After removing his trademark sunglasses from his face, Future adjusts his voice, normally filled with boisterous energy, to a more serious tone when asked why he titled his second album “Honest” (Epic Records) due early 2014.
“I would listen to certain tracks on the album and say to myself, ‘I’m being myself. I’m being honest,’” says the Atlanta rapper/singer/songwriter. “It’s more personal, but at the same time, I’m just telling you what I’m going through. The songs are just a reflection of me.”
A lot has changed in the past year for the musician. After releasing a prolific string of successful mixtapes, the rapper dropped Pluto, his official debut album featuring the ubiquitous hits “Same Damn Time,” “Turn on the Lights,” “Tony Montana” (with Drake), “Magic” (with T.I.) and “Neva End” (with Kelly Rowland). But despite his growing profile—and contrary to today’s “rules” that you must divulge everything about yourself to everyone immediately—Future stayed on the humble, preferring to keep certain parts of his unique life private.
“[Pluto] was a part of my life I didn’t want to tell yet,” the rapper says. “I didn’t want people to know everything about me. I stayed mysterious because I wanted people to feel like they’re growing with me. There’s no room for growth if people already know everything about you. With Honest, I know what I’m doing much more.”
One listen to Honest, recorded in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York, and the maturation is obvious. The Auto-Tuned voice that defined so many of his previous hits has been scaled back in favor of Future‘s natural singing voice, which includes the dark R&B of “Never Satisfied” (featuring Drake) and an improbable interpolation of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” on the Nicki Minaj-assisted “Rock Star Dreams“. Live instrumentation—check the mournful strings and orchestral swells on “Good Morning“, the slow piano stabs of “Honest” or the acoustic guitar on “Special“—now augment the ominous, rattling bass of “White Cups” (with Juicy J) and love song refrain of the Miley Cyrus-assisted “Real and True.” For Future, Honest represents both his present state of mind lasting future appeal.
“I went into everything on this album with more depth and more thoughtfulness,” he says. “I want people to remember my music 20 years from now. I’ma make the world just a little better. People are gonna start becoming more honest because of Honest.”
Don’t get it twisted: The man who’s written, produced or recorded with Rihanna, DJ Khaled, Birdman, Ace Hood and Lil Wayne can still craft club-worthy anthems without even thinking. But Honest represents another, more introspective side to the artist. On “Real and True,” recorded in a Las Vegas hotel room overlooking the city, Future discusses his past romantic relationships with frank candor and the need to embrace and attack your fears, while “Special” delves into the work and perseverance needed to “go from the ghetto to achieving a high level of success.” “People always put a limit on how far you can actually go,” Future says. “But I know I’m the chosen one who can turn nothing into something.”
Being honest with yourself also means accepting that when you deviate from the norm, not everyone will accept you. Future, for one, has made peace with this idea, choosing to eschew trend-hopping for more timeless tracks. “Nobody’s trying to be special anymore,” says the singer. “Everyone’s just trying to go by the books and go off the trend. Nobody’s trying to set the trend and be different. They’re just giving you the bare minimum; nobody’s taking over and going over the maximum, giving you their all. And that’s when you get special people; when they go over the limit and their expectations.”
It was a life that could’ve gone in an entirely different direction. Raised in Atlanta among thugs, gangsters, drug dealers, junkies, pimps and prostitutes, Future was saved by music, surrounding himself with the influential production collective Dungeon Family. “In my world, the only way you get a porsche is from selling dope,” recalls Future. “For their world, it was music and they were just as happy as everyone else. Being able to wake up and take a first-class flight or private plane was cool to me. Shooting somebody in front of other people? That’s not cool to me at all.”
In 2010, the rapper/singer released his debut mixtape 1000, beginning an unrivaled period of prolificacy that included the critically acclaimed 2011 mixtapes Dirty Sprite and Streetz Calling. Guest spots on everything from Ace Hood’s “Bugatti” to Lil Wayne’s “Love Me” to YC’s “Racks” cemented his status as a go-to featured rapper, while writing credits on Rihanna’s “Loveeeeeee Song” and production work with Miley Cyrus and Ciara has allowed Future to surpass and shun any easy labels.
But Honest is only the next rung on an ever-growing ladder. “I still ain’t hit that next level of where I want to be,” admits Future. “I’m always looking for that next big break. I never feel like I’ve achieved that level of success that I want to achieve. It’s a blessing where I’m at, but to be where I really want to be, I have something bigger planned for my life. I can’t feel it but I know I can see it.”