2013 has been a busy year for Future, the Atlanta rapper and singer. (Or is it the other way around?) He started the year by netting the biggest smash of his career via the Lil Wayne/Drake collaboration “Love Me,” and went on to pen several other hits (“Bugatti” for Ace Hood, “U.O.E.N.O.” for Rocko) that have dominated rap/R&B radio and social media alike. He also started dating Ciara, who is now his fiancée, and who herself enjoyed a career resurgence this year with “Body Party,” a single that was, naturally, co-written by Future and his frequent producer/collaborator, Mike Will Made It.
As we slide into 2014, he isn’t slowing down. These days the man otherwise known as Nayvadius Cash is gearing up for the first-quarter release of his sophomore album, Honest, led by the instant-hashtag title track, the street single “Sh!t,” and now “Real and True,” a ballad featuring Mr. Hudson and Miley Cyrus that sounds more like Coldplay than any of Coldplay frontman Chris Martin’s actual appearances on rap songs. Along with Miguel, he’s also currently opening for Drake on the Toronto MC’s American tour, an arrangement only briefly derailed after Future told Billboard.com that Drizzy’s new album “doesn’t grab you.”
When we speak to him over the phone, the tour has a few off days between stops in Houston and Phoenix, so Future has taken the opportunity to jet back to Atlanta to spend time with his young son, who can be heard wailing in the background as we discuss going pop, the direction of his new album, and his infatuation with space. Time off doesn’t exist on his planet.
So you flew home to Atlanta today?
Yeah, I’m in Atlanta right now. On my way to the studio right now with my little boy.
How do you stay in touch with your son when you’re on tour? How old is he?
I’m holding him right now. He’s one.
Would you agree that “Real and True” is the most pop song so far that you’ve done as a solo artist, or do you not see it that way?
Yeah, it’s the most pop song I’ve done now.
Did you sit down with Mike Will and discuss the idea of doing a song that pop? How did that song come about?
It wasn’t anything that I planned. If anything, I can identify with that song and relate to it when I heard the hook first. Before I even put my own vocals on it, I connected with the record. I wanted to be a part of it, and just made it a single off my album.
Who wrote the hook?
What was it about the song that you connected with?
Just to remain true. Everybody can relate to being real or true. Somehow, someway, you want to be real and true. Even being in a relationship, or being out of a relationship, going through tough times with someone you’re in a relationship with — all those things. Basically just capturing the moment where I’m at in my life right now. To express myself in a different way that I never have. To make it great for the fans and show growth.
How do you think the upcoming album will be influenced by your personal life, like you getting engaged? Is your music coming from that place?
It’s coming from a different perspective. It’s touching on my relationship, past situations, current situations, overall where I’m at in my life. Where I’ve been, where I’m going.
In terms of a song like “Real and True,” do you worry about how your core fanbase is going to take a song like that? Are you concerned about that?
You think about it, but I can’t think about it too much. I am who I am. If I wasn’t being the person who I am, and just doing it for the sales or selling myself out… If it’s a part of me, if people can relate to it who know me, and if you follow me throughout my career, then you know where I’m at in my life right now. You can understand I’m staying true to who I am, even with it being a pop record.
What are you trying to do differently with this record, in terms of sound? You have a much bigger fanbase.
This record in particular, I just want the people to feel more connected with me, and personally I want them to feel like they understand me. Just understand that the type of music that I make is something special.
Are there any records on the album that you think people won’t expect?
I believe this entire album is going to catch people off guard. For me, it’s always been one of my pet peeves to keep people engaged and talking, and just always being interested in what I have going on. To keep the level of creativity always turned up to the max.
Have you reached out to producers or collaborators outside of the people you normally work with?
With me being 75 percent done with the album, still not being finished, I’m still working. Right now it’s all in-house, pretty much.
Mostly Mike Will producing?
Mike Will is most definitely all over this album. Pretty much the same producers — the family. We just want to make a great album.
With both “Real and True” and “Honest,” you’re doing more singing than rapping. Do you like singing more nowadays?
I just like being versatile, giving new styles and being creative.
The video for “Real and True” features you and Miley Cyrus in a spaceship. When you were a kid, did you ever dream about being an astronaut?
Somehow I’ve always been infatuated with space through music. I guess that was the [way I got into it]. I use it for wordplay. I’ve been an astronaut kid — that was one of my alter egos. I felt like I made timeless music. It was something new — nobody really ever touched on space. It was something to keep the people interested, give the fans something new. [To] have the same wordplay, but be in space.
Was that your first time ever being in an astronaut suit?
I did it for one video before, but besides that, that was my first time.
With songs like “U.O.E.N.O.” or “Honest,” how do you come up with those concepts? Are you conscious of the catchphrases?
All of those songs are just freestyles and put together. It was a special moment I was able to get out. It was my freestyles. I love that track. From the time I heard “U.O.E.N.O.,” the beat, it was something different. I love tracks that are different, that don’t sound like anything that’s out.
When you make a song, do you have a good feel for what’s going to become a hit or a concept people will grasp onto?
I’m surprised sometimes. [Sometimes] I expect it.
Can you think of a track that surprised you when it blew up?
You’re in demand as a hook writer and for features. How do you navigate that dynamic?
Right now, I’m working on my album, so I’m not doing hooks as much. But I work every day. I’m always working. I have enough material to be able to work on other projects as well as my projects.
Do you record while on tour?
I have recorded on the bus, and I also go to the studio. If I get a chance, like a day off — today I’m off, so I’m in Atlanta with Mike Will, we’re recording. But tomorrow I’m back in Phoenix. When I get off the stage, I go on a bus and I record.
When someone listens to the album for the first time and finishes it, what do you want them to think?
I want them to be able to say that I said everything I could say, and everything I wanted to say.
Cool, alright. I’ll let you get back to your son.
Daddy Day Care today, man.