WRITTEN BY: Dylan Stevens
After a summer of speculation, Chicago cloud trap artist LUCKI finally delivers his much-anticipated mixtape, WAKE UP LUCKI, released November 29th, 2021. The project is a collaboration executively produced by Philadelphia’s own F1LTHY, the mastermind of the internet’s most prolific producer collective, Working On Dying. The group has orchestrated some of underground trap’s most iconic and innovative artists since 2012, including Black Kray, LUCKI, and, more recently, acts like Lil Uzi Vert and Robb Bank$.
After posting a snippet of the video for “U.G.K” on Twitter in August, LUCKI released two videos for loosies “New Drank” and “4Ever Ever” near the beginning of November, the latter being produced by the legendary Zaytoven. Then it was only a video for his single “NEPTUNE V.S INDUSTRY” that would drop, confirming the release of the joint mixtape 10 days later.
WAKE UP LUCKI opens with the pensive “USED 2 BE.” On the track, featuring a loop of soft digital horns and strings, Lucki inches through his verse crooning about what he defines as real love. Lucki seems to aimlessly lose his tempo only to catch it again in multiple spots, and his more expressive, higher-pitched tone exhibited on newer tracks has been known to turn some fans away. Ultimately not the type of introduction many were hoping for from the usually bouncy rapper-producer duo.
Moving on to “NEPTUNE V.S INDUSTRY,” Lucki appears to find his footing over F1LTHY’s repetitive rolling bell and piano melodies. F1LTHY increases the tempo, delivering saturated hi-hat and clap percussion rooted in short 808 bass punches. Lucki contributes some flashy flows documenting his life as a young star with the ability to fund all his vices. Unfortunately, the momentum stumbles again over “STILL MISS YA,” a song hindered by a sparse verse and another sluggish performance from the Chicago rapper.
Luckily, the next track, “U.G.K,” finally puts the mixtape into gear. Opening with immersive dark synth chords, Lucki sets up the hook asking, “Who need you to tell them you the G.O.A.T,” before floating over one of the best instrumentals on the album. On “U.G.K,” Lucki and F1LTHY create that beautiful clouded atmosphere fans have known them for. This enables Lucki to paint those visions of the shivering nightmares that follow him as a result of his various indulgences–something he has become known for in his writing.
Next up comes “2019,” a nostalgic track in which Lucki reminisces over his contributions to a former relationship to the tune of an expressive piano loop. At this point it becomes clear that F1LTHY takes no breaks on this mixtape. While much of the Philly producer’s catalog feels formulaic after a few loops, Lucki’s unconventional writing style, characterized by sorrowful couplets and unfettered chorus structures, compliments F1LTHY’s ability to create earworm ditties. Lucki alters his pitch with the beat, continuing to croon throughout the hook for the song, but his effort comes off as endearing as opposed to lazy this time around.
WAKE UP LUCKI sees one of its brightest moments in “SPARKS VISION.” Featuring what sounds like a glossy vocal sample, F1LTHY sets a quick tempo with some driving 808s and dynamic percussion patterns. In the song, Lucki is once again forced to choose between his desire for drugs and his lust for women. This is emphasized in the repeated lines, “Got my heart, won’t give it away / Codeine, what you mean to me.”
Lucki has been known to save some of his most reflective and memorable tracks for the ultimate spot on his projects. WAKE UP LUCKI is no different with the addition of “OUTRO.” Reminiscent of the iconic track “3D Outro” from Freewave 3, on this song, Lucki pours his heart into a story about the struggle of holding on to relationships while struggling with addiction. As F1LTHY’s shimmering synth melodies continue to pulse, it is nice to hear a refreshing perspective from Lucki. Lines of bragaddocio mixed with drug-fueled paranoia populate most of Lucki’s music, but on tracks like “OUTRO,” he expresses some kind of self-awareness, rapping, “If you gonna hurt me then make it quick / She quote my song when she write back.”
WAKE UP LUCKI was meant to be a perfect match. In reality, the uncontainable energy that F1LTHY brings to much of his production does not always fit in with Lucki’s often subdued and somber style. While Lucki reaches to match that boisterous vibe on a few tracks, this project has left people with the taste of an undercooked meal. Songs like “U.G.K,” “2019,” and “SPARKS VISION” give insight into what a more inspired Lucki could create in the future, but at this point there is still plenty of room for both artists to improve.