Over the past eight years, Future has reinvented himself countless times. From his early days as a pioneering street rapper, contorting his voice to create unforgettable hooks, to his superstar-making, hedonistic 2016 run, the Atlanta artist has always been a master at shedding his skin. He’s undergone sonic shifts, so many that he’s created a whole group of alter-egos to encompass his constantly changing modes: Future Hendrix, Super Future, Fire Marshal Future. After a year that saw the 35-year-old stepping back from the, at times, hyper-speed of his releases, Future is now introducing a new identity with The WIZRD, an album he said will “close the chapter out of everything I've done so far up until now.”
In the week before the release of his album, Future sat down with The FADER at the Epic Records offices in New York to discuss the album and the past year of his life. In the intimate discussion, which you can watch in part above and read in full below, he spoke about the way his most painful music is consumed and the pressure it brings to keep living a lifestyle that he feels he’s outgrown. In recent years, Future has become rap’s preeminent anti-hero but, in conversation, he was thoughtful and reflective, an ever-evolving artist on the precipice of another major shift.
You've been doing a lot of interviews recently after not really doing any for most of 2018. What was the past year like for you?
The past year was just cool, just chilling, relaxing. Just still in the studio every day, working.
There was the Superfly soundtrack, Beast Mode 2, WRLD on Drugs. For most artists that would be a big year but, for you, that's light. Were you scaling back purposely?
Yeah. Purposely, I did it purposely. I scaled back, and basically I was just letting everything come to me. 'Cause I wanted to really just chill anyway. And I was just doing music. Long as I was just doing music, but it was like I wasn't putting no thought into the real plan behind it. But it was good for me just to be able to continue to work on my craft. On a year, I'd say, for me, it was a off year for me.
How does that change the way you record when you're not attaching it to one project? Or you're not rushing to put it out or give it to fans.
I just get in a comfortable creative space and just finding new ways to record, finding new friends to record with, new producers, and bouncing off each other's ideas.
One moment that really did steal the show, though, was your verse on “King's Dead.” What can you tell me about the process of recording that high-pitched verse?
The high-pitched verse was pretty much added by Kendrick, 'cause I had left it at the end of the song, just something I was doing just in case they wanted to have a intro or outro. I didn't think he was gonna make it a part of my actual verse or even keep it at all. I thought he'd probably be like, Man, I'm not keeping that. But he end up thinking like, Man that's the best part of the song. I think it was dope, the way it came out.
Let's talk about The WIZRD. Where does that name come from?
It come from OGD. Rest in peace. He was calling me The Wizard.
What did that mean at the time?
At the time, it just felt like, Man, you got it figured out. You know what you're supposed to do. You know what's ahead. You know what's right.
Trust yourself. You The Wizard.
Why did you feel like now was the right time to introduce that persona to the fans?
It's probably one of those personas that resonates towards me. It just sit with me more, and it define me in a lot of ways. And also, just him passing, and ... It was just like me continuing his legacy of him even believing in me. Like damn. You really seen the vision. You really had the vision for this. So, it's just going back, but also, just me taking what's already there and just critiquing it and just taking advantage of that moment and this opportunity to reflect on him and also to just close the chapter out of everything I've done so far up until now.
You and Mike Will built a sound together. You and 808 Mafia built a sound together. You and Metro built a sound together. Who's producing on this project, and what kind of sound did y'all bring?
Wheezy. He produced a lot of records on this. 808 still produced a lot of records. I pretty much work with still the same producers. It was more records that Wheezy had on this. It wasn't any particular reason. It just happened that way. It pretty much just fell into place. I feel like, sonically, his sound right now is mind-blowing, and it just might have you in this frenzy. It's like a daze when he do beats. It's like it captures you, just off his beats, the sounds that he choose. It just hypnotizes you, from the beginning. And you know, I had the tag on there, “Wheezy outta here.” So, it was just like we made a good match, and that's what it is.
You must have thousands of unreleased songs. When you're putting together an album like this, how do you know what to pull from?
