Nearly four decades after it first arrived in New York City, Hip Hop has become a world-wide phenomenon. Each day, a new person rocks the mic or grabs an MPC, causing the genre to snowball into various subgenres sometimes only loosely related to one another by a love for creative lyrics, a snare drum and a high hat.
Yet as Rap continues to branch out, few seem to remain true to the one aspect of Hip Hop that used to tie it all together: fun. Some, like Arizona-based emcee Futuristic, have made a living off it.
Just as the Eminem’s and the Action Bronson’s before him shook the game with laughter rather than gun shots, Futuristic has brought the basement party to the forefront of his style. It seems to be infectious; his stage dives and high energy are greeted warmly at each of his rowdy shows. But as Futuristic himself will tell you, there’s more to his raps than a simple comedy sketch.
“Well recently a lot of my shit has been more serious,” Futuristic explained. “I didn’t necessarily write it to relate to the fans. It’s my story, but it turns out that a lot of people go through the same shit that I do.”
As a young rapper trying to build his brand, he’s learned about the importance of social media, taking care of himself when he’s on the road and relating to his fans. It isn’t always easy avoiding hangovers and winning over new followers, but Futuristic spoke on his willingness to step up to the challenge.
Futuristic Details His High Energy Show On The “Golden Age” Tour
HipHopDX: You’re currently touring with Dizzy Wright. How important is it to build chemistry with the other artists you’re touring with?
Futuristic: It was cool to do the tour with Dizz, because I’ve only been on tour with artists that I’m comfortable with, so I had never really been in that position of touring with somebody that I didn’t know. But it’s important, because you’re with these dudes all day every day, so you definitely want to be cool with the dudes that you’re touring with. The vibes were all good, and everything was cool.
DX: What’s life on the road like for a young artist?
Futuristic: Definitely not what people think that it is. As far as our current situation, for the first half of the tour we had hella suitcases between me and my deejay—between all the merch, the equipment and everything else—and we packed into a tiny ass car and drove six hours to California. So it was scrunched up.
And then, being in the van is cool. We had a little bit more space, but we still had eight or nine people in a van, plus suitcases, and you’re in the van for 10-plus hours sometimes. Everybody in our van fucked around and got sick, so it’s definitely an invasion of space. You’ve got people snoring in the van; it’s definitely up close and personal. It’s not the glamorous tour style. You’re sharing germs and listening to people snoring…listening to other people’s wack-ass music. Sometimes there’s definitely arguments about the music being played, but at the end of the day, it’s cool.
DX: What’s the most important thing to learn from being on tour?
Futuristic: You learn to take care of yourself. We’re definitely partying most nights, but if you don’t take care of yourself it’ll get to you quick. We had 12 shows in 13 days, so it’s just like every night you’re at it. You do the show, go back to the hotel, shower and you’re back on the road at 4 a.m. on the way to the next city. So you’re not really sleeping in a bed. If you are sick, you have to eat right. And that’s another thing: you have to eat right, because if you don’t eat right, you’ll fuck around and get fat. So you have to try to eat semi-healthy and try to take care of yourself as far as Vitamin C, resting your voice when you need to rest it and not being hungover all the time.
DX: Your music is so high energy. Is it hard to go out there and perform with that much vigor every night?
Futuristic: No, it’s not. I love it man, no matter how I’m feeling. Because like I said, I was sick for a good three days, but I always feel like just being active makes it better anyways. And my set is really high energy...a lot of high energy and a lot of jumping up and down constantly. By the time I get off the stage my shirt is soaked. I usually go through two or three shirts.
The more energy you give to people, the more they give it back. And the quicker you get into that high energy, the quicker they’re going to get into it. We’re talking about people that you don’t know. I’m saying half the crowd knew songs of mine, and there was a whole other half of the crowd that had no idea who I was. So it’s like you’re introducing yourself, and you have to come out and be high energy as a performer.
How Fan Interaction Increases Futuristic’s Appeal
DX: How do you win over the people at your shows that have never heard your music?
Futuristic: I’m really interactive with the fans at shows. It’s different every show—sometimes everyone knows me, and sometimes almost no one knows who I am. So I ask em, “Who’s heard of me before?” And I have certain songs, like this one song “Watch My Video Bitch.” I never even put it out, but I do it at live shows because it’s like, “Okay, you’ve never seen my video, so watch my video, bitch!” And they think it’s funny.
