The first time I heard “Codeine Crazy,” I couldn’t believe it was Future.
This wasn’t a song meant to scorch the roofs off clubs; it felt too personal, like a drug-induced confession. His introspective stream-of-consciousness reveals two distorting realities, one full of celebration and the other haunted by self-destruction. The hazy production is entrancing, Future sounds both lively and sinking into despair, counting his blessing and naming his demons, he fills each verse with layers of his rambunctious lifestyle from sex with strippers and expensive purchases to admitting that he’s an addict drowning in Actavis.
I couldn’t get enough, playing it again and again, feeling partially guilty that one man’s sorrow could be such a great song.
“I'm an addict and I can't even hide it” —Future ("Codeine Crazy")
Codeine isn't new to Future, his music has always dripped with references to his recreational use of lean, but this was different, he was hooked and very honest about his problem.
Every release after his Monster mixtape followed the pattern of juxtaposing the two realities, displaying his victories and vices like paintings in a gallery, hung on enticing production and infectious melodies for the world to see, he got further away from the Astronaut that sung love-ballads on Pluto and elevated to his higher self, much higher.
Future had reached a zone similar to where Mac Miller ended up on Faces. Under the influence, his best music was born and his life at risk. Even though he seemed to be on an extreme bender toward a very dark destination, the hive was buzzing with an unrivaled enthusiasm. Future had them hooked, they couldn’t get enough. He was only getting more popular, acquiring more acclaim; it’s hard to be alarmed for his health when every song is turning the party up and “March Madness” is slowly becoming the new National Anthem.
“This lean got me nauseous, but I keep on using' it” —Future ("High Fashion")
Not every song sounds like he bought a one-way ticket to overdosing, though. It’s more like an undertone of darkness that is seeped into the crevices of Future’s music. All the triumph and success is being contrasted with escapism through over-indulging in dangerous debauchery.
The best year of his career is also the one that has birthed new burdens that seem to be affecting him most. The loss of a woman he was prepared to wed, a woman that was carrying his child. Instead of being a father and husband, he’s back on IG prowling for groupies and downing downers while sippin Easter pink. After splitting with Ciara, Future came back to music with a new fire. The releases came with a momentum reminiscent of Lil Wayne in his workaholic prime, which was also when Wayne’s drug use was the most unstable. Future is following in that same shadow; the double cups are stacked to the ceiling, the dirtiest of Sprite is being mentioned with the admiration of a high school sweetheart. He found love in the most hopeless of places, in the arms of addiction. He will choose the dirty over you.
Drug usage has become a major theme in rap music over the past few years. Every day I come across a new song where the packs are loud, the drinks are dirty, and even the occasional line of cocaine is being nudged up the nostrils. From drug dealers to drug users, it’s becoming harder to tell the truth from the facade.
“You can smell Promethazine when I piss I pray to God he bring me Actavis” —Future ("3500")
Is Future really pissing purple? Is he really using all these drugs? I’m uncertain, but he is increasingly becoming darker with each album.
DS2 had its moments but nothing that touched the melancholy of What A Time To Be Alive. Almost every Future verse has an alarming line about his drug usage. On “Digital Dash,” “I pour the Actavis and pop pills so I can fight the demons” and on “Big Rings,” “I’m drinkin’ lean, they thought I died.”
He says these things so casually as if they’re shrug-worthy, but his best and most gloomy verse is delivered on “Live From The Gutter.” The song sounds like he’s reliving a nightmare. The imagery is astounding; think Edgar Allan Poe meets Raphael de la Ghetto. He paints the anguish in a way that I’ve never heard him rap. The production is equally as daunting, existential crisis music.
“Wake Up in the house I look up, I see bales everywhere I see girls everywhere, I see scales everywhere I see hell everywhere” —Future ("Live From The Gutter")
You really get a sense that Future came from nothing, a kid that was raised in the trenches and is now living a life of lavish luxury. Yet, he’s haunted by this, knowing the place he came from is still filled with people he knows. A lot of his verses are filled with unnamed kidnappers, robbers, and murderers, not the company you expect to be around a rapper nearing the top of mainstream’s mountain. He’s obviously suffering from a form of survivor’s guilt, something that Drake is unable to imitate. Future seems to be looking toward the past, attempting to escape the present, and uncertain of tomorrow. Crazy that one of today’s most popular rappers can do an album with the world’s biggest artist and there’s a lack of celebration, a lack of exuberance, having an endless supply of women, weed, and Washington's never sounded so sullen.
Future might be trap music’s most tortured soul.
“Bitch, I'mma choose the dirty over you, You know I ain't scared to lose you” —Future ("Thought It Was a Drought")
In a way, Future reminds me of Fabo, the highly-energetic and animated member of D4L. I recently saw him perform a short set during A3C. “Help me, help me, help me,” he rapped as an energetic crowd chanted every word. It’s been about a decade since the man and song dominated Atlanta airwaves, but even back then, Fabo was able to turn his drug dilemma into a breakout anthem. No one seemed bothered by the hallucinations that haunt the first verse or uncomfortable by the catchy chorus that openly admits to needing a doctor. Fabo was “Gik’d Up,” high enough to see spaceships on Bankhead; it wasn’t Red Bull but the pills he popped gave him wings. Even though his cries for help are eerie, the production is booming with an infectious energy that makes what would be a depressing song into a lively single ready for radio.
Both artists made confessional realism glossed over with compelling melodies, stylistic verses, and the kind of beats that charm ears the way pungi and bansuri charm snakes. Fabo survived, able to stand on a stage and be seen as an Atlanta legend. The drugs that made him infamous didn’t carry him to the other side. Will this be Future in 10 years?
“Long live A$AP Yams, I'm on that codeine right now” —Future ("Slave Master")
When Lil Wayne first began having seizures in 2013, I thought it was over. After all the songs about dying, after all the years of escaping death, the Reaper had finally caught up to him. Even when someone is on the hardest of drugs, you are constantly trying to ignore the looming possibility of death. That’s why our favorite rock stars and rappers always seem invincible, we rule out death because they seem in control.
Of course, I never imagined A$AP Yams passing. You never expect visionaries to die before seeing their blueprints become castles; they have too much to offer, too much left to give. He always seemed in control.
Future seems to be falling deeper into his substance abuse, it’s almost reached the point where the drug consumption has reached an unbelievable level. Hip-hop is full of Promethazine horror stories and it would be a tragedy if Future writes the next chapter. When you start to throw the words “addict” and “junkie” around, it’s a serious revelation. It means that this drug has you by the pulse, you are a slave to its spell, and that spell isn’t easy to break. I can’t believe I’m writing this about Future, it feels surreal, like an artist with so much life that could be losing his.
That’s the thing about drugs, they never seem to be a threat until it’s too late. What kind of world are we living in when a man named Future might not have one?
“Drownin' in Actavis, suicide” —Future ("Codeine Crazy")
By Yoh, aka @Yoh31