The Rising
Up until recently, Future wasn't a hip-hop superstar. But now he is...
Words Vanessa Satten
Images Ahmed Klink
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Future's been waiting for his XXL solo cover for a long time. He believed he should have had it two years ago. Things didn’t play as he hoped and the rapper and media brand have been at odds ever since. Fast-forward to August of this year and Future is on fire. He’s just released his third album, DS2, which sold 147,000 copies in its first week and the project is getting rave reviews. DS2’s singles “Fuck Up Some Commas,” “Blow A Bag” and “Where Ya At?” featuring Drake are all on the Billboard charts and Future’s just gotten off Drake’s hugely successful Jungle Tour. Hip-hop fans and the industry itself love Future. The Atlanta trap king has made up for the missteps that occurred with his second album, Honest (2014) and his popularity has surged way beyond where it stood with the release of his debut LP, Pluto (2012).

So on this late August afternoon in A-Town, Future, 31, is elated. Finally he’s getting his XXL solo cover. Sure he’s about four hours late for the photo shoot at PPR Studios. But that’s how rappers often function, even if they’re excited. When Future finally shows up in a black matte sprinter van toting his adorable son, Prince, the Epic Records artist is ready to get to work.

Future is a father to five kids—four sons: Jakobi, 13, Jaiden, 11, Prince who’s almost 3 and Future, 15 months; plus daughter Londyn, 6. Baby Future, as he’s called, is Future’s child with his former fiancée, R&B star Ciara. The two were together from 2012 to 2014 and broke up last winter. Since then Ciara began dating Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson who’s been caught carrying Baby Future in several paparazzi photos including at a football practice. Future has spoken publicly about the situation most recently on Power 105.1’s “The Breakfast Club.” (Ciara’s reps refused comment for this story.)

But baby mama drama aside, Future has really come into his own. Handsome, stylish and comfortably confident, he’s established a real business team, his Freebandz label has started to grow, the shows keep coming in and the records stay landing on the charts. And he’s got his XXL solo cover.

After the photo shoot wraps (and his video for “Where Ya At” with Drake debuts on the Sony Billboard in NYC’s Times Square), Future cruises around his hometown in the sprinter van and talks candidly about his recent success, how he earned it, his dedication to being a good father and his public issues with Ciara plus more.

He’s just being honest.

Photo Credit: Ahmed Klink

XXL: So you’ve got a big hit on your hands with this new album, DS2. It’s got a way better response compared to your last project, Honest. What do you think you did differently?
Future: The whole album I recorded in Atlanta. It’s been surrounding myself with more of my family. Keeping my friends that’ve been with me since day one. It’s good for when you’re making music and your life has a huge change from where you come from, and as you get more and more success, you find those ways to stay humble, grounded. But the recording process for making this album was totally different. I was way more honest with myself, with my fans.

Why would you be way more honest now on your third album?
I feel like at the time I wanted to know the right way to do it. So I was taking a lot of advice from people that wasn’t around me since day one. They probably don’t know me as good as they think they know me. And I was just taking the wrong advice, I feel.

Because?
Because I just wanted global success. I just wanted more. I want that longevity in the career so if you don’t know how to get it, you trying to chase that high, you trying to continue to chase your dreams and conquer things you never thought you could get. And you just want to get there too soon so you taking the wrong moves to try and compensate what’s not happening.

You had your little boy, Prince, at the photo shoot. Do you find it harder to be a dad with all the success and being on the road? How are you juggling it?
Yeah, but it takes a partnership. It takes compromise to raise a child, especially with a schedule like mine. So they have to know when I come off the road that I need to see my kids. My kids need to be around me. And the times that I’m out of town, if I’m not too busy, they can come to me. Arranging that is a process, also. Planning different ways to make sure I remain in my kids’ lives, those are the moments that mean the most to me and help me work harder. They help me work and continue to be in my zone and don’t have to worry about, Do I need to cut back on something? Do I need to stop taking so many shows? Do I slow up when the money’s not slowing down? People reading, they gonna be like, “Yeah, that’s right. Slow up when the money is not slowing down? No.”

You’ve gotta get the money while it’s still coming in because once it stops…
I’m an entrepreneur. This is my life. This my career. This the way I eat.

Photo Credit: Ahmed Klink

Right, this is what you do for a living. You are a rapper and a businessman and that is what you chose as a career. I think a lot of people don’t look at it that way.
It’s what you chose as a career, it’s the schedule that you have, you know what I’m saying? Certain people, they wish they could wake up to their kids and put them on a school bus but they have to be at work before they kids go to school. That’s the life they chose, to work every day. So really, it’s just like you gotta take it. And you know, no complaints, man.

As we all know, with success comes more attention, especially when you are dating another celebrity. You were dating Ciara for two years and have a 15-month-old son, Future, together. Now you are broken up and there’s been a lot of back and forth in the media between the two of you. Ciara’s dating Russell Wilson and has had your son Future around Wilson several times publicly and you haven’t been cool with that. What can you say about your relationship with Ciara?
I feel like people have a misunderstanding and every time it get explained, it don’t get explained right.