I do a lot of comedic, fun shit. It’s entertainment at the end of the day, so I just entertain people and interact with people; I’m just there all day. Everyone else will go back to the hotel between sound check and their performance, but I stay at the venue and talk to people, meet people and get the vibe.
DX: You’re fresh off of a stop at “Rock The Bells.” What was it like being a part of Hip Hop’s biggest festival?
Futuristic: It was super cool. It was a lot to take in; there was a lot going on. I went to two separate “Rock the Bells: L.A.” and San Francisco. The first time was actually the first day I was up there, so I missed a lot of the performance because I didn’t get to leave Arizona until a little bit later. That’s the day I actually performed there though, and I did the “Rock The Bells” cypher. We stayed and caught the Wu-Tang hologram of ODB and J. Cole. J. Cole killed it. So we caught the big acts and stuff like that.
And then the second time I went, we caught all the performances, and it was all the up-and-coming cats like Action Bronson and Earl Sweatshirt, Trinidad Jame$ and Hopsin. Honestly Hopsin had the best performance that I saw all day. But it was just cool, man; I was networking a lot…not necessarily with artists, just people that are in the music business.
DX: What did you learn from guys like Action Bronson and J. Cole?
Futuristic: I guess like the [Meek Mill] song says, “There really is levels to this shit.” I mean, I’m not talking down on people, but there are some performers who I was like, “My live show is way better than theirs.” I was almost drawn back, like, “Whoa this is crazy.” Sometimes it just seemed like people didn’t really give a fuck. They weren’t really taking advantage of their opportunity, and they weren’t really going in like I thought they should have been. And there were other times, like with J. Cole, where I was like, “He’s got the full band, the backup singers, and he’s going in.” You can’t listen to his album and get what you get from seeing him live. When you perform, it’s a show. It’s entertainment. And if you aren’t keeping people entertained… At the end of the day, what you’re doing on stage is something that could possibly be memorable to someone for their entire life, so I always put on a good show and try to be entertaining.
DX: What do you see going forward for the “Rock The Bells” festival after its recent cancellation of its New York City and Washington D.C. tour dates?
Futuristic: It’s kind of crazy. From what I was hearing—because I wasn’t really up on “Rock The Bells” like I should have been until this year—but what a lot of the homies were saying was that a lot of the artists that were on it this year were on it last year too. So I would say they just have to get new artists. It’s kind of crazy that it wasn’t selling out in New York like that though. And the holograms were pretty intense; that’s shit you don’t see anywhere else. It’s just stepping their game up on the production and the marketing side.
How Futuristic Differentiates Freestyles, Cyphers & “One-Takes”
DX: You performed at one of the “Rock The Bells” cyphers, which seems to be something you relish. Is there any method to the madness? Is a lot of that pre-written?
Futuristic: The “Rock The Bells” cypher stuff, a lot of it was pre-written. So those cyphers, like the Team Backpack one that I was a part of, was prewritten. They send you the beat a week or two in advance, and you get a chance to write to it or at least vibe to it, and then I try to write a good amount of it but also talk about some shit that’s around me. So it’s like, “This is where we’re at, and this is what we’re doing.”
But freestyling is one of those things where if you don’t freestyle, you always end up throwing in old lines or certain people have certain bars. If you chill with a cat enough you’ll be like, “Yo, this nigga says the same shit a lot when he freestyles.” But you use what’s around you, and you go off of that.
DX: You have plenty of “One-Take” covers on your website. Are those freestyles?
Futuristic: It’s the same type of thing. I’ll write a 16 to it, and then if I’m in that mode I’ll just keep spitting off the top. So I’ll write it and go in and knock it out in one take. It’ll never say it's a freestyle, it’ll say a one-take, because I go in there and do it all in one take.
DX: Rappers are definitely some of the most high-volume tweeters out there. How important is social media to the Rap game?
Futuristic: Social media is damn near everything it seems like. My Facebook pops a lot more than my twitter, but I definitely stay active on everything. I don’t overdo it though. When I overdo it—those guys can do it all that they want because they have so many followers—but me, I have some followers that are like, “Damn, that dude talks too much.” And if I’m on it too much, they’ll unfollow me.
