Given his well-documented love of opulence, it might feel difficult to brand Future as a “tragic figure.” An argument can be made that his destruction has been largely self-fulfilled, and thus, his sympathetic status revoked without question. It’s not entirely uncommon for his personal life to be turned into a spectacle, especially where baby mama drama is concerned. A known and vocal philanderer, Future’s family tree appears to expand at a startling pace. Yet thanks to the content of albums like DS2 and songs like “Hate The Real Me” and “Codeine Crazy,” Future’s hedonistic lifestyle has become synonymous with the dark corners of the party circuit. All-nighters, copious drug-use, fast and loose sexuality. Regardless of whether or not his content stems from a concrete point of reference, such is the image presented by character; a black-robed alter-ego of sorts, who paints a vivid picture without actively living it out.

And yet, when Future’s personal life is put on display, the so-called fans are quick to engage in ridicule. The mere mention of either Ciara or Russell Wilson is volatile enough to spark torrents of purple flame and Twitter shots. In hip-hop discourse, the mention of Future in any top ten discussion runs the risk of upsetting the OHE (old-head-energy) balance of a given room. Like Eminem and Drake, Future routinely finds himself hated and disrespected across the online ether, all while running numbers worthy of an upper echelon artist; a quick gander of his RIAA page reveals dozens of gold and platinum plaques. The paradox is a curious one to be sure. On this very site, the temperament toward Future is divisive, with “audience response” often skewing lower on reviews. In my experience navigating the online climate, it feels as if positive reinforcement aimed at Future is a scarce commodity. And yet, the numbers weave another narrative altogether.

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Perhaps there’s a method to the madness, if only a subconscious one. We’ve seen the storyline time and time again, arguable though it may be, that depression makes for a better muse than inner peace. Of course, artists deserve peak mental health even if it does lead to a shift in tonal aesthetic. Yet Future’s finest musical moments tend to arrive during his darkest hours. Consider Monster, or what many consider to be his opus, Dirty Sprite 2. Both garnered critical acclaim and helped cement Future as a viable act among the arthouse scene, earning himself respect from both hipsters and hustlers alike. When “Codeine Crazy” arrived, the response was universal. The song was swiftly deemed Future’s crowning achievement, a window into the soul of a mysterious and tormented entity; at long last, character development. And lo-and-behold, it was conveyed with a sincerity not often seen across Future’s music. Even the presence of falsetto suggested vulnerability. Curious that Future’s pain is received much differently when served in a musical capsule, as opposed to the dog and pony show that is his tabloid business.

Cut to this afternoon, in which Future unveiled his new EP Save Me. A few days back, he previewed a new single called “Xanax Damage,” which appears to cover groundwork originally laid by its codeine-infused cousin. It’s difficult to say without having heard the complete song, but Future is once again using a unique cadence to express his vulnerability; this time, in lieu of falsetto, he’s offering a warbling baritone. Paired with the evocative album title, the bleak artwork, and the slightly comical yet telling “Oh Fuck, I Have Made A Huge Mistake,” all signs point to a Future scorned - and the fans seem all the more eager for it. Is it fair to suggest that there’s a cyclical nature in the casual - not “The Hive,” for their loyalty is unwavering - Future fandom?

In order for him to deliver the fanbase’s desired musical outcome, he must be coming from a depressed state. As such, his business, his love life, his flow, his artistic integrity, all of them must be systematically dismantled until he proves himself in their eyes, time and time again. It’s easy to imagine Future as a supervillain of sorts, especially after his sinister turn as The WIZRD, but any good villain does not become forged overnight. In order to continuously serve the redemption arc that so many seem to covet, Future must be brought down in a repetitive cycle ad-infinitum. After all, Save Me can’t have any urgency if he’s already found salvation.

Future - Codeine Crazy