Long before FUTURE HNDRXX had morphed into the self-proclaimed Wizrd in desperate need of being saved, Future had dreams of being a pop star until, “they made a monster.” Infamously declared on “I Serve the Base” off his groundbreaking album Dirty Sprite 2 or DS2, this line circled back to the project that began the greatest mixtape run of this decade: Monster. Released on October 28th, 2014 and executive produced by then young up-start Metro Boomin, Monster laid the groundwork for the trap heavy, warped auto-tune Future we all know (and love) today. Reeling from the fresh heartache from his break up with his fiancé and baby mama Ciara, gone were the big radio hooks littered all over his often overlooked sophomore album Honest. Monster set the stage and revealed to the world the level of hedonism, debauchery, and ultimately pain that Future has carried with him since, like a safety blanket meant to mask any real emotional progress or answers.
Mixtape opener “Radical” finds Future gloating and repeating, “Fuck up your attitude, fuck all the gratitude / All my bitches magical, all this shit magical / All this shit radical, all this shit radical” in a monotone slur that begs to be mimicked. With emotion absent from his voice, he repeats the phrase at an impossible speed giving listeners an insight into his now ramped up his drug usage. He would follow this formula time again and again to critical and commercial acclaim with “Mask Off” to more forgotten but still deeply heralded songs like “Crushed Up”.
Third track “Throw Away” is probably the most important Future song in his long and successful career, until the album ends on “Codeine Crazy”. Both are immaculate and testimonies to a lifestyle many clamor for and desire, but few could handle the realities of. Future himself has gone on record saying he is not an addict, though his distinct ability to paint the picture of one including his stereotypical poor family decision making skills make it hard to know where the truth actually lies.
On the first half of the song Future repeats sing-songy bars reminding someone, “girl, you know you like a pistol, you a throw away” with such nonchalance one can imagine Michael Corleone dropping the gun at Louis’ Italian American Restaurant after capping Sollozzo and McClusky.
There’s some pain in both Future’s voice and Michael’s face, though both make no time to dwell on it. They move on, moving forward heels in the muddy water to get them where they believe they deserve to be. On the second half of “Throw Away”, a beat change and a verse that sounds like a confessional diary bring the listener into the world of Ciara. Beginning with the statement, “Deep down / I believe you know you’re a monster too”, Future defiantly cries out,
“Does sexing on the late night mean that much to you? / My love don’t mean that much to you / Fucking these hoes mean too damn much to you / I just hope when you fucking on that nigga / When you finished, he can say that he love you / Now do you feel better ’bout yourself? / Do you feel better by yourself? / Did you feel better when I left? / Mark my words, I’ma ball without you / I came home last night to a ménage / Got my dick sucked and I was thinking about you / I was fucking on a slut and I was thinking about you / When you fucking on that nigga, hope you thinking about me / When you laying with that nigga, hope you thinking about me / ‘Cause I’m thinking about you”
Apologies for dropping the whole verse, but it goes without saying that is not something you can say to any ex-lover you are hoping to win back. The toxicity is dripping from the verse, even if it is entirely honest. Future’s ability to speak his mind in a relatable way has always been his greatest strength besides his majestic melodies. The verse was too good, too real, and far too hard to be left off the project. Many a romantic, including myself, have obsessed over this verse. The power of feeling wronged even when you are in the wrong is real, especially in toxic masculinity. The difference is here Future’s sound and behavior was fresh, new, and welcoming. These days while the tracks still hit, particularly for those in FUTUREHIVE, the story and message is dated. His pining for the ex that broke him down is no longer appropriate as his baby mama number continues to rise and Ciara seemingly lives a perfect life and marriage with Russell Wilson.
Elsewhere Future dedicates the project to the streets, lost friends, and PTSD inducing stories. On “My Savages” he admits, “I grew up in a ruthless ass environment” and claims his depression cannot stop him from counting up money. On the very next track he compares himself to 2Pac, another long gone legend much like Jimi Hendrix. The middle of the project flows along sticking to grimy raps, boasting, and talk about drugs and sex. It’s not groundbreaking in rap, but the delivery was new. Inspiring many from Young Thug, Gunna, Kodak Black, Desiigner, and endless other rappers who have not yet quite caught up to FUTURE HNDRXX, Monster was a blueprint for many fucked up or turnt up individuals to follow.
Album closer “Codeine Crazy” directly answers to the haters that claim rappers who use auto-tune cannot rap. Future goes off for 6 minutes, spitting four long and incredibly hard verses detailing his woes with fame, substance abuse, and hopes. He sings, moans, and spits his entire soul into the track. It’s not often rappers show honesty or pain in their lives openly. Future cracks open his head and allows the listener a view into his thought process. As quick as he admits, “Drying my eyes, believe it or not / I could never see a tear fallin’ / Water drippin’ on me like a faucet” he reveals his contempt for others as, “I just took a bitch to eat at Chipotle / Spent another sixty thousand on a Rollie.” The whole song is quotable and an emotional journey through the psychedelic, tripped up, drugged out mind of a future Wizrd who could not avoid the pop star lifestyle no matter how dark his music got. Like kindred spirit and frequent collaborator The Weeknd, the sound of pain, depression, and anxiety would become the soundtrack of a highly anxious and depressed society.
In the era of streaming it is easy to forget how the influential sounds of free mixtapes have shaped the sonic landscape and aesthetics of hip-hop culture; however, more and more artists have been working to get their biggest mixtape projects off YouTube and SoundCloud and into the hand of dedicated fans now stuck with streaming services for better or worse. Here’s hoping the rest of Future’s and other rappers’ classic mixtape discographies hits streaming sites sooner rather than later.