So explain it right.
And with me explaining it, I explain it one way and then sometimes she might feel like, Hey, I’m finna go two, three weeks and think about it, let it soak in and tell my publicist I need to do an interview and explain my side of the story. And I feel like you look at certain situations two kind of ways. Okay, I’m not mad that she moved on to a new relationship. But if I’m in my son’s life, if I take full responsibility of my son, like it’s me taking care of him, I need to be able to make 100 percent decisions on who should be around him, when they be around him. [Ciara can] go to a practice or to dinner with [her] dude, sometimes [Baby Future] can go with his dad. [Ciara can be like] “Let us work on us before we bring another kid into a situation that’s not promised.”

Photo Credit: Ahmed Klink

How many other relationships you in that you felt the same kind of way and now you got a kid to think about. It’s not only you that’s taking the pictures. And when you go with your next dude and wake up and look at the pictures, you building that cycle.

I feel like, man, let it progress a little more before you bring him to it, even let me meet him before you bring him around my son. I don’t want just anybody around my son. I don’t know this character. They might be God-fearing and everything else but there’s crazy in this world, you know what I’m saying? I want to be able to judge him for myself. I want to judge the nannies that’s around my child. I don’t want to pay for a nanny that I never met, that I never got a chance to interview. That’s not the life I want for my child. I want to be involved 100 percent in all decisions made. This my flesh and blood. If I don’t want him to do something, there’s supposed to [be a] compromise or we supposed to talk about it. You not supposed to just go behind my back and do it. This is my son, too.

If [my children’s moms] took care of [my kids] financially, they could make financial decisions. They could be like, “Hey, you can’t do that because you not spending this, you not spending that. You don’t do this, you don’t do that.” You can’t say nothing, I’m being a 100 percent man. I’m taking full responsibility of my kids. So I feel like I have a say so of who they can be around, you know what I mean? Even when [Ciara] was around my kids, I made sure she met they moms.

Photo Credit: Ahmed Klink

You’re saying there’s a certain way to do all of this.
Yeah, you didn’t take a picture with none of my kids and put them on the Internet. If you took a picture with my kids, they mom was right there. I took a picture with [Ciara] with all of us and the kids, they mom there, they grandma there, my mom, my grandmother there, everyone’s there. They not in the picture, but our surroundings was, we was comfortable, we was moving as one, as a family. Decisions that I made, I made them with you and I made them with my kid’s mother.

I used to go up to my kid’s mother’s house with Cee in the car. You at they house, I’m showing you, I’m not hiding anything from them or you. It’s an open family, you feel me? There’s no secrets. Why wouldn’t you want me to meet the person that’s going to be around my son, first? Is there some flaws that you don’t want me to detect, you feel like I’m not going to like them? Is it something you’re hiding from me? But I could be wrong. There’s a lot of he say, she say but I want to be a 100 percent dad. I want to be a better father to my son. You have to allow me to do that, too. You can’t just take my privileges away and tell me to be the best dad in the world.

Can you have this conversation with her and explain all of this?
Man, because it’s too evolved. It’s like when you do a scheduled interview and you know exactly what you want to say. Like, I’m doing this interview with complete thought, not knowing what we going to talk about or how I was going to say it. It isn’t rehearsed. But once you done these interviews and you done rehearsed them, and you pretty much filtered what you have to say and what you want to talk about, it’s not real. You not letting people know the real deal, the real issue. You giving one side, you know what I’m saying?

I’m telling you right now, I’m giving you two sides. Like, I’m cool with it. I’m cool with him being around him but certain situations, we all in the public eye, you can’t move around with my son a certain kind of way, you know what I’m saying? I feel like a lot of moves are just made out of just being evil, basically. Because, you know, the success of my album and you still want to make certain moves to take the spotlight off me a little bit and shed light on a negative situation. Why would you want to put light on a negative situation? Even if I didn’t care about it, the people have a way of looking at it. Why would you want to give these people an opinion on our kid? Why won’t we just let our child be a child? Why would you put him in the spotlight, paparazzi taking pictures for the rest of his life and then when he come to a point of his life where there’s adversity right in his face, he don’t know how to take it because he feel like somebody’s going to be there to save him? You done put him in a situation where he feel like he gotta reach out, he can’t get himself through this.

The way I hold my son is gonna be way different, I don’t care if you love him the same. You think you may love him, but my love is gonna be way different. The way I look at him, the way I hold him, everything is going to be different. The things I tell him, my real feelings is going to be different. You can’t get the love of a father that’s genuine and replace it. My love is real, so why take something that’s real and something that means the world to me and try to taint it?

