Depression is at an all time high in America. From the student loan crisis, a rise in hate crimes, a widening wealth gap, rampant addiction and substance abuse, and excessive social media usage, and a little disease known as “clout” there is an increase rate of mental illness in society. Luckily, as society becomes more progressive, more and more people are becoming comfortable expressing their anxious and depressive thoughts. This has trickled into the mainstream of pop culture. Artists like Billie Eillish, The Weeknd, Pete Davidson, and more have been vocal about mental health and the adverse effects these struggles can have on our personal lives.
No artist has channeled his pain, frustration, and regret (or lack thereof) more than FUTURE HNDRXX aka The Wizrd. Future’s career can really be looked at as 3 stages: rising street artist, burgeoning pop star, and a self-professed Monster. Future, a native of Atlanta, is a trap artist. After blowing up with a scene stealing feature on “Racks” by YC (who??), Future showed a penchant for street styled hits with honest and raw depictions of life in the bando. His melodic and hook writing ability, however, took his career a different route. Connected to Outkast’s The Dungeon Family through his cousin Rico Wade, Future’s songwriting ability was honed and refined around greats such as Cee-Lo Green and Andre 3000. Like those artists before him, Future’s ability to pen a radio ready single comes almost naturally. As a lead artist he has had 26 singles chart in the Billboard Hot 100.
After a self-professed slight career misstep penning overt songs for female pop artists such as Miley Cyrus and Rihanna, as well as releasing the oft-overlooked pop leaning 2014 Honest, the Vicodin Virtuoso had a very public break-up with his fiance Ciara over allegations of cheating after the birth of their first and only child. A vocal majority of his fans were clamoring for Future to return to the street style that he was known for. In 2014, he got back in the studio to kick-off one of the greatest mixtape runs of all time: Monster, Beast Mode, 56 Nights, and the instant summer classic DS2 (Dirty Sprite 2). These projects are dark and raw, eschewing large catchy radio ready hooks for dark repetitive hooks that claw their way into the listener’s brain before rooting themselves in the gut. Future embraced his toxicity as his own form of self-therapy on record. As his fame rose, his album sales continued, and his fans known as FUTURE HIVE doubled down on their Prince of Percocet being the absolute best at expressing their darkest thoughts and unholy desires. Even though the work is highly misogynistic, almost to the point of caricature of rap culture, fans and critics heralded the music.
Despite the dark subject matter and unconventional stylings of autotune, the 2014-2015 project run is now loved and adored by Hip-Hop fans of all ages, not only cementing Future as one of the best rappers and songwriters to ever grace the studio, but also birthing a new generation of trap stars from Atlanta and beyond who mimic his style of auto-tune emotive raps (remember Desiigner?). In that short time period he dropped more hit records than most rappers can muster up in a career. The confessional classic “Throw Away” reveals he did cheat on Ciara, while “Codeine Crazy” finds Future musing on drug addiction and the need to prove something to unnamed haters. Tracks like “March Madness”, “Real Sisters”, “Fuck Up Some Commas”, and “Trap Niggas” became synonymous with the culture. Kanye famously tweeted a condemnation of the Grammy’s views on Hip-Hop using “March Madness” as a reference point.
Since the crowning achievement of DS2, the Xanax Wizrd has released 5 official mixtapes and 4 solo studio albums. All the projects have gorgeous tracks offering a glimpse into the mind of the Extraterrestrial from Pluto, though some achieve more recognition than others. For every amazing project such as What A Time To Be Alive, a collaboration with Drake (who he absolutely runs circles around from front to back on the project), there is a dud like his collaborative project Wrld on Drugs with Juice Wrld. Other notable projects include Super Slimey with fellow weirdo Young Thug, Purple Reign, and HNDRXX. In essence, Future has released a ton of music that, for better or worse, depicts his battle with drugs, hedonism, and the ever elusive happiness that seems to constantly evade him.
