Whiskey, Weed & Women

Whiskey, Weed & Women

Words / Cody Liska

 

“So, Mr. Cofey, what brings you here today,” a psychologist asks over moody chords that shuffle back and forth. A concession of 808 claps and Michael “Starbuks” Cofey answers. “It’s Mr. Cofey the Incredible / My reputation is impeccable / If you harbor hate, let it go / I’m only in it for the bankroll / And all my niggas in the federals (free Neech!) / Twenty-five with an L, bro (free Bucket!) / Got ‘em sittin’ in the pen for conspiracy to commit distribution of the kilos.” And that’s how Starbuks begins his third solo album, Whiskey, Weed & Women—a simple question answered with a few projections.

 
 Interview with Journalist Sarah Dubowski / Courtesy of Starbuks

Interview with Journalist Sarah Dubowski / Courtesy of Starbuks

 

Whiskey, Weed & Women plays out in three acts, each representing a different facet of Starbuks’ lifestyle. “My lifestyle was one big party and what better ingredients for a party,” Starbuks tells me, “whiskey to numb the pain, weed to level it out and women, well, for pleasure.” Whiskey, weed and women—as literal components of Starbuks’ life—are also allegories for larger issues. Whiskey eventually results in a headache and, for Starbuks, crippling indigestion. Weed, when consumed habitually, amounts to addiction. As for women, “I just suck at relationships,” Starbuks laughs.

 

Starbuks has never been this vulnerable. He’s never talked openly about his relationships with women, the pressure his family puts on him to carry on the Cofey name or his battle with depression. “I’m fightin’ off depression while I’m clutchin’ on this weapon,” ‘Buks raps on Alone, “tryna save myself from this personal self-destruction / Refuse to see a shrink, I ain’t takin’ no medication / My faith is deep, but I’m startin’ to lose conviction / I don’t sleep, I barely eat, so I drink this whiskey to help me think / This purple I’m smokin’ on, I’m praying it help me see tomorrow / Drown my sorrows in the bottom of this brown bottle.” Diamond Fuller’s plaintive saxophone, over a Spanish-flavored beat, heightens Starbuks’ late-night musings.

 

“Admitting and sharing such personal things,” ‘Buks says in response to what the most difficult part of recording WWW was, “I’ve always been very careful about what I talk about on my records. [I] never really wanted to be seen as vulnerable to my peers.”

 

Starbuks’ reputation precedes him. He’s always been that extra-alpha dude in the AK hip-hop scene. On the track Be, ‘Buks is intent on demystifying that perception. “Yes I’m that guy from the Fair, but I’m not that guy from the Fair,” he raps, referring to when he and Bishop Slice were kicked off stage at the Tanana Valley State Fair in 2016. “I cannot be what you want me to be,” he raps in the refrain, “I will not be what you want me to be / I could care less and not press and not stress and go deaf to your fuckin’ opinion of me / I could play blind to the vision you see / Screw your pre-disposition to me.”

 
 Starbuks and Bishop Slice / Courtesy of Starbuks

Starbuks and Bishop Slice / Courtesy of Starbuks

 

When I ask why he felt the need to record a song like Be, he tells me, “I feel like my fans and listeners needed to know my story, about the real me. I’ve always heard these notorious stories about myself, some of which are true, but most are fictional. [When] I meet people and they hang around me for the first time, and they get to know me, they’re always like, ‘you’re nothing like what I’ve heard about you.’”

 

In many ways, Starbuks is a throwback to a time when hip-hop didn’t have such an ambiguous identity. It was an art form born of the streets, and the language reflected that. In short, storytelling was important. Young Delinquent Adolescent is a reflection of the jux and hustle that shaped ‘Buks. “While Peter Piper picked a pepper, I just learned to push / Mary had a little lamb, I just rolled the kush / I just read the pages, baby, I ain’t write the book / Always been an earner, lady, never been a crook…” ‘Buks raps on the refrain, over a wobbly beat, leading into the first verse, “…well, except that one time me and Richie robbed that one guy / I and fun guy robbed, uh, what’s his name? / Oh, Degum, straight heathens / If Toyes wasn’t there, we probably woulda beat him.”

 

Starbuks grew up in a very religious family. “It was always about family first and carrying on my family name,” he tells me. “Originally, my father was the only boy to have a son, so my family said, ‘you’re the only one that can carry on the name.’ So, that always stuck with me.” Gods Favorite is a raw-nerve reflection of Starbuks’ complicated relationship with his dad. “I used to sell my daddy crack and hope his heart stopped / I know it’s fucked up, but I didn’t really give a fuck / And this the hard part: I spent the last 30-days in the bing, sittin’, chillin’ with my old man / We didn’t hug, we just shook hands.” Once you understand a little of the backstory, the refrain holds more significance: “God said, ‘Michael, you been on the edge awhile now, it’s time for you to sober up and be a man now / I gave you seeds, I let you replenish the earth, leave behind your family name after you dead in the dirt.’”

 

Just because WWW is easily Starbuks’ most personal album to date doesn’t mean it’s devoid of hard tracks. On Brand Muzik featuring Anthony Danza, ‘Buks raps, “Northwest, time to get turnt up / Phil Knight, I’m tryna stack mines up / Paul Allen, I need my own island / Crib bigger than the Rose Garden / Why, sucka? For me to ball in / This is awesome, never rains in Autzen / Crown bottles, brown models / Pop they top like sound modules.” And just like that, ‘Buks is back in his wheelhouse.

 

Whiskey, Weed & Women is as much a meditation on destructive tendencies as it is an exercise in catharsis. It’s about coming to terms with the past, but it’s also about embracing the person the past created. Ultimately, it’s about Starbuks overcoming the man he used to be in order to become the man he needs to be—a friend, a son, a father and, with any luck, a husband.

 
 "Here's a picture [of the] first I saw my kids after I was released from prison," Starbuks tells me, "and the first time I ever had them all together in one place at one time."

"Here's a picture [of the] first I saw my kids after I was released from prison," Starbuks tells me, "and the first time I ever had them all together in one place at one time."

 

Whiskey, Weed & Women drops June 23, 2017. It’s available on iTunes, Tidal, Spotify and CD Baby.