When we walk into a club and we may wonder where today's sound is from, we should know that there are few but very important artists who are responsible for the evolution of hip-hop music.
Nayvadius Demun Wilburn, aka Future, is without a doubt one of these. Born in Atlanta in 1983, he began his career in the early 2000s in the collective the Dungeon. But it was only after 2012 that his fame skyrocketed across the globe. His first studio album Pluto presented the world an eclectic artist who blended blues and rap with the upcoming and newest sound of trap music from Atlanta.
Right off the bat, Future introduced himself as an absolute novelty, making a use of auto tune different from anyone before, not to cripple his voice but to bring out a more profound and more mysterious essence. His songs are soaked in sorrow, sadness, drug addiction, and a sentimental vulnerability that creates a pleasant contrast.
Speaking of this, Future immediately began the very first artist who was able to break consensus. An artist who would unite the muscle-flexing characters of trap music to the sugary coveted tastes of pop kids. He changed trap music forever adapting to his own image.
These characteristics were amplified by the breakup with Ciara. We could fairly say there’s a pre-Ciara Future and an even more melancholic, the darkest, post-Ciara Future, the woman who made him drown.
After having a kid with her (Future Jr.) and following their very rough split up, from 2015 onwards his albums and most of his features are a succession of trap ballads in which he exhibits the sumptuous lifestyle to which the success lead him to (DS2, Evol and Future) and of R&B songs coming from the deepest sorrow, from the disappointment by a love life that the money and the success could not straighten out (HNDRXX and Save Me).
His voice and his delivery, his use of auto tune, his disillusioned cynicism, make him perfect for the character so much so that Andre 3000 will say about him "Future makes the most negative inspirational music ever”. We should not forget that he is also one of the most prolific artists of his entire generation (14 albums from 2015 to date). Countless are the collaborations he has had with other artists over the years, some of which have also helped them come up with entire albums (Drake, Young Thug and Juice WRLD).
Future is liquid pain, and the ability to make any kind of music makes him a genre-fluid and extremely dynamic pop artist, who is capable of doing everything in pop music today from trap hits that have everyone jumping in the club to the mellowest R&B. Unfortunately, most people I run across never play Future while sitting back or driving and having that sort of reflection-to-myself moment. They do that with Drake or Kanye with Kendrick or Frank. But we do need to put Future in that conversation. Actually, in my opinion, there are very few artists that showed themselves as nakedly and honestly as Future has done throughout his career.
Listening to his most important bodies of work such as the 2017 masterpiece HNDRXX or the song “Hate the Real Me” we see Future spending half of his time boasting the greatness of his public persona and the other more meaningful 50% trying to crawl out of his misery. He’s the embodiment of the Success in a capitalist society but also of the subsequent escapism from feeling despaired about how his life has gone.
At his peak I feel like he shows how grief and loss and sadness are not only part of life but feelings we need to experience and it feels like pursuing this need in art, and in life, may be redemptive as well as toxic, addicting. So maybe Future is a fiend, not of any of the drugs he’s done, but of his own sorrow.
So, why is his music so good?
Apart from his revolutionary approach to auto tune, his clever bars, his genre-less approach to music and his love for soulful pop, what makes Future special is that when dark times come (and they will) we relate not only to his music, but to his character too. We make his sense of loss our own, we feel - through his voice - all the stuff in our life that didn’t work out and keep haunting us.
Innumerable are the times we will fall, we will experience the exquisite sadness he’s all about and, once again, we will expect Future's music to keep us company, and to enhance that feeling nobody can really describe but of which we’re all a little fiend of. Words by Stefano Restelli