This weekend SAVE ME arrives, only a few months after the very good, if not 4-5 tracks too long, The WIZRD. While many rap purists and the occasional fan have complained about the oversaturation of Future’s music, including each project’s ability to blend into others in terms of styling and subject matter, the rap maestro refuses to stop…. most likely because he cannot. It has proven to be commercially and artistically successful. The formula has been set and he has been running with it nonstop. Since becoming a Monster, Future’s confessional and aggressive music seems to be the only thing keeping him going. His hurt, frustration, and depression are palpable, relatable, and perfect for mass consumption in a society that can easily relate to those emotions. Still openly reeling from the death of his friend and engineer, Seth Firkins, Future has never once hid from fans what is going on in his mind. SAVE ME in title alone appears to be a direct plea to anyone who will listen to do just that, though if you go on social media and search the #FUTUREHIVE hashtag, more memes will be found than any type of concern (including from me, sadly).
SAVE ME, however, goes dark in ways that even his core fans did not expect. During this short burst of 7 songs over 20 minutes, Future finds himself crooning more so than ever, sounding as if he is drowning in a pain he cannot escape nor understand. Based on social media (before he wipes it for each new album cycle), you would think Future is happy. He is usually surrounded by a lot of people, buys nice things, and travels to places many of us will never go. It’s only when the music drops that the listener is reminded that is not the case, and at this point, it may never be. This speaks to the toxic idea that social media is really just a form of portraying your life in the best possible way for strangers and friends alike. People often only post about their best adventures and news, in order to get likes and receive “clout” for living well. While people are curating their lives to others, more people are comparing their everyday life to the images they see on social media. On SAVE ME, Future is not wearing rose tinted glasses to mask any of the realities of his life.
Diving right in, album opener “XanaX Damage” is under two minutes, but speaks directly and precisely about depression and failed connections. Future, a long-time eligible bachelor, seems to be pining for an unnamed person as he sings in heavy autotune that, “I only call you when I’m faded / Your arms around me, come and save me / I only want you to have my baby / When I’m drunk and / I’m down and depressed / I just need to confess.” Readers should note, Future currently has five children with five different women. The song hits all the emotional desires of anyone who has ever partied hard and fell into a “Marvin’s Room” emotional hole.
The rest of the tape holds up just as well. “St. Lucia” finds Future once again turning to toxic behavior in a cyclical manner right after seemingly confessing this kind of behavior on the previous track, evading resolution and admitting, “Catch an attitude, I’ma go and fuck your friend now”. It’s funny, and wrong, but will be quotable regardless of gender. FUTUREHIVE includes more than just men, which exemplifies issues of toxicity in relationships: both sides are affected and the dynamic can create domino effects that play out in future relationships. It’s in this cycle of toxicity and trauma that Future and his fans live, for better or worse. On “Extra” Future allowed producer FXXXXY to sing, “Pour me another one, I cannot slow / Until I can’t feel no more pain,” further proving his peers and counterparts are moving in a similar mindset as him.
Mid-EP track “Shotgun” has the most radio potential, but also the most controversy tied to it. Anyone familiar with Ciara’s work will instantly recognize the drum pattern sampled from her 2006 hit “Promise.” The song is about finding the one girl to ride shotgun with him through the ups and downs of life. He goes even further directly referencing Ciara’s song singing, “I ain’t talkin’, girl, I’m makin’ a promise,” in what many people are calling a plea to Ciara to somehow reconnect. Basically, Future is admitting he sits around bumping old Ciara tracks whenever he needs to hear her voice. It’s creepy, but honest. Something he has never shied away from, but now it may be time for Future to be honest with himself.
It should not have to be said, but Ciara and HNDRXX are never, ever, ever getting back together. Ciara is happily in love with and married to NFL superstar (and slight cornball) Russell Wilson. Ciara has gone on record multiple times detailing her deep emotional connection with Russ following her break-up with FEWTCH, so the thought of them reuniting would be Matrix breaking news. Future has chosen his path: drug usage, threesomes, philandering, and partying. We know this and he knows this. The repeated attempts through his music to get a response from Ciara now appear more desperate than ever. The title SAVE ME might just be that, one last public cry of desperation before he becomes a hedonistic monster that may not be able to survive.
