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Dirty Spite: Future’s ‘Monster’ Redefined His Career—and Defined an Era of Rap Music

The project that kicked off his world-destroying run has turned five and finally come to streaming platforms

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The song is “Codeine Crazy,” but the revelation is “Throw Away.”

One is a funeral dirge ripped apart at the joints and rearranged into a lonely asteroid blues ballad. “Codeine Crazy” comes as a long, uninterrupted moment of lucidity after 40 or so minutes of shitfaced rage and denial. The other song is a rope-a-dope: Future leans on his excesses, his trespasses, his petty distractions, his club-wrecking trap boilerplate, suckering you in, just to slump you with absolutely ruinous emotional transparency, in broken falsetto. Nard & B’s production starts out bombastic, confrontational, and then halfway through, all of a sudden, it changes to something indescribably mournful. The switch is rude, actually, and unfair, but beguiling, too, like a cold comfort you prefer to feeling nothing at all. When Future says “go on and fuck that nigga, get it over with”? Instant stomach flu.

After years spent adrift on Spinrilla, Datpiff, and YouTube, you can listen to “Throw Away” (and the rest of Monster) on your own, everywhere, officially, as of Monday, since there’s a good chance I’m already making the song more than what it is. But one thing thing everyone reading this has to know, because how could you have missed it, is that Monster, out five years ago this week, was the one that inspired #TheFutureHive and vaulted Future himself to a new tier of fame and visibility. It also came from a place of spite. Another thing everyone reading this has to know, because how could you have missed it, is that Monster followed Future’s failed engagement with Ciara. But it was also a return to form: He’d garnered eye rolls from the nation’s influencers earlier that year with a maudlin pop turn on his sophomore studio album, Honest, so Future went back to the gory, stripped down, sedated basics. Incidentally, this kicked off the greatest solo run of his career. Without Monster there is no DS2, no back-to-back no. 1 albums, and probably no “I’m good luv, enjoy.” Future would go on to turn haters that charged him as mush-mouthed and one-dimensional to his cause. His infamous profligacy would become superstardom (a Gap commercial with Cher!) and a lifestyle brand (his Instagram stories are one of life’s greatest pleasures). But first, he needed to debase himself. Completely.

Going to change tack here for a second: Honest has always been criminally underrated, mostly because fans were expecting Dirty Sprite and not Street Called Desire. Actually, Honest is good. As in, it’s stuck with me more than plenty of other major pop releases from that year, in spite of its soggy middle section and all the treacly stuff about prenuptial bliss. (“I Won,” as a concept, and as a song, is still terminally awkward.) It’s more about the album’s smaller quirks, like the world beat sample from Malian duo Amadou & Mariam on “Look Ahead” that ensures Honest doesn’t so much “begin” as set sail. I have had Future’s croaky, quasi-inquisitive how can I nooooooOOOOOOOOTTTTTT??? bouncing around my skull for five-plus years. Few people have made better negative, inspirational songs than “Special”—Future’s verse on “Move That Dope,” where he’s whippin’ the yam, whippin’ and flippin the yam, who could float so weightlessly? Who could unironically wear a—semi-funnel neck? Acid wash? Leather? Canvas?—jacket like this one while finding more inventive ways to rap about selling drugs than Pusha T?

No one, however, and certainly not me, could reasonably argue that Honest is more exemplary of Future’s many talents than Monster: The latter is the far superior album—yes, album, because “mixtape” was a marketing sidestep in the first place—perhaps the best album Future’s ever made. And not just because of the stuff about him needing chemicals and strippers to shield himself from his imploding lovelife. He always does that. And who knows how much of it is true, anyway.

It’s as simple as Monster being even more dynamic and self-possessed than either one of Pluto or Honest, as plain as Future having a handle on what Future should have been doing at that exact moment in time. (“Move That Dope,” for the record, was the fourth single off Honest.) Also, on a less academic note, Monster is wall-to-wall bangers in all shapes, volumes, and sizes. “My Savages” was “March Madness” before “March Madness,” and remains, to my mind, the better victory lap; “Hardly” is a stuttering elegy where Future overdoses on percs while trying to escape the memory of lost friends and loved ones—“I ain’t have to write this song,” he says. “Fuck Up Some Commas” was every NBA draftee’s favorite song that year; “2Pac” is a state of emergency; “Mad Luv” is the sound of an Apache attack helicopter lifting off of a yacht.

“Codeine Crazy” is a hangover of biblical proportions, and undoubtedly the tape’s crowning achievement—Future is flat on his back, singing about suicide, in the next breath weighing whether he should take his girl on a date or maybe just buy another Rolex. (He buys the Rolex and takes her to Chipotle.) It’s fucked up. But still, when Monster landed on every streaming platform this past Monday, it was the more fucked-up “Throw Away” that demanded my urgent attention. “Throw Away”! The song where Future’s cracked voice pleads for just a crumb, a morsel, a single milliliter of his old life back, at literally any cost. Maybe deep down I’m a monster too.