Photo Credit: Ahmed Klink

Especially when so many people might not have it?
Why would you want to taint our moments? Why would you want to put any negative energy even if we was happy? Even if I met dude and we was like, “Man, it’s cool.” I would’ve said, “It’s not good to be photographed within like, the first year.” You gotta think about it man, we was together for a year or two years and it didn’t happen and now we have a child together and you done moved into a relationship and have the child in your new relationship. It’s like, what’s the logic behind that?

If you want love or you looking for somebody to just take care of you and you feel like, “Man, to take care of me wholeheartedly, I’m willing to give everything. I’ll sacrifice my son, cameras, these interviews. I don’t give a fuck. I need you. I need to be at your practice. I need the stability. I need to show you that, man, I’m here for you.” And I understand, for a female, when you in a vulnerable situation, you need to find out what’s your next big step for you as a person. So you make certain decisions that might affect not only me, but affect our son, and affect our family, affect my family and the way they look at you.

Where was your dad while you were growing up?
He was absent. In and out of my life, but he wasn’t a role model. That wasn’t somebody I wanted to be like or look up to, you know what I’m saying? Finally, when I’m 17, I meet my cousin [Dungeon Family’s Rico Wade] and get a chance to hang around him. That’s when I found somebody that I admired, that I looked up to. As a young kid, you rebelling, 12, 13, 14, trying to find your way. You rebelling against your mom’s ways of how she feel like she wants to raise you and you don’t want to do it that way so you try to find your way of doing things. You feel like, Man, this is what a kid’s supposed to do and a boy supposed to do. This is how you become a man. You really don’t know because you don’t have the male figure for guidance, the proper guidance and that’s where Rico Wade came in.

Photo Credit: Ahmed Klink

What are your five best qualities and five worst?
My five best is I’m caring, sharing, I like to compromise. I feel I open up doors for myself and others.

So you’re selfless?
Yeah, I feel like I’m not selfish.

And what’s negative about you?
Sometimes I can jump to conclusions. Like, I’m a thinker so…

You overanalyze.
You might as well overanalyze than under analyze, though.

How many pairs of Gucci flip-flops do you have?
Man, this gon’ sound crazy but I had a pair, one pair of Gucci flip-flops that inspired me to make the song. But with that said, man, my grandma was over the house and she went swimming in the swimming pool and she needed some shoes. She needed some flip-flops and she like, “What you got?” and the Gucci flip-flops was sitting by the door. And she put my Gucci flip-flops on and ain’t bring them back. I’m like, that’s kinda weird. [Laughs] The album come out, then it made it a little more weird that she got my Gucci flip-flops on and it’s my grandma.

Has she heard the song?
Yeah, she heard the song. She don’t even understand it though. Like, “You don’t even understand, those the Gucci flip-flops that inspired the song that you wearing. And you my grandma and you wearing them. Ugh.” [Laughs and makes face]

Photo Credit: Ahmed Klink

So you are known to be friends with both Drake and Meek Mill. How do you feel about their recent beef? Because a lot of people kept mentioning you in relation to the beef since you are known to be cool with both of them.
It’s so crazy because people think of me so much when it comes to that situation, but I’m so far removed from it. I’m not talking to Meek about Drake, I’m not talking to Drake about Meek. That’s my 100 percent honesty. I’m staying out of that shit.

It’s the safest place.
Even if it’s the safest place, it’s like, men should deal with men, how they work they situation out. They need to do that on they own time. I’m a man. I’m not finna choose sides. I gotta make a business decision on account of me and my family. I can’t make decisions on no one else.

It seems like you have a genuine relationship with Drake. How did that come together? Is it all just musical or are you guys real friends? Not to take anything away from your relationship with Meek, but it feels like you and Drake really know how to complement each other musically and creatively.
On some real shit, I love Meek. And the Drake situation, I feel like genuinely we’ve been building a great relationship over these years. We got history together. We went on a few tours together so it was like, publicly, some things was said and it was took out of context. And even with the situation coming out, we put it all behind us, went on a sold out tour and we built from that and I feel like it’s genuine, it’s authentic and we built trust between each other. So with trust it’s just bringing us closer because in this industry, as you get bigger, I feel like you lose trust for everyone around you. You feel like the people you come in contact with, you can’t trust them. So I feel like it had to happen over years, that couldn’t happen over a few months.

It seems like now you’re a lot more open to share your feelings on the different things going on in your life besides the music—being a dad, your relationships, the personal stuff—than you were in the past. Do you think that’s true?
It’s very much true because I was shy talking about certain things and I was shy with being honest because I didn’t want people to judge me talking about fatherhood and how somebody should have my child around me. It scared me because I know there’s millions of people who are going to have probably a different outlook on it or come at me a different way, but I gotta be like, “Fuck what they think.” If people is going to like you, they going to like you. There’s people that’s not going to like you so much, they probably don’t know anything about you. How you going to focus on somebody that don’t even know a thing about you? They going to have their opinions and you just got to live life for you.