In the past year, 2012 XXL Freshman Future has used addictively simple hooks and a syrupy flow to become one of the hottest MCs in the game. With Pluto, the Atlanta native proved himself worthy of the buzz by crafting what may become one the best commercial debuts of the year.

When he sticks to the formula that made songs like “Magic” and “Tony Montana” into smash hits, Future is one of the most exciting artists around. The ATLien struggles, however, when he strays too far from the lane he carved for himself and instead attempts a song like “Neva End,” a cringe-worthy ballad that finds him crooning for a young lady to “put the past behind us and go where no one can find us.”

Though the album stalls when the rookie strays from his blueprint, the phenom hit-maker’s potential as a song maker is undeniable. His energy radiates through the speakers on the Sonny Digital-produced “Same Damn Time,” and he is in his element on the album’s celebratory closing track, “You Deserve It” as he triumphantly takes credit for his success.

Pluto may be far from the sun, but Future shines brightest when he aligns with the stars. “I’m Trippin” mixes his sticky delivery with the signature bounce of Juicy J, creating one of the most stimulating songs on the album. Snoop Dogg, Trae the Truth, Drake and T.I. all make appearances as well, but it’s R. Kelly who steals the guest show. He makes his return to the hip-hop world on “Parachute,” a soaring duet that will burn up the airwaves this summer thanks in part to lines like “Her ass got a voice and it sings acapella.”

Pluto’s most surprising feature is Dungeon Family legend Big Rube, the gravel-voiced MC that made his name reciting spoken word poetry on the interludes of OutKast classics. On the intro to Pluto, Rube recites a short poem that sets the tone for the entire project. “No longer can I remain earthbound,” flowed Rube as futuristic synths and a pulsing bass build behind him,” “The Future Is Now.” Prepare for take off. —Calvin Stovall