This album, because I have so much music I had recorded so much in 2018, and I didn't drop as much, it was a major process. I had to have a lot of people in the studio, a lot of opinions and just trust everyone around me also trusting myself. And knowing I've been put in this position before, I wanted to be more involved in this album, like when I was in my mixtapes, when I first started doing my mixtapes at the beginning, like 1000 and Kno Mercy and the beginning, when I had a lot of say-so. And Dirty Sprite, the first Dirty Sprite, just putting it together and just being more hands-on. I just wanted to take it back.
Some of your most successful music has come from a dark place. Do you think fans expect you to always go through that pain for them now?
Yeah. Fans, they expect me to always have a certain pain in my music, but not just have a certain pain in my music and try to mimic moments that already happened, but actually go through things today that they know about, they might think they know the exact truth about, or they might don't have any truth to the scenario. And they look forward to my music for them to hear it and get the message and get my side of the story. It's crazy, but it's true.
Does that ever feel like a burden?
At times it can be burden, because you wanna be a person to change. You wanna see the growth, even for myself, not just my fans but for myself. I wanna allow myself to grow, and I wanna look myself in the mirror and be like, Man, I can see the growth myself. But it can become a burden trying to relive those moments over and over again, when sometimes you might get bashed or being a certain kind of image or being portrayed this type of person. But this what made the best music. This what got the best out of me. I created off negativity. It always fuel my fire. I just feed into it, and that's where I get my best ideas from, by making something negative and turning it into my positive, by making music from it and having success from it.
But the burden becomes I gotta keep living this way and keep living every line, every day. And it's just like that's not who I am anymore. That's just who I was, and that's just me trying to relive moments and continue to chase the same high, not just for myself but for the people around me who just love it. They enjoy it, probably even as much as I enjoy it. They enjoy it probably more than I enjoy it, because they get a chance to watch it and enjoy it, and I'm really living it and being in it. And I gotta suffer from everything, the backlash that come with it. And sometimes, the backlash can be a bit much, but at the end of the day, I still gotta find a way to create from the backlash and use that as fuel to my fire. When I'm getting older now, it's time to put certain things to rest, move on from it, and be like, You just gotta accept me how I am.
“I don’t wanna make your wrongs right anymore. I wanna shed light on the right.”
Do you think the music is starting to reflect that change?
I think the music that's coming gon' reflect that change. I think that's me putting rest to the old, formally, the old way of making music.
As you said, this is like the closing of a chapter.
Yeah, this the closing of it.
What do you think about the way some fans have labeled you as the male Beyoncé? In that, Beyoncé's making music that empowers women; you're making music that is empowering the men. How do you feel about that kind of comparison?
I feel great. Only reason I say I feel great about that is because I feel like Beyoncé is, if not the greatest, one of the greatest. And to be compared to that is great. But also, I wanna be able to use my voice for a lot of good in men, and not just the bad. Not when you just going through a breakup or not when you feel like you just wanna have a party lifestyle. You just wanna party. I'm speaking for the men that's going through something, that's gonna party. I wanna speak for the men that's in relationships. I wanna speak for men that's in love. I wanna speak for men that have found true love. I wanna speak for men that done went through something but also felt like they wasn't gon' become the person that they are. And they listened to Future, and they became a better person. It didn't make them feel like the wrong things they was doing was good. Like I make all your wrongs great. I make all your wrongs right. I don't wanna make your wrongs right anymore. I wanna shed light on the right. I just wanna be that voice how her voice is to reach out and be looked at someone as more of a positive light and someone that's like a innovator or as empowering women. I wanna empower men with that same power but also in the right way.
Are your kids at an age now where they can really listen to your music and understand your lyrics?
They not at an age they can understand it. They have to go through certain things in their life to understand it, 'cause they still gon' look at me as they dad. It's certain things that I don't just open up to my kids about, or it's certain things I don't even allow them to see.
Do you think at some point you'll have to sit them down and explain? Like, This is what I said here, but really this.
Yeah. I feel like I do have to sit 'em down and understand the music, where I was at at that time of my life from my first mixtapes up until now. Just explaining every moment of my life from why I said what I said, what I did what I did. Why it was unconscious of me to do certain kind of records, why it was unconscious of me to say certain tweets and certain things that I put out there to the masses. And quotes that people live by, like why did I say it, where did it come from, what was the inspiration behind it, or why would I do it. It'll come a time, and I think it's something that need to be said.
