The Tragedy of Fredo Santana

Sometimes there aren't happy endings

I really did not think that Fredo Santana could die, about a week later I still can’t really believe it. From the first moment Lil Reese stated “Fredo in the cut that’s a scary sight”, a star was born. I remember hearing that line then having conversations at school in the weeks that followed “Yo have you seen Fredo?” “That’s a scary ass nigga.” “That nigga look like a demon.” Like I said, a star was born. So much of rap is built on bravado and invincibility. Most albums are filled with tales of surviving shootouts, cheating death, and staying cool in situations where most men would have folded. A lot of rappers don’t get the benefit of believability. Seeing Fredo though you believed most of what he was saying was true no matter how crazy it sounded.

Let’s be clear, Fredo wasn’t the best rapper during the Drill Era. No one would ever miscategorize his legacy as that. But in an era that spawned Chief Keef, Lil Durk, Young Chop and Lil Reese; Fredo was just as famous as his peers. Again it wasn’t for rap. Most people probably can’t even name one of Fredo’s projects‍. Nah Fredo was famous for being scary. The internet flooded with memes, mugshots, and manacing photos of the Chicago rapper leading to

It seemed like Fredo’s star was climbing professionally too after an appearance in Drake’s “Hold On We’re Coming Home” video as well as the release of his biggest single to date, “Jealous” featuring Kendrick Lamar. Numerous mixtapes and albums followed but Fredo was never quite able to break through in the mainstream the way some of his Chicago peers did.

The irony in Fredo’s disappearance from the spotlight (a symptom of both his dwindling popularity and mainstream hip-hop transitioning away from the drill music) is that during his disappearance he was becoming a better person. Fredo Santana was growing up. He would pop up from time to time to threaten Migos or to condemn Russ for discounting the trauma that created his drug addiction, but he would also surface smiling with a beautiful girlfriend, then a pregnant girlfriend, then with a beautiful child. The scariest man in rap was now seemingly a well-adjusted father. 

Unfortunately, Fredo would also return to the public’s mind when he was diagnosed with liver and kidney failure, no doubt a result of years of drug abuse. Reports say that Santana was clean for seventy days before a withdrawal-induced seizure caused his death, for that he should be commended, as of the writing, however, Fredo’s cause of death has yet to be determined. Before anyone speaks on the dangers of drug abuse don’t discount the factors that lead people to seek drugs out. Sometimes it just recreational, any college-aged kid can understand that, but other times drug abuse is self-medicating. It’s an escape from a whole lot of pain.

A tweet that circulated in the hours after Santana’s death was one of him sending his condolences for Lil Peep after he died of an overdose last November. The irony of Santana’s death coming a little more than three years to the day that we lost A$AP Yams only further complicates moving forward. These are three very different men that were taken from us before the age of thirty. From Peep’s pain soaked lyrics, to Fredo’s war stories, to Yams’ zero fucks given mentality these are all men that should have been with us for a long long time. 

Whether you love them or hate them rap has a history of taking artist from us way too soon. Conversations are beginning to become more prevalent about mental health in rap, but for every Mac Miller who openly struggled with drug abuse and got clean; we have a Future who one day raps “I’m an addict and I can’t even hide it” before speaking candidly in an interview about how his drug use isn’t as bad as his music implies.  The truth probably lying somewhere in the middle.

This all brings us back to Fredo Santana. In real life, he probably wasn’t the heartless sociopath that his music portrayed him to be. In reality, the moments that we saw of him smiling over the past few years debunked this theory. I think we forget that the rappers that we idolize, vilify, and make memes out of us are just as human as we are. While we’ll miss Fredo Santana as a rapper and a character, take a moment and say a prayer for Fredo Santana the man.

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