Future: Syrup, Strippers and Heavy Angst With the Superstar MC
The influence of Future’s ever-evolving sound – centered on his melodic gifts, spontaneous, mesmerizing flow and a digitally augmented baritone growl that sounds like he’s gargling ones and zeros when the Auto-Tune is cranked up – is everywhere: Fetty Wap seems to have gotten his entire style from Future’s 2012 hit “Turn on the Lights,” while Brooklyn rapper Desiigner has been dominating radio with “Panda,” a song so derivative in its lyrics, flow and production that Mike Will, for one, thought it was a Future track on first listen. (Future is reluctant to address this subject: “I never worried about anyone else … I don’t even want his name in the article,” he says of Desiigner.) The actual Future pops up on standout tracks on both Drake’s and Chance the Rapper’s new albums (at one point, a Drake-free version of the Views track “Grammys” plays in the studio), and Future and Drake are touring arenas together this summer.
It’s been an insane streak, all in the wake of a life-shaking mid-2014 split from his former fiancee, R&B star Ciara, the mother of the youngest of his four children. He’s determined to keep it going. “I want to keep doing what I’m doing and see how far I can go,” he says. “See when it stops. See what the end is like. I want to make this moment last as long as I can make it. If I miss a day, I’m afraid I’ll miss out on a smash record.”
Even up close, his songwriting method is hard to comprehend. Seth Firkins, his longtime engineer, a friendly stoner with a John Belushi vibe, compares Future to a “medicine man.” Firkins, who is parked semi-permanently in front of that Pro Tools monitor, plays a looped beat from one of Future’s preferred producers – today there are tracks by Mike Will and Metro Boomin – while Future hangs out in the control room, maybe mumbling to himself, maybe smoking his blunt, maybe just pacing. Until he gets on the mic, he can be silent for 45 minutes at a time. Eventually, without a word, Future disappears into the vocal booth, in front of a portrait of Jay Z, and begins rapping. After years of collaboration, he and Firkins have an uncanny bond: Without any instruction, the engineer always knows when to cue up the verse again, always understands which part to loop as the chorus.