“Trust yourself. You The Wizard.”
Your long-time engineer, Seth Firkins, passed away this last September. Can you talk a little bit about what he meant for your music and for your life?
He meant everything to music, and he mean everything to my life. He was my brother. He was a friend. He was somebody I could talk to about anything. Him passing played a tremendous effect on just me personally, because we just shared so much, as far as information about music. And it was like it was his dream just as much as mine, at this point, to have a great album, album titles, and see the pictures come back from the photo shoots, to see who we gon' choose to be on the album as far as producers, working with different producers. It feels like that was my partner. So, to lose my partner, it was a big deal. Still is a big deal, like I always say. Still is a big deal for me. Something I haven't got over, and just trying to get more comfortable with even talking 'bout it, 'cause it's my first time really just talking about it after he been passed. He done passed away for like a year. It's really my first time talking ‘bout it now. So, I still haven't got comfortable. People bringing it up in interviews, really don't have much to say about it, because I'm still missing him every day and still thinking 'bout it. So, I'm just trying to find the words. I'm just saying anything.
Did that big loss change the way you operate in the studio?
At first it changed the way I operated at the studio, because I compare everything to Seth, like, Seth wouldn't do this. Seth didn't do that. Just mad, mad, mad. Just angry, not having him around, but it didn't change anything.
Before Future and Hndrxx, you took a break from social media. Was it the same this time around for this album?
I took a break. I didn't plan on taking a break. I just didn't post, and it just felt more comfortable. I got more comfortable in not posting and not being on Instagram. It's crazy. I did it for like a whole year, but it was like I didn't feel the need to do it. I didn't want to do it. I'm not as connected to social media as I should. People think is should, but I'm just not connected. I'm trying to find the connection. I'm trying to make myself and force myself to be involved.
“I love the thought of finding real love. I love the thought of loving somebody that love me just as much.”
What does that kind of break do for your mental state?
It allows me to just think about other things than what people have to say about me. Or just have me to think about other things and work on myself. I work on your opinion, work on whatever you might think about me. I might need to work on those areas and just time to work on myself, just needed time to work on myself. And just even certain things people say about me is because that's the energy that I probably put out, and they just going off what they see. So, I can't blame them from what they see and what ii put out. But also just knowing like damn. If I was misunderstood from something, I wanna be able to work on that. I wanna be able to work on my weaknesses and build 'em up and be my strength. So, it just give me time and allow me time to figure out what my weaknesses are and really sit back and think about it, analyze everything around me, and analyze everyone around me. People I choose to be in my life. Just to make a better me.
Right. There's no distraction when you're not looking for your phone, looking at Instagram. It's just you and your thoughts.
It's me and my thoughts, and it's just distractions from normal shit that happen every day that I gotta just deal with. But it's no social media distractions.
It seems like you and Young Thug were always locked in together over the past year. What is about being in the studio with him that's special?
He's like my twin. It's like seeing me all over again. He younger than me, and I just don't want him to make the same mistakes I made. I want him to be bigger than me in every way. So, it's just me being around him and understanding him, and he understanding me. We just feeding off each other. I never thought it was gon' be that deep, but through time and through conversations and a combination of everything, I feel like it brung us closer, it's still bringing us closer to help us understand each other. Just being these two big superstars that have two different missions and family that's looking up to us and family that count on us and depend on us to bring it together. And I have that individual mentality. Once we together it's like, to me, it's still something special.
I feel like nobody wanna see that happen because it's too genuine. It's too right. It's too powerful. So, once you get something that's genuine and powerful, and it's authentic, it's like the inevitable is for people to want it to fuck up. But we trying to find a way to make it more big and more powerful and just do something artists never did. And that's just being off me being loyal and him being loyal, and we just want our friendship just to be genuine. And that's it, with no business involved. There's no ulterior motives. It's just pure. It's just all about real love.
What advice have you given him towards him becoming that bigger star like you say?
