I need to talk about “Use Me,” the song and music video from Future’s 2017 album HNDRXX.
Future has been around for a long time. To some feminist circles he is known solely for legal troubles and talking shit about his ex-fiance, Ciara. To others, he is lumped in the trap category with other wide-ranging rappers like Young Thug and Travi$ Scott. When I first heard him I thought of him less like a bouncy trap rapper and more like an adult Drake.
While other rappers revel in the hallucinatory fun of drugs like lean and molly, Future’s verses drip with the reality of taking drugs that alter your perception. They’re not always fun. Future has no fear showing us his pain from years of anguish and literal hustling and the need to rely on drugs for more than just a good time.
“Use Me,” opens with Future crooning to us before being swept up in the expansive and ethereal beat. “Tools, tools, I keep them tools,” he sputters. His voice rises up through the beat to strain to tell us “These tools are for you to use me.” In the video, we see a lone figure hunched over a booth in an empty restaurant. His hood is pulled over his head and his face hovers above a Styrofoam cup that we know is lean. We see Future’s face framed by his hood, braids, and sunglasses. His sunglasses catch the reflection of a specter – a young boy who is not there. We see the boy, too young to drive, pull up to the restaurant to formally join Future. Future pushes his hood back to look at him. Who is that?
Future can barely look at him. He looks at him through his sunglasses. Then he looks at him through his fingers, his eyes darting away and then back at the boy in what looks like both sadness and fear. Finally he stares at him, though he can’t bring himself to fully face him. Now they’re looking at each other. The boy says nothing and has no reaction. Now what?
Future tears into the first verse, a love song. “Yes to the tights that you like, they are see-through,” he says definitively. “Who pissed you off baby tell me what he do.” He is clearly not talking about the boy in the video, but he is also clearly rejecting his own fear and anxiety that we saw when he faced him for the sake of his lover. I will take care of you. Maybe no one took care of me. Maybe you’ve been wronged in the past. But now, I will take care of you. He goes from energetically spitting the lines from his booth to sitting in the booth alone again, head in hands from utter pain. Even though the first verse is a love song to a woman, it is clear that the boy represents Future’s younger/inner self. Because when we first see Future, he’s alone. The boy spooks him but he overcomes his fear. But the boy also reminds him of who he is and where he came from – inspiring him to physically move more while he raps about how he will take care of his woman. “Use me what you want me for,” he begs. I’m here for you. The boy gets up and leaves the booth; Future follows without hesitation. He is embracing his past now.
We see a lone woman in a trap house counting money. Her hair is disheveled and is nearly crying as she counts. Where is everybody? Whose money is she counting? All we know is she is alone, sad in a trap.
The boy drives as Future sits in the passenger seat. Future looks confused but at-peace; the slow movements and half-lidded eyes of Future on lean. The boy looks at him occasionally. Future raps to himself.
White men put on balaklavas and take guns from a trunk. Future digs into the second verse.
“Bout to get xanned out.” “I feel like Pink Floyd with the lean out.” The drugs weigh heavily as he sifts through his need to physically arm himself to feel safe and his own ability to get out of a trap. “Cause I was trappin’ at Grandma’s house when I came out,” he raps. This line tells us so much of what we need to know about the pain Future feels about his past. He was at his Grandma’s house, not his mom’s house or his dad’s house or his parents’ house. But he also wasn’t visiting or even staying at his Grandma’s . . . he was trapping, selling drugs to get by. When was he able to have a life or a childhood during that?
“But you get high enough, you can dodge rain drops.” My favorite line from “Use Me,” HNDRXX, Future, and one of my favorites from music in general. If you use enough lean, like Future, everything around you slows down enough so you feel like Neo dodging rain drops (and like Neo, whether you’re actually dodging rain drops or only perceive yourself to be dodging rain drops is never clear). Not only that, if you’re rich enough, like Future, you can fly anywhere you need to go. And when you fly, rain drops don’t bother you or slow you down; you just go higher.
As Future moves through this verse in the boy’s car, we see the white men in balaklavas rush the woman in the trap house, tie her up, and take her money. This happens as Future sings through the chorus: “You know niggas full of lies/You know niggas full of tries.” Everyone is lying, everyone is trying to get by. She doesn’t put up a fight and seems to accept the robbery as inevitable as she silently cries to herself. We see the boy in the room with her, watching. We see Future back in the restaurant, alone. We see the boy and Future back in the car again. Is the boy leading Future through his own pain?
Future and the boy are back in the restaurant, across from each other in the booth. The boy stares as always. Future finally looks at him head-on, no sunglasses, no hood up, nothing in front of his face. He looks at him with a slight sigh as if to say “Come on man, no more.” Future leans forward and the boy is gone. Future walks into the open door of the trap house where the woman still lay, though no longer crying. He walks in matter-of-factly and moves past her like he knows exactly where to go. We see the boy sitting there, watching. As the song winds down, Future’s speaking voice swells up: “When I was young I was in one of those houses, like a drug house, where you were always getting busted, police running around. It was my grandma’s house.”
Future may fear his past but he is fearless in showing us his pain. He’s a man who’s crawled out of nothing to the top of the music industry and rap world. He’s loved deeply and passionately and lost love and experienced major heartbreak. It’s not always fun or pretty but it’s not keeping him down. His past informs his present while he simultaneously breaks away from the past that literally almost killed him.
“Use Me,” is a beautiful piece of art from Future, a beautiful artist.