Hip-Hop Family Tree: Future's Atlanta - Rolling Stone
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Hip-Hop Family Tree: Future’s Atlanta

A look back at the MCs and rappers who influenced his Southern hip-hop style

Future‘s thoroughly modern voice reflects the sound of post-millennial rap. But as a member of Dungeon Family, his lineage dates back to the early Nineties, when the Atlanta hip-hop scene had just begun to assert itself.

Dungeon Family consists of producers Rico Wade, Patrick “Sleepy” Brown, and Ray Murray. In 1992, Organized Noize broke into the music industry by producing tracks for TLC, the groundbreaking R&B trio that mixed stridently feminist lyrics with joyous, party-starting raps. Then, they discovered two of the most influential rap groups of the 1990s and beyond, OutKast and Goodie Mob, and helped inaugurate the classic sound of the Dirty South.

Organized Noize eventually expanded to dozens of acts, including Witchdoctor, Cool Breeze, Big Rube, Mr. DJ, Backbone, Parental Advisory, Konkrete, Lil Will, and Society of Soul. At their peak in the early ’00s, they encompassed a constellation of Southern hip-hop styles, from thug and crunk to mysticism, introspection and spiritual consciousness. In addition to steering with the highly influential crew, Organized Noize continued to produce other Georgia stars such as Jermaine Dupri’s girl group Xscape, the gospel ensemble Sounds of Blackness, funk iconoclast Joi, and the Athens, GA rapper Bubba Sparxxx.

When Rico Wade first discovered Wilburn in 2003, the latter was known as Meathead, and part of an ensemble called Da Connect. It was Wade who reportedly gave Wilburn his current name. Future then bounced around the industry for years, including ghostwriting verses for Ludacris, and landing on tracks with street rappers like French Montana. Future’s breakthrough finally came when the rapper/entrepreneur Rocko gave him a deal. In 2011, he emerged as a rising star by co-writing YC’s viral smash “Racks,” and dropping his first solo rap hit, “Tony Montana.” In 2012, he released his debut album, Pluto.

Future’s highly original blend of harmonized, oft-Auto-Tuned vocals and slurry, half-murmured trap raps made him a sensation in the ATL scene.He worked with the crème of Atlanta rap, including thought leaders like Gucci Mane, DJ Drama, and Mike Will-Made It; established stars like B.o.B, Young Jeezy, Waka Flocka Flame, and T.I.; and rising figures like Young Thug. He also formed Freebandz Entertainment, the home of his fledgling Freebandz Gang crew, and released mixtapes by Casino, Young Scooter, Doe Boy, Big Bank Black, Stuey Rock, and DJ Esco. In 2014, Future embarked on a series of collaborations with producers Metro Boomin, 808 Mafia’s Southside, and others that resulted in the 2015 album DS2, which revolutionized the sound of Southern trap music, and became his first number-one hit album. In 2017, he released his first solo top 5 hit, the Metro Boomin-produced “Mask Off.”

In This Article: Future, Hip-Hop


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