It's so many things we talk about. So many things. Numerous things. Even with him telling me things that make me better. He's super smart. He always tell me certain things. I'm like, Man, sometimes I need you to be my eyes, and I need you to be my ears. I'm not gon' see everything. I'm not gon' hear everything. That's what I got you for. Feed off you; you feed off me.
He give me advice all the time. Two, three days ago, he just telling me the most realest shit ever on the phone, and I'm just listening to it, because I just had the time to reflect. In 2018, the last month, December, just had a lot of time to reflect about myself, about everything going on. And just some of the things that he was saying, it hit home. And I was like, “You right.” I been away so long, and I just never had time to change certain things about me. Certain things people love about me. Then, not even recognizing the things that people love about me but don't like, but they might put up with it because they love me. And it's like, Damn. I just took advantage of that. Did I take advantage of that? Or did I take advantage of real loyalty? Did I take advantage of friendships? Did I take advantage on just me being who I am? Take advantage of everybody just know how I am and just making that the excuse.
So, it's just certain things that you recognize, and you just take time out to recognize, and be like, I need to change it. It'll make me a better person. So, if you see this making me a better person, man, I appreciate you for telling me.
What is that next step in making that change and changing those things about yourself?
Just making sure it's genuine. Me making the right choices on who to bring in my life. And I just give everyone a chance, and not me just taking chance on anyone. It's gon' be something I regret or gon' be something that's gon end up being a mistake that I made. So, it's like those mistakes that you can't get away from. I feel like those are the things I need to change, and I can't look at it as that's that Future mentality, that's that rockstar shit. So, if it's rockstar shit, this my legacy. This what I'm leaving. This what I want people to talk about me, good or bad. I don't care what they say. I just want them to talk about me when I'm no longer here.
And I need to stop, probably, just that not caring attitude. I need to care about something besides my kids. I need to care about the way I move. I need to start caring about the way people look at me also, because I've reached that level in my career where I'm always thinking like, Damn. When you probably didn't have a million dollars, five million dollars, you could do this shit. But c'mon Future. You're having this much success, and you're doing this. You're still doing the same shit you was doing like if you was in the streets. But I think back like damn, I'm from the streets, so fuck it. I don't care. I'm from the streets. I'm from the corner. Even though I am what I am today, I carried that mentality. The way I think and that not caring mentality, I carried on into music, into business, into the way I move. it's just time to stop that. It's like it's an end. Like, you not in the streets anymore. It's over. That's your past life. So many people look up to you to this point for not even just how you move, just business-wise.
I made a lot of great moves in business, and I didn't shake right in my personal life. And it's like man, I gotta just leave it alone. Certain things I just can't do anymore, because my success level and just where I'm at in life. It just calls for me to just give everything. Just dead it. Don't even try it again. So, that's how I feel about it.
“I want unconditional, I’d die for you love. I die for you; you die for me type of love. I ride for you; you ride for me love.”
When you grow up that way though, as you say, it's hard to unlearn all that stuff that helped you survive.
Right. Like I said, it's a mentality. Once you have that I don't care mentality, fuck everybody. I don't care what they think about me. I'm from the streets anyway. The street shit look at as who cares. You used to be doing this. Now, you're doing this, and it couldn't be worse than where you was at. Nothing can be worse than standing on the corner. So, if you going through something, or you put somebody else through something, it couldn't be worse than when you first came in the game. So, just leaving that lifestyle alone, like forget it. It's over with. Stop trying to relive it, and stop trying to make an excuse of why I act the way I act is because I know better now. So, that's just part of me maturing.
What makes you happiest right now?
What make me happy is knowing my family happy.
Is there anything which you still feel like you're misunderstood?
I'm misunderstood the fact that how much I love love. I love the thought of finding real love. I love the thought of loving somebody that love me just as much.
Do you feel any closer to finding that for yourself?
It ain't about feeling closer to it, because you know you just want it to happen, because the level of love that I want. I want unconditional, I'd die for you love. I die for you; you die for me type of love. I ride for you; you ride for me love. Not ride when it's good, only when it's beneficial. Ride when it's tough. When you find it, it come. It'll come when it come. It's just like you don't search for it. I feel like true love just happen. It just come from nowhere, like blindside you.