flashes, on songs like “Sleeping on the Floor,” the value of their team-up starts to come into focus as Future feeds off Uzi’s energy and playfulness.

From the outset of “Sleeping on the Floor,” Future sounds as if he swapped that day’s diet of codeine for Red Bull, coming in on the sort of jumpy, staccato hook you’d expect his counterpart to take. Listening to Future do it in 2020, you can almost hear him sweating. Future and Uzi traffic in excesses — designer clothes, beautiful women, and good vices — and like a lot of Pluto x Baby Pluto, that’s the focus of “Sleeping on the Floor.” “I wear more Gucci than Gucci,” Future declares, which works precisely because it sounds like a computer-generated Future line. When it comes to bars, though, Uzi wins out: His pockets are “fat like glucose,” and when the cops come, he tells them “toodles,” in a playground singsong.

All the while, Uzi sounds as though he’s having the time of his life. That’s the thing: Even though Uzi broke out with the internet-age nihilism of “XO Tour Llif3,” his best music tends to be infectiously fun. Take the Eternal Atake standout “POP,” when Uzi repeats “Balenci” 14 times in a row like a skipping record player. You can’t help but grin when you hear it. Future stands at the opposite end of that, usually self-serious or dejected. “Sleeping on the Floor” feels like the first of a few moments on Pluto x Baby Pluto when something clicks and Future catches some of Uzi’s high, translating it to the music. It’s enough evidence that Uzi’s hot streak is still going and could be for some time. The student hasn’t just caught up to the master, he’s leading now.

Lil Uzi Vert Is Leading Future Now