I’m on my Twitter nonstop, but I think I do one thing more than other rappers and that’s retweet people. I tweet certain things that are important or things that I feel, but I retweet everybody else so you’ll see a bunch of people that are like, “The homie Futuristic just killed the show!” And it’s like, I’m not saying it, they’re saying it. So when other people on my newsfeed see it they’re like, “If everybody’s saying the same shit, I need to see what they’re talking about.” I definitely stay heavy on the retweet, and I definitely stay heavy on the Instagram. I try to do two or three posts a day on Instagram and Facebook.
The Importance Of Social Media In Futuristic’s Career
DX: What are some other ways you interact with your fans?
Futuristic: Well, for a while I had two phones. When I was in Arizona, I used to open up for big artists, and that’s kind of how my buzz started. I was that cat in Arizona that sold tickets. Every promoter would hit me up, because I’d fuck around and sell 300 tickets to a show. So literally everybody had access to me in Arizona, and it was cool for a while and then it just got to be stupid.
But I definitely interact with people. I never turn down pictures or autographs, and I’m never too busy. I reply to people on every social network if I can. And then I stay at shows; I get there before everybody else, and I stay there after everybody else.
DX: You’ve been pushing your #WTFGANG on Twitter and other social media networks. How important is it to have a brand to rep?
Futuristic: You are who you are, but if you have something that [the fans] can rep too—something that they feel like they’re a part of—it’s even better. It goes from “Oh he’s Futuristic,” to “Futuristic, WTF Gang we reppin’ it!” None of my merchandise says Futuristic, it all says WTF, because I want people to feel like they’re in the movement and they’re in the crew and stuff.
DX: You like to incorporate a lot of witty bars into your tracks. Who do you think is the funniest rapper in the game right now?
Futuristic: I think a lot of dudes are funny without trying to be funny. But I hear Bronson is a funny dude. He’s pretty hilarious, and when I talked to him he was super chill.
DX: Aside from comedy, what other techniques do you use to relate to your fans?
Futuristic: Well recently a lot of my shit has been more serious. I didn’t necessarily write it to relate to the fans. It’s my story, but it turns out that a lot of people go through the same shit that I do. Like my song “Listen To Me.” It’s actually over the Frank Ocean “Pink Matter” beat. That’s probably my favorite song that I’ve ever recorded.
And then on my new project, T.G.I.F. I dropped this song called “Change,” and that’s some deeper shit and people have been posting on a lot about how they relate to it so well. I have a joint with Dizzy Wright called “Playing In The Rain” that’s a little bit deeper, and people have been relating to that one. It’s more of the deeper shit that people have been relating to for sure. Any time there’s something significant that happens in our culture, I throw a line out about that in a song because niggas will laugh at that because it’s relevant.
DX: How does being from Arizona influence your sound?
Futuristic: I don’t know if it has anything to do with it, because when I first started rapping out there—I mean I’ve been rapping since I was six—but the dudes out there that were big were all hood ass dudes which isn’t me at all.
I’ve always had a funnier sound or a not serious sound, but I think that comes because when I was young, I liked Ludacris. And I liked Busta Rhymes a lot, so those are cats that are funny but have hella punchlines and can actually spit.
I actually think my producer helped me a lot with my sound, but he’s not from Arizona either, he’s from Cleveland.
DX: I saw on Twitter that Krizz Kaliko endorsed your latest project. As you know, he’s on Strange Music, the independent label out of Kansas City. What are your thoughts on the music industry’s continued evolution, and how do you feel about the state of independent music?
Futuristic: I definitely think that Hip Hop went through a bad phase for a while, and the independent shit is finally moving, and it’s making it to where as a fan there’s so much out there to listen to. People that say Hip Hop is all the same—that it’s all money, bitches and hoes. Those are the people that only listen to the radio. There’s so much more out there than that now, and it’s because there are so many independent artists. The independent route is super dope, and I want to stay in it as long as possible…as long as it makes sense. I love the fact that the independent route is finally taking off.
Obviously Krizz Kaliko and Tech N9ne have been doing it for a while, but Strange Music is a well-oiled machine. I toured for Krizz for a while, and that’s why he fucks with me. We actually have a song together, and he’s on one of the cyphers with me. Strange Music doesn’t even seem like an independent label it’s so well-oiled.
DX: If you could pick any emcee to collab with, who would it be?
Futuristic: If I could get one verse, I’d want a verse from Andre 3000. It’s just so rare; no one gets Andre 3000 verses. That’d be super dope.