For a superstar who entered the rap game in the 2010s like a freight train, it’s hard to envision the fiery locomotive that is Future Hendrix ever slowing down. But now, after six No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 (including 2019’s The Wizrd), Future is taking a moment to help out the younger generation, in collaboration with 1800 Tequila on their Vol. 2 of 1800 Seconds project.
“Right now, I’ve been in the game for over ten years, and just me sharing my experiences and my knowledge and moments throughout my career with other artists and making this whole campaign — it’s a real big deal,” the Atlanta superstar tells Billboard inside Long Island City’s Gum Studios.
With a new decade quickly approaching, Future’s decision to lend his masterful ear and sonic guidance to aspiring artists will not only steer the 1800 Seconds campaign, but his own imprint, Freebandz — which currently houses acts such as Zoey Dollaz and Doe Boy.
“One of my friends was like, ‘You do a great job being in the studio and recording a lot, now it’s time to take things to the next level by just being the master of timing — showing up,’” Future says, while scarfing down his plate of fried rice.
Billboard caught up with Future a month before the passing of his WRLD on Drugs collaborator Juice WRLD to speak about his goals as an executive, the best advice he’s received, his Atlanta rap Mount Rushmore and how his mixtape run changed his career for the better.
You’re doing this 1800 Tequila collaboration. What made you decide to pair up with them?
We’re doing a partnership, and just being able to brand some of the artists on my side — it’s a good deal, and it’s a good situation. Me being a CEO and me being an executive in the game for a minute, when they presented it, I felt like it was a good time for me. Timing is everything, so it was the right time for me to be a part of this partnership. If it was any time earlier, I would have been like, “Damn, this not even me right now.”
What do you feel you bring to the table from a mentor and executive stand point to these young artists?
Just from my experience, from sonically just knowing the sound and being a student of melody, and being able to learn it over the years from some of the best in the game. Knowing the music and knowing the production side of things as well as being an artist and being a writer. Just being able to show my instincts and give my opinions, it just comes from experience.
With you being well-established at this point, who would you say you still look up to as a mentor, or someone you call up when you need some advice?
I’ll probably call up and get advice from Nas. I could get advice from so many people. Drake, Meek [Mill], man — even from Sylvia [Rhone], to [my manager] Anthony [Saleh], my lawyers, one of my good friends Stan… At this time in my life, everybody been around me for a minute, so everybody’s one phone call away.
What’s the best piece of advice you received from an executive lens in 2019?
Best advice is probably just to do everything at your time — but at the same time, if you’re already doing it right, just be a master of timing. Get things done sooner if you want to get to the next level. One of my friends was like, “You do a great job being in the studio and recording a lot — now it’s time to take things to the next level by just being the master of timing. Showing up.”
You hit a big milestone this year, with Monster turning five and hitting streaming services. What would you say is the proudest moment you can remember from crafting that mixtape?
Nobody knew I was recording it. Nobody was really thinking about whether it was going to come out on a major label, they really wasn’t f–kin’ with it at the time. Just being carefree of what you’re recording and just recording the whole ‘tape. There was no pressure. Nobody was trying to figure out a date and I had no certain date I had to meet. It was just unexpected and I just put it out.
You went on a monster run, no pun intended, when you dropped Monster, Beast Mode, and 56 Nights.
I dropped 56 Nights on the stage. Nobody knew we were going to put it out. Only person who knew we were going to put it out was me and my DJ. We were on the stage, it was in San Francisco, and we dropped it like, “Matter of fact, we got a mixtape dropping right now.”
Everybody was looking around like, “Damn, you just dropped Beast Mode and you got another one coming out right now?” I’m like, “Yup.” At the time, they thought it was the craziest s–t I could do, because I had just put out some music, and then I ended up dropping something that night and nobody knew. 56 Nights wound up being one of the biggest mixtapes.
