Footnotes: Future

Four producers who’ve been instrumental in shaping Future’s sound look back at his growth on his 30th birthday.

Photographer John Francis Peters
November 20, 2013

From the magazine: ISSUE 89, December 2013/January 2014

Every great artist needs a great team, whether in the form of producers and session guitarists or simply friends offering support. In Footnotes, we ask some of these invaluable assisters to look back at the growth of one of the issue’s featured artists. This time around, for Future, we caught up with four producers who’ve been instrumental in shaping the Atlanta rapper’s sound: Mike WiLL Made It, Sonny Digital, Metro Boomin and Will-a-Fool.

Interview: Future opens up about life with Ciara and the young artists nipping at his heels.

YC f. Future, “Racks” Got Racks (Universal Republic 2011)

SONNY DIGITAL: At the beginning of Future’s career, I didn’t really like him. It was a new sound, and it’s human nature that when something is new to you, you tend to shy away from it. When I made the “Racks” beat for YC, he kept it for a few months, and when he finally played it back to me it had all Future vocals on it—the hook, Future’s verse, and then the rest was blank. I still didn’t understand what he was about. But when I met Future a couple weeks later, when they were mastering the song and we had down all of our paperwork, me and Future really connected. He’s just real cool, and he knows what he wants. We make good-ass music; it’s a simple-ass formula. It’s so simple, neither one of us have to be around each other. We don’t have to talk. Our music does the talking.

Future, “Ain’t No Way Around It” True Story (Internet 2011)

MIKE WILL MADE IT: Me and Future are like family. It started when he was working on Dirty Sprite. At that time, I wasn’t sending him beats, I was just there while he worked on other producers’ tracks, telling him, You should do the hook with more energy, you should do this or that. That built us being comfortable with each other. He knew that I knew him in and out, that he could trust me with his sound. But “Ain’t No Way Around It” broke the ice. I had this beat and just knew it would’ve been dope for Future. I was like, Bro, this is it. He didn’t like the beat though. I was like, If you put the right melody on this motherfucker, something for the girls but you still keep it all the way real, this shit will be a problem in the streets. The next thing you know, this nigga goes in the booth and comes up with the hook, he comes up with the verses. After that, he started to learn that he needed to listen to what Mike WiLL was saying. It was the same thing with “Itchin.” After those two, he really realized, Okay, let me quit arguing with Mike.

Future, “Tony Montana” Streetz Calling (Internet 2011)

WILL-A-FOOL: Future and I had been working together so long that I could bring some tracks and he’d just go in. I had developed an ear, kind of like an A&R, about what he’d like. Once, I brought him 20 tracks, and he did all 20 right there in the studio. His work ethic is unbelievable. One ordinary day, he asked me to come to the studio, so I cooked up some stuff from scratch, dropped it off and left. He called some hours later and told me he had a hit. He’s like, “It’s called ‘Tony Montana.’ Don’t give the beat to nobody—I’m about to go all the way.” Next thing you know, it was tearing up the streets. We went to the radio station and they played it back-to-back for 10 minutes. It tore up Atlanta, then it went to New York. It became like the anthem. That song really introduced him to the world as Future.

Future, “Turn on the Lights” Pluto (Epic 2012)

MIKE WILL MADE IT: I knew Future could do big stadium records. We told each other, Let’s kill the streets first, then we’ll get the labels talking, and as soon as he gets a deal, we’re gonna take it to another level. We were on the same page. The week he got back from getting a deal, we did the hooks for “Turn on the Lights” and “Neva End” in the same night. On the part of “Turn on the Lights” right before the chorus, originally he was rapping on it. I was like, Naw, man, run those words together. He’s like, “What are you trying to do, turn me into an R&B singer?” I said, You’ll never be an R&B singer, but you got an ill tone! So use it. He tried it and it sounded good. That was the beginning of us doing bigger records and him not putting himself in a box. He’s one of those A-list artists that can do anything. It’s all about the sound continuing to grow.

Future, “Honest” Honest (Epic 2013)

METRO BOOMIN: I had been sending Future beats like “Hard” and “Karate Chop” since I’d graduated high school and was living in St. Louis. After I moved to Atlanta, I was around him all the time, but this year a lot of things were changing, and his career was elevating at the same time as mine. Things were cool, but I hadn’t sent him any beats for some time until I heard he was recording in New York, and I sent him a pack that included “Honest.” He did the hook in New York, came back to Atlanta the next week and did the verses right there in front of me. I thought the song was special, but I wasn’t even sure if it would make it onto the album. He said, “Man, I want to use this as the single.” I was like, For real? I told him it might be bigger than “Karate Chop,” and he said, “You’re fucking crazy, this is way bigger than that.” I found out a little while later that he renamed the album Honest.

Footnotes: Future