Slumped in a swivel chair, Future’s fingers flutter with each beat drop. His all-black ensemble is accessorized with a Miami condo's worth of jewels. With his sunglasses on and his hood up, Future Hendrix embodies an expensive hungover or a monied widow after the reading of a will.
When we meet at the rapper’s Los Angeles studio, it's one day after his headlining performance at Rolling Loud festival, and he hasn't slept. Though he declined to discuss the matter, it's also one week since the death of his protégée, Juice WRLD.
While Future is accustomed to becoming tabloid-fodder—his relationship with singer Ciara is a frequent topic—since Juice WRLD's death, he's become the point of intrigue for a different reason. Fans have been questioning Future's influence on the late young star, pointing out parallels between the pair’s debaucherous joint mixtape, WRLD on Drugs, and the rapper’s alleged overdose on Percocet, a prescription pill prominently referenced in the chorus of Future’s smash hit, "Mask Off."
Though the subject of Juice WRLD's death hangs over our conversation, it's otherwise it’s business as usual. In collaboration with 1800 Tequila, Future dropped new album 1800 Seconds Vol.2 this week with young artists he considered his mentees—two of whom are newcomers signed to his Epic records’ imprint, Freebandz. In our conversation, the rapper seems restrained and guarded, especially in the direct aftermath of a tragedy. But this is a man who manifested his success from the streets: he’s resilient, and by now, a learned (if extremely media trained) professional.
"Sometimes when you do interviews you feel yourself trying to make things up," he told me. "It’s like, ‘Let me try answer this shit even if I don’t have the correct answer right now...You can say things and they come out wrong.”
The SAVE ME rapper is the frequent subject of memes and Twitter chatter: from screenshots shared by would-be romantic partners (the origin of the phrase "I'm good luv, enjoy") to photos of him sporting facetious facial expressions, there’s now a relatable Future phrase or photo for every occasion. This fall, an old video of a fur-clad Future sitting in silence during an interview gained new life as a meme. It's fair to say that Future’s guard is up for good reason. Or it's all part of his carefully cultivated persona.
Read on for our conversation with the living Atlanta legend.
Why is it so important for you to put new artists on? It would be easy to be the big-shot and only collaborate with similarly established musicians.
Because when you’ve been through certain things and made certain mistakes, you want to be able to pass it on. Sharing knowledge is powerful. It’s just as powerful as gaining knowledge. I needed to pass it on.
Does it keep you relevant?
I learn something new every day from meeting different people. That’s what the entertainment business is about: growing, meeting new people, the next generation. Absorbing every moment you can get. You never know if it’s going to change how you look at music or who you become, you just want the best out of any situation. I’m almost making the most out of every opportunity, and not having high expectations or any expectations when you go into anything.
Was there a moment you identified in your own career where you really felt yourself shift into the mainstream?
"Racks On Racks," the first one that went big. Every moment is special, but that was the one where I felt like I had to take that and absorb it. From that point, I acted like I already had 100 hits and a long-lasting career.
You manifested it.
From the beginning, I treated every step like, “This is it, I love it, thank you, I’m grateful. This is a blessing.” That’s what I mean, not going in with any expectations but working hard and know it’s going to work.
You didn’t worry about peaking?
I couldn’t because words are powerful. You have your moments and you work through it. To get to where you’re going it takes so many people to be involved, it’s a learning process to progress. You need to work out what you want out of it.
Last year Zaytoven revealed Beastmode 2 was almost titled I’m Good Luv, Enjoy—will we ever see a project with that title come to fruition?
Man, who knows, life is life.
Did it surprise you that that interaction became global catchphrase?
I’m not shocked by anything anymore, nothing surprises me.
How would you describe your contribution to the culture?
I want to be remembered how I’m remembered. I’m forever, man. I can’t see it right now because I’m still impacting. I feel like I haven’t impacted enough. People saying my influence is this and that, and it’s just like, certain things I didn’t know I was even impacting like that. I was just doing me. When you start impacting it can be so powerful.
I just want to be able to critique it more. The next steps I take I want is to be able to critique [what I do] so that if people want to take the good from me, then they can. Take the good and use it to become a better person. But I’m still trying to find my way.
Did you set out to be a chart-topping artist? Was that your vision?
Not at all, I just wanted to make music. I wanted to be heard and have a voice in the music industry.
How’s the fame?
I enjoy it because it’s my life, I love my life, I love the way I live. And I’m a down-to-earth guy, I’m humble—but it makes you more closed off. You have to do certain things and move in certain ways, because these are the industry standards. I was never the dude who wanted to live by certain standards.
And like you say the impact, you have to watch how you do this and that … I was just a carefree guy my whole life. Making music, I was carefree, and then when you have success? You can’t be carefree. Once you reach a certain level, you can’t be carefree anymore. And me trying to change that has felt like [walking] a thin line.
How was navigating that? Have you had a really definitive support network to lean on?
No, I’ve had to learn from my mistakes myself because there was never anyone to talk to. I came from the streets before I made it. Everyone around me was from the streets. I was the only one who made it, then other people found their way. There was never a go-to person, I had to learn myself.
So what are you most proud of?
I’m proud of the people who came from my career who are still around and doing good. You don’t want to see anybody as you go through life and accomplish certain goals, you remember people who deserved it or were hard-working and you want to see their hard-work catch up with them. You want to see them do good. When they achieve their goals, what they want in life. That’s what I’m proud of.