I know I did.
No, COVID-19, the world-altering pandemic, doesn’t seem like the most logical well to draw from for cheerful rap lines like this one. And yet, here we are.
Listening back, you can’t help but wonder what other mortal catastrophes Future could flip into opportunities to brag about his jewelry. Perhaps he’ll rap about owning “the only ice that doesn’t melt due to climate change” or suggest his neck shines so brightly, it single-handedly worsened California’s wildfires. The opportunities are endless.
Of course, this Future lyric is hardly the first COVID-19 reference we’ve heard strewn throughout the last two months of rap releases. There was DaBaby, taking a break from his usual pastime of trying to ruin his promising career with assault charges, to don a protective mask on the cover of Blame It on Baby. There was Drake “Toosie Sliding” around his house, inventing a way, against all the odds, to performatively shelter in place.
The examples are so plentiful that Jon Caramanica, pop music critic for The New York Times, wrote an entire column about how French Montana, Rich Brian, and others had begun showing off their abundances of personal protective equipment in recent music videos—as if to give entirely new meaning to the expression “weird flex, but okay.”
When the Notorious B.I.G. rapped “whoever thought that hip-hop would take it this far” in 1994, I’m going to go out on a limb and say he wasn’t talking about pandemic preparedness.
Given this current wave of COVID-19 themed hip-hop content is just starting to take shape, I thought it might make for an interesting thought experiment to speculate on how coronavirus references will find their way into the output of today’s popular rappers in the upcoming months.
Future, who has already demonstrated he’s not above making allusions to COVID-19 in his music, has a pretty obvious opportunity ahead of him. Some out of touch PR firm or government agency is going to talk him into releasing an awful remix called “Mask On” to raise awareness about protective measures the public should be taking. It’s going to suck so much.
The question is not whether Big Sean is going to shoehorn a bunch of awkward coronavirus-centric similes into his lyrics; the question is how many.
This is a man so famous for forced punchlines that he once referred to himself as “Malcolm Flex” and “Jessie Rackson” in the same bar.
Here are some ideas I imagine he’s scribbled in a heavily dog-eared notebook somewhere:
“Making bread like it’s the quarantine” (because of the current craze of sourdough bread baking. Swap “bread” with “dough?” Decide later.)
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“Got the fans cheering for me like I’m an essential worker”
“And usually when I’m fuckin’, I don’t wanna sire life / My protection on point like an N95”
Joyner is currently in the process of writing and recording a terrible song where, in an attempt to engender empathy from his listeners, he raps from the perspective of the virus.
When people inevitably ask him why he felt the virus needed an advocate, he’ll launch into a long, insufferable monologue about how “this is the problem with society” and how “no one is willing to even have conversations anymore!”
Noting the mortifying statistics about the outbreaks of COVID-19 in the prison system, Meek Mill will record an emotionally charged song about the need for prison abolishment in America. It will be powerful and lucid and urgent, and the next day he’ll invalidate the entire thing by rehashing a petty beef on Twitter with Nicki Minaj.
Drake is going to release a meandering R&B song about how hard it is for him to pick just one girl to quarantine with. It’ll be filled with incredibly specific details about eight different women he’ll reference by name, despite the fact that the song is intended for an audience of millions.
I’ll be downright shocked if he doesn’t refer to one of these women as his “quaran-ting.”
King Push is going to do what he’s most famous for and use COVID-19 to invent new ways to talk about drugs.
He might talk about his abundance of Pyrex cookware and call it “a pan-demic.” He might talk about how he’s still moving weight across the border, despite global travel restrictions. He might parrot the words of political pundits and use the expression “COVID-19 has exposed the cracks in our system,” as an opportunity for wordplay.
I don’t know; I’m not a master of the form like him. These are just ideas.
Eighteen months after the pandemic ends, J. Cole will release a lengthy concept album, on which he makes zero allusions to COVID-19. Regardless of the album’s content, the night it’s released, 2,000 haters on Twitter will make the same joke about how it’s so boring, it feels like being back in quarantine.