Website: TheFader
Twitter: @NomiZeichner
Favorite Rapper: Future

When people ask how I got into rap, the story has always been OutKast. It essentially boiled down to the Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik interlude "True Dat," which says an OutKast is "looked at differently," "fuck being anything else," and to "take back your existence or die like a punk." Preached by Big Rube, "True Dat" isn't even a proper rap song, it's just pure spoken word shit talk witnessed by Andre and Big Boi.

Growing up, I held both men up like big brothers, the moral compasses by which I should live my life and judge all rap. I was fond of Big in particular, maybe because he led my favorite songs—"Slump," "Hootie Hoo," "West Savannah." In the stupid New York Times "granola vs. gangster" binary, Dre was the visionary—but to me Big was always funnier. I liked that he talked about his feelings and family with a wide-open plainness, not in clever tangles. When he collaborated with the Atlanta Ballet in 2008, I flew home to Georgia from college and stood up with my entire family for an ovation on opening night.

A couple years later, with some luck and by surprise, I started writing about rap as a job. I heard Future through a coworker and fell hard on first listen. The Dungeon Family roots—he's Rico Wade's cousin, and started rapping as Meathead in the blink-and-you-missed-them Dungeon Family group Da Connect—helped me explain my excitement about Future's music to other people. But I don't like him because he sounds like them.

Future stubbornly makes it so that he doesn't sound like anyone has ever sounded. He's a passionate optimist; happily wrecking his voice, slurring grand emotions, and holing up in the studio. When the beat drops out on recent buzz single "Sh!t," and he croak-screams "YOU A GOON YOU A GOON YOU A GOON," his vigor's heart-stopping.

Big and Dre were important guides as I grew up, but I love Future because he feels like an adult peer. He's trying to live a great life on his own terms, and that's what OutKast were always about too. The energy on "Sh!t" is an ecstatic reminder of that old "True Dat" refrain: "It's only so much time left in this crazy world." Don't blow it.