Album closer “Love Thy Enemies” has him revealing he wants to, “love my enemies, love my enemies,” while said person is, “makin’ love to the enemy, makin’ love to the enemy”. It is no stretch to assume he wants to make love to Ciara while she is making love to Russell. Russell, a man of God, represents everything that Future is not: wholesome, monogamous, and considerate. Russell’s dislike of Future’s musical message is famously known with him even banning Future’s music from the Seahawks’ stadium. This “man of God” who tries to do everything right would be the obvious enemy to someone like Future on the path of destruction. It is not a stretch to realize that seeing Ciara happy and flourishing with another man is driving his spiral. The song is a little over two minutes and one verse, but the amount of emotional pleas and accusations in the song add up quickly with a foreshadowing line that he will, “walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” to end his record.
Depression kills. On average, about 129 people commit suicide in the United States everyday. Future uses his studio as therapy, but nothing can compare to actually sitting down with a certified professional help you work through the trauma of your childhood. Future grew up in the hood. It is well documented he saw death from a young age, including his years selling drugs in and outside of Atlanta. He has lost friends to street violence, prison, and general unhealthy living habits. These are things that weigh heavily on the mind. Listeners can hear in his music, but maybe he needs to say it to someone who is not there simply to consume his art, but rather is trained to give him skills and resources to learn different behaviors and healthier coping mechanisms in order to fight against the cycle of depression.
Therapy is still heavily stigmatized in this country, especially in the black community, despite the progress that it has made. Future may be fearful that by seeing a therapist, he could possibly lose whatever vibe he is able to tap into to create music. Perhaps he is just stuck in the motions of what he knows. This is how the cycle of depression works. Moving through life with horse blinders, refusing to reflect or question our emotions, traumas, and habits is toxic behavior that society must work toward expunging. That fear, however, that Future feels is obviously there. It begs the question: at what point do listeners stop relating and ask themselves how is Future actually doing? How long can Future keep dropping music based off a failed relationship from 5 years ago? When will it get old? Future is not the only artist who struggles with the idea of channeling pain to create art. Noted comic Hannah Gadsby also struggled with her comedy career following the critical acclaim of the painful Nanette stand up special, afraid that she would lose the essence of what makes her art so strong without being willing to live a toxic life to find it.
Based off SAVE ME, it is possible that Future may never release himself from his toxic lifestyle. The only way it could happen is if he can somehow manage to keep the black cloud that is currently sitting over him from enveloping him entirely. For every braggadocious track like “Government Official”, there is a depressing track that should concern any Future fan of his well-being. On old projects filled with hype tracks, listeners could always expect 1-2 confessional anthems to remind his fans that he is still a deeply depressed person. Now, that depression is the full-blown theme of his work. His next project will be a tell-tale sign of where Future is at mentally. Let’s just hope he can enjoy himself this summer and finally find some peace with who he is and what he has accomplished. A few months ago Future said that he was bothered by the fact that he had glorified drugs so much in his career, but this album seems to be almost a reversal of that. It is apparent his addiction got out of control and he is stuck in a cycle of substance abuse that he cannot escape.
Here’s to hoping that with this release, his friends and family can finally step up and get Future the help he needs. After 5 years of going through it, he deserves that and maybe his depressed fans do too. Most members of the FUTUREHIVE watch and follow his every move and word, taking his word as Holy Gospel. It would not be far fetched for many of them to consider Future their personal therapist. You see memes all the time painting Future as a Martin Luther King or pastor like figure serving up the good word to the masses. While these memes are funny, Future and his fans continue to move in a cyclical manner of substance abuse, toxic masculinity, and depression. In order for Future and his fans to break the cycle, they must first be willing to admit there is an issue at hand. With SAVE ME, I think Future might finally be ready.