Photo: Vivien Killilea / Getty Images
  /  07.16.2018

Drake’s Scorpion washed a wave of the dreaded “feels” over hip-hop culture, as his music often does, focusing on the intersection of relationships and fame to draw out his most introspective, somber feelings. A week later, Future’s Beast Mode 2 hit streaming services, injecting a fresh wave of confidence, self-worth, and never-settling. According to TMZ, Future claimed that his reasoning for delaying the project’s release was not to interfere with his frequent collaborator’s streaming numbers. The juxtaposition between the emotions that the two projects bring out takes the listener from a broken place to one of absolute confidence. Some would even call Future’s woman-heavy, druggy music an example of toxic masculinity. But Future’s music isn’t created with a nefarious purpose to push an agenda like people often believe it is; he’s just reflecting on his past relationships, similar to Drake. If Future’s pushing the agenda, Drake’s egging it on just as much.

According to Psychology Today, toxic masculinity is defined as “men who are socially dominant, who are strategically risk-taking in their behaviors, and who exhibit patterns of behaviors that will allow them to ascend the social hierarchy and defend their positions from encroachers.” Or, as I put together from that overlong description: excessive celebrity. But that’s not the only definition. Anything from the male spectrum that detriments the human experience accounts for it as well. At its lightest, staying away from the kitchen because of, well, gender roles. At its most serious, criticizing a man for reporting molestation by Hollywood representatives instead of beating him up. Even in pop culture, our kids are exposed to it : the “He-Man Woman Hater’s Club” in Little Rascals, and the utilization of insecurities to “make a man” out of that title character of Mulan. Our music in hip-hop culture has long been decidedly toxic, but in recent years, artists have begun to move away from the sentiment and focus on their own journeys. Two of these artists are Future and Drake.

Future’s tragic love history can be traced through tabloid headlines like a map of the constellations in the night time sky. He’s been in a number of high-profile relationships (Ciara and Larsa Pippen, admittedly briefly) that have ended in tabloid orgasm. Being that he’s, well, human and far removed from his days as a dope boy, Future often traverses his museum of romantic memories in his work. Beast Mode 2 is his most recent emotional deep dive, with “WiFi Lit” immediately opening with a stanza that without a closer look, can be written off as problematic: “I leave a bitch in the cold, oh / I don’t act poor no more / I left her sitting at the Loews, oh / ‘Cause she wasn’t touching her toes, no.”

Future was referring to a model recently revealing that she flew out to work with him and that he didn’t offer to meet with her after she revealed she wasn’t sleeping with him. No meaning was ever clarified, so he didn’t owe her anything. But their exchange went viral, with the lone quote of “I’m good luv. Enjoy” becoming the de facto statement of the summer. Elsewhere on the album, “Racks Blue” politely touches on his liason with Larsa Pippen. “I shoulda gave ’em dog food and went to get neutered / I shoulda never got caught up with a cougar,” he glumly sings on the chorus. He wisely leaves her alone and, towards the tail end of the track, explores how he feels about women that have left him in the past: “I’ve been dead broke, treated unfairly / Never break me, love or hate me / She did forsake me, she wanna taste me / And she showed it, gave her the blue face.”

When he was down, the women deserted him. Now that he’s arguably the hottest rapper in the game, those same women have come back for nefarious, money and attention-seeking purpose. But Future has no want, or need, for them. This, along with the dismissal of the model in “WiFi Lit,” shouldn’t be considered toxic. These are on the level of previous mixtapes that revisited past relationships and situations that he’s been in and how he chooses to deal with the repercussions. Countless people, both male and female, do this kind of diary-style writing. Does that make them toxic, as well?

Drake is almost exclusively known for his detailed accounts of his past dealings with women. He refrains from making violent, drug-pedaling rap that could be typically considered toxic, choosing for quieter, sentimental rap, and a smidget of singing instead. On Scorpion‘s “In My Feelings,” the KeKe of the song’s earworm refrain was thought to trace back to his ex-girlfriend Keisha Chante, a singer and media personality who reportedly dated him before the two were famous. On the album, this song is one of few that actually mentions a name. He delves into sneakier territory with “Jaded,” a steamy ode to (supposedly) Jorja Smith and, although he doesn’t say her name, the contempt that radiates from his voice in cuts like “March 14” and “Emotionless” are for none other than Sophia Brussaux, the mother of his recently-revealed son.

With a history of mentioning his conquests in his songs, Drake’s discography begins to look more and more like Future’s. The difference is public perception. Drake shouted out Atlanta-model Paris Morton way back in 2010 with “Paris Morton Music” and “Paris Morton Music 2” on which he requests forgiveness for his past trangressions, and then showcases his growth away from her in the second. On “Draft Day,” he tells Jennifer Lawrence that she could “really get it” and then doubles down on it with an alarming amount of seriousness. Sure, these raps aimed at past or hopeful conquests come off as relatively innocent, but they’re innocent in the way that Future’s own revelations about his own past relationships are. Drake just has more of a commercial appeal and he gets away with it. Future, alas, does not.

While toxic masculinity is a very real problem that impacts the way that males in our country operate in a respectful manner, the discussion, in relation to Future, is mostly innocent, usually amounting to ntohing more than jokes. But these memes hint at the belief that everything Future releases has an alterior motive. Most recently, the belief was that Future releasing a week after Drake was to coincide with ex-flame Ciara and her current husband Russell Wilson’s wedding anniversary. People have been quick to point out the correlation while tagging #toxicmasculinity in tweets and Instagram posts, but the reality is much different. But, as usual, instead of making a media announcment about the situation, Future will turn to music to reveal his stance on it again, inciting allegations of toxic masculinity.

Drake may not be outright criticizing (or in most cases, anyway) the often-rotating cast of women he talks about in his music, but using them to tell personal stories and, in the process making money from their relationships, is just as toxic as Future relaying his own past experiences for profit. Or maybe, it really is just keeping a running, public journal for future consumption. Do you see how pointless this conversation is? Unless there’s outright misogynistic disrespect towards women, this specific claim of toxic masculinity doesn’t exist because drawing from life experiences is just storytelling at the end of the day. If Future’s being toxic, so is Drake. But neither of them are, so if you’re scratching your head trying to figure out if Drake really is doing something wrong, then I’ve already proved my point.

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