Red Pill’s new solo album is not an easy listen. In contrast to the straightforward, Golden Era boom bap on the Detroit MC’s album with Ugly Heroes, Everything In Between, Instinctive Drowning is a deeply personal work, buoyed from start to finish by Ill Poetic’s psychedelic form of hip-hop beats. As Pill explained in an interview with Damn That Noise, he was looking for production “with more emotional depth” which could push him “as a songwriter not only on the technical side but the personal side.”
The record channels Pill’s lifetime of dealing with addiction and mental illness, starting with his mother’s life-ending battle against alcoholism and depression, and culminating with his own issues. The 28-year-old found inspiration by delving into a particularly dark period of his life, when the rapper had gotten out of the hospital. Prior to being diagnosed with viral meningitis, Pill feared he had brain cancer, a tumor, or worse.
Although Pill writes from his perspective during that section of his life, Instinctive Ambition is not all dark and depressing. Yes, tracks like “Gin and Tonic” are inspired by the consequences of alcoholism and depression, but Pill still finds hope with the support of his family and friends. And while Pill is fully aware of his position in society and the false pretenses of the American Dream (“F*ck Your Ambition“), he also recognizes his struggles aren’t the same because he comes from a place of white privilege (“Four Part Cure”).
From my perspective, Instinctive Drowing is a hopeful record. As someone who has dealt with depression my entire adult life, I admire Red Pill’s willingness to work through his negative feelings and talk about finding “minimal happiness.” There’s always going to be bullsh*t bringing us back to square one, but as long as we can find our way back, everything is going to be okay.
“There’s always this equilibrium that we hit,” he told Frank 151. “There’s always gonna be things that make us happy, like a record doing well, or in your case, getting a lot of press about an article you wrote or something. Whatever means something to us, we’re gonna find happiness.”