The Atlanta-based rapper named Future has become an influential figure in hip-hop and pop over the last couple of years, writing songs for Rihanna and Ciara, and landing guest spots from Miley Cyrus, Pharrell and Drake. Just before he put out his brand new album, titled Honest, he spoke with Frannie Kelley and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, the hosts of NPR Music's Microphone Check, about standing out from the crowd and his apprenticeship with Atlanta's long-standing Dungeon Family.
"A lot of people see Future as this super fast, pop chart-climbing artist," says Muhammad. "But what you may not really understand is that he comes from a very rootsy, spiritual, intellectual organization from Atlanta: the Dungeon Family. Outkast, Cee-Lo from Goodie Mob, the whole Goodie Mob crew."
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The Atlanta-based rapper named Future is influencing the music you hear in the present. He's appeared on songs with Pharrell, Drake, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus. Future spoke with the hosts of NPR's Music's Microphone Check, Frannie Kelley and Ali Shaheed Muhammad.
FRANNIE KELLEY, BYLINE: Future is a rapper who doesn't always sound like he's rapping.
ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD, BYLINE: Yeah. I think it's more like rap singing, singing rapping. Reminds me of some of the blues, like being on a chain gang, kind of chanting, soldier marching, and you're singing but you're rapping, talking, relating emotionally.
KELLEY: Emotionally wrenching.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)
MUHAMMAD: He sets the tone, establishing the mood, really, of the song's spirit.
KELLEY: When we talked to him, he told us that he doesn't write songs so that they fit in with everything else on the radio or in the club. He wants his music to change the temperature of the room.
FUTURE: You want to be able to say, man, when I play this in the club, I want the whole club to change. When everybody's just talking to each other, when they hear this, I want everything to just get quiet.
KELLEY: So he shows up on these songs with big pop stars. He'll be on a song with Rihana, a love song, but there'll be sort of a dark undercurrent.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE SONG")
RIHANNA: (singing) I want to lay me down. I need to know. I need to know. Oh.
FUTURE: (singing) I don't want to give you the wrong impression. I need love and affection. And I hope I'm not sounding too desperate. I need love and affection.
MUHAMMAD: A lot of people see Future as, like, this super fast, pop chart-climbing artist, but what you may not really understand is that he comes from a very rootsy, spiritual, intellectual organization from Atlanta: the Dungeon Family. Outkast, Cee-Lo from Goodie Mob, the whole Goodie Mob crew.
KELLEY: So he came up under these guys who had great pop success being total weirdos. Like not worrying about the in-crowd at all. And so there's this song on his new album that doesn't sound like any of the rest of his songs and it features Andre 3000 from Outkast. It's called "Benz Friendz."
And although they are talking about cars and women, it's not in the way that you would expect them to.
FUTURE: I don't want a materialistic friend. I want something that's real. I don't want a friend who's just here for the fame or for the money or the cars that I'm driving.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BENZ FRIENDZ")
FUTURE: (rapping) All you gold-diggin, diggin' grave yard loser, ain't none of my cars American, King of Zamunda. Let's have a heart-to-heart, drink wine, make art. Backseat of the Benzo the AMG. Can you love a thug? It's all make believe. Pure fantasy, I see through it easily. I told that girl I don't give a damn about no rim, babe. I told that girl I don't give a damn about no rims.
MUHAMMAD: Well, he definitely is shifting the mood with that song.
MUHAMMAD: No doubt about it.
KELLEY: It's a complicated mood.
MUHAMMAD: They sound like they're have a lot of fun though.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BENZ FRIENDZ")
FUTURE: (rapping) Told that girl I don't give a damn about no Lambo and I don't want no (unintelligible). Told the girl I'm about to sell the Porsche, I'm tired of it.
INSKEEP: Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Frannie Kelley of NPR Music's Microphone Check. You can hear more of their conversation and more from Future at NPRmusic.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.