This is your warning to get familiar with Futuristic. The Arizona rapper has been building his internet fame and hardcore social fan base with his "nerd raps"—viral videos in which he tucks in his T-shirt, throws on a pair of thick black glasses, and raps really fast for innocent bystanders in cities like Compton.
This year he's trying to lose the viral gimmick and switch up his sound for a new album, arriving this summer. He's already dropped two singles, "Wave" and "Epiphany," featuring NF. He also linked up with the Phoenix Suns to shoot a commercial with Devin Booker for his player exclusive sneakers with Nike. The commercials mimics othe famous Nike pairing of Spike Lee and Michael Jordan. Like Spike, Futuristic suspects that Booker’s skills have to be attributed to his sneakers. Thirteen days later, Devin Booker became the youngest player in NBA history to drop 70, a milestone that only five other players have reached.
Must've been the shoes.
Complex caught up with the 25-year-old rapper to talk new music, his style, and the other artists he's listening to right now.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
You recently dropped the video for “Epiphany,” featuring NF. How did that collaboration come about?
I don’t remember who hit who up first, but I think he followed me on Twitter when I was on my last tour, and I was just like—fans had tweeted me about doing something with him and I just kept seeing him on the charts, I was like, “Let me check this dude out,” so I checked him out, and then was like, “Yo, good look on the follow, dig your stuff, you know, we should work some time,” and he was like, “Yeah, bro, let’s collab,” so it happened pretty fast.
What was your epiphany? What was the inspiration behind the song?
Epiphany is just—when I was making my last album, As Seen on the Internet, I was really focused on the wrong things, in being in L.A., getting to know a bunch of people out here, it’s like everybody uses each other, everybody is out for themselves. There’s just a lot of fake love, so my epiphany basically that I didn’t need to rely on this internet gimmick that I had anymore. Another thing was just making music that really matters, being around the people that really matter, and doing what makes me happy over things that are gonna make me—just focusing on the right things basically was the epiphany.
In the song you said your album was garbage. Do you really feel that way?
I really do not like my last album, no. And I don’t know if it’s because all the emotions that came with making it, and finishing it, and it didn’t necessarily live up to what I thought it was gonna do. I think that I had a lot of eyes and a lot of ears on me, and I don’t think I delivered what I should have, because I was caught up in this idea that I had already had for years, that I just finally was like, “Okay, I’ma do it this way,” but it didn’t really make sense anymore.
And then you dropped “Wave” this year, which has a completely different sound.
I’ve always prided myself on being versatile, and I think it's because I listen to a lot of different music. I’m not one of those guys who only listens to rap or whatever, so I've always had different stuff, I’ve just never been able to make them singles because my fan base was so stuck on, “Hey, rap fast for me.” They were so used to a certain sound, so now I’m just like, “I’m gonna do, whatever I wanna do,” and I’ve always kinda done that, but even more so, like I’m gonna focus on the records that I really like, regardless of what the sound is behind them, and my new project is going to show that even more where every song is, I don’t want to say completely different, but every song stands on its own, in a different lane.
What are the pros and cons of building so successfully on social media?
I mean, obviously, being an independent artist, that’s kind of the only thing you have, you know? So the pros to it is just being able to get your music out there, marketing it, it’s all that you have, so you have to have that, and be savvy with the internet stuff. At the same time though, I think you miss out on a big demographic, and you also—there’s people that aren’t on their phones all the time, or aren’t on the internet all the time, so you miss out on a demographic for sure. And people look at you a little different. I think the fact that I came up on the internet, I’m not necessarily—and it’s the way that I came up too, from doing, I did some remixes, I did a “Nerd Rap,” so people may watch the videos but that don’t mean necessarily that they’re fans, you know, like there might be followers that saw the “Nerd Rap,” followed me, and then never checked in again.
Are you planning on dropping an album this year?
Oh yeah, most definitely, I’m definitely dropping an album this year, sometime in the summer.
Who are some of the guys you are listening to right now?
Oh man, I’m kind of all over the place. I'm listening to GoldLink, who just dropped something that’s dope, Lil Aaron has some dope stuff, Syd from The Internet has some really dope stuff, blackbear especially. Always just been a fan of Jon Bellion, John Mayer, my homie Goodie Grace is really dope, this new girl Jesse Reyez is dope. Witt Lowry, Sampha’s new project—you know, I’m kind of all over the place.
Very eclectic man. So I saw that you recently did a commercial with my guy Devin Booker. How did that come about?
Yeah, the Suns hit me up, they wanted to obviously, kind of brand me as—‘cause I’m from Arizona—you know they wanted to brand it like, “Arizona’s biggest rapper, with Arizona’s biggest hooper,” and yeah, it looks like we’re going to be doing some more stuff too, so I’m excited about that.
How was it working with him?
It was cool, I think he was a little tired, it was early in the morning, he was a little tired, but he’s a cool dude for sure. And then he dropped 70 points right after.
What was your immediate reaction after that?
I was like let me post this picture right here!
It had to be the shoes right?!
Yeah, it’s gotta be the shoes. I was in the studio, and my homie was texting me, he was like, “Yo, D-Book has 50 something points,” and I was like, “Damn,” and then I finished the song and looked at my phone, he was like, “He dropped 70,” so I obviously had to go back and watch it again, but yeah, that’s crazy, at 20-years-old.
You seem like a pretty fashionable guy. Do you follow anyone in particular that inspires your designs?
Nah, I just kind of, I like thrift shopping a little bit, I like to be comfortable, but still, I wear a lot of colorful stuff. I’m kinda just comfortable and colorful, I guess would be the two words to describe it.
Gotcha, and do you think being original is important when it comes to style?
Of course, of course, of course. I think it’s super important, and not that it gets lost, I think that it’s like trends happen, and then people just kinda flip ‘em, and there’s not a ton of people that are super, super original, and me included, you know, people see things and it’s like, “This is tight,” so it’s hard to be original ‘cause there are so many people doing dope stuff. And everybody kinda has a melting pot of steez or style.
I know you’re big into throwbacks, give me your three favorite throwbacks that you own?
Oh my gosh, hold up, I’ma have to look. My three favorite throwbacks, I would say, the Jordan pinstripe jersey, with the Bulls, the black and red pinstripe joint, I’ma have to say, oh that one is kinda fire, yeah maybe my Iverson Georgetown jersey, actually no my Kobe Bryant high school jersey.
The Lower Merion one?
Yep, and then it between my Gary Payton Seattle jersey or my Monstars jersey from Space Jam.