I’m not going to lie. When “Mask Off” first came out and became one of Future’s biggest commercial hits to date, I wasn’t angry. In fact, even though it’s a boast track about Future’s success and the problems that come with it (but also…are you ok Future??? Percocets? Molly? Should I be bopping to this or calling somebody??), the memeability of that flute sample (which actually has an interesting history) matched with earworm lyrics for even the most forgetful of us made the whole thing a downright hit and someone at Spotify knows that I’ve listened to it an embarrassing number of times. That flute sample is so good, though? I can’t help but sing along to a list of amphetamines. Healthy lifestyles be damned.
But then Future dropped a Kendrick Lamar “Mask Off” remix. And I lost it. Not only do I get a bop but also a bop with substance? Kendrick Lamar’s verse is also about his life and success (and, like Future, a sort of of apathetic knowledge that the whole thing is precipitous and fickle) but more nuanced with bars that skip along expertly, exploring the power of his success to both build up his friends and destroy the people (or systems) who would challenge him or even abuse their own power. That’s not to say that Future isn’t also making music in the same vein. The original “Mask Off” was already a solid song, though not necessarily the subtlest and or most poetic. It just needed Kendrick Lamar’s punchy confidence and effortless artistry to be what it was meant to be all along. As Kendrick Lamar says, “Get your ass up and be inspired / You know how many bodies in the street? / Take the mask off so you can see”. And then he did just that to Future’s song, pushing out a remix that is more fully realized than its original. Now I can dance and think about the socio-political state of our world. Nice.