It just goes to show that you gotta do s–t your way. Do what you feel in your heart. If you feel it’s right in your heart, it’s gonna work. That’s what it was about for all three of those mixtapes. I felt that I just wanted to put out music. It wasn’t because I was trying to get a big advance, or I was going to get some show money from this. It was just me dropping mixtapes, mixtapes, mixtapes, every two to three months.
When you went on that run dropping those mixtapes, I felt like it was the perfect way to lead up to DS2. Looking at the mixtape game now, how would you describe it?
It ain’t no way to describe it, because I’ve been out of it for so long, and I’ve been trying to do it in a politically correct way since DS2. Every artist has their own setup and every artist should have their own blueprint. Take some good from my way, add it to your way, and make your legacy and moments different.
Every career is different, and everybody has a different outcome and how they want their career to be, and different goals that they set. It might not have worked for you, but it did for me. I won’t shy away from it, I’ll just take the good and add it to my campaign and try to find a way to make it work.
The Wizrd was your sixth No. 1 album. What makes this one special compared to any other album that went No. 1?
The Wizrd was an album that I just wanted to make with every different style and sound throughout the whole album, without trying to focus on whether it was going to be a hit. I just wanted to make a complete album that was a sum of the beginning to the end — because that was the final album of that deal I did with Epic. To just put every album that I did at that time into one album, I just wanted to find a way to capture every moment of my career into that one album. That’s what The Wizrd was about.
How do you still have that rookie mentality in terms of your output despite your success?
That’s how I came in. That was the formula. Older people always tell me that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
As far as the tour you had with Meek earlier this year, what would you say was your favorite moment?
We were just gambling every night. The hardest thing to do was to get me and him on the stage because we were backstage gambling. We were either shooting jump shots, pitching quarters, shooting dice, anything that had to do with betting. We would just bet anything.
Speaking of jump shots — your jump shot is still looking good. I was watching the “Last Name” video and you still got the form, man.
Yeah, I still got my jump shot. I don’t work on it as much as I should, but I still have it.
Let’s talk legacy. How would you describe the 2010s for you as far as what it meant for your acceleration to where you’re at now, being this superstar?
It’s all about being consistent, staying consistent and staying in the studio. Keep having that drive. I know some people lose their drive [amid] the expectations of everyone around you and everyone’s expectations of you. Being able to just level up each time around. You just have the keep that drive, and stay hungry and stay ambitious.
You have this knack for collaborations. We’ve seen what you did with Juice WRLD, Drake and Young Thug. Why is the art of collaboration so important to you?
Collaboration is just about feeding off of each other’s energy and level of competition and creativity. I like to create, and bounce off each other’s ideas, and having that partner that you gel well together with. Y’all bounce off each other’s ideas, and make each other better and sharpen each other’s skills.
Lastly, if you could give me your Mount Rushmore for ATL rappers, who would you choose?
There are so many. For me, I studied the game so much. There’s Rico Wade, then there’s Dallas Austin, Unk’s camp, The Attic Crew, Rahim the Dream, you got so many people that came up under them.
I’m surprised you didn’t put yourself in there.
Those are just the people who came before me. I’m still doing this s–t. I don’t want to put myself up on that mountain. I’m a space rocket, over the mountain. N—a, I created space. [If] you’re an OG, I’ma always acknowledge that, because that’s where this s–t came from. There wouldn’t be no me if it wasn’t for this.
I’m so deep into Atlanta that it’s like, it’s gotta be the Rahim the Dream, the Rico Wade, Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, Big Unk. I came at that generation where I was actually listening to all that s–t. Then, I was also listening to the whole No Limit, Cash Money, West Coast and East Coast music. We listened to everything. I listened to Wu-Tang Clan, Silkk Da Shocker, Lil Wayne, OBG, Biggie, Jay- Z.
What’s the last album you listened to?
What about the last album that gave you chills and made you say “ooh”?
I really f–k with Post Malone’s [Hollywood‘s Bleeding] album. The melodies, the wordplay, it was great. The last album that made me go “ooh,” I feel like Meek Mill verses on Championships, be like “ooh.” He was saying some s–t.