On an eight-hour flight from London to New York City on a gloomy Friday (March 3), Future is sitting towards the cockpit of a private jet, occupying a two-seat row by himself as his entourage around him catches some shuteye. He's just ordered a drink in a champagne flute and seems comfortable, alert even, despite a whirlwind schedule.
Two days prior (March 1), after leaving the set of The Ellen DeGeneres Show in Los Angeles following a performance of "Incredible" off his latest album, HNDRXX, Future flew to England, where he performed a high-octane set at Shoreditch hotspot The Village Underground. His performance was a quick trip through his lengthy catalog, from earlier cuts like "Codeine Crazy" to hype anthems ("Jumpman," "March Madness" and "Commas"), as well as a short snippet of newer material, like his self-titled album cut "Mask Off." Now he's off to New York to appear at a Reebok Classics pop-up event in Manhattan before flying to Paris for Fashion Week on Sunday (March 4).
#marchmadness in londontown with @future + @reebokclassics #zokurunner (via @billboardhiphop)
A post shared by adelle (@adelleplaton) on Mar 2, 2017 at 4:11pm PST
His overseas show celebrated his partnership with Reebok Classics and the launch of their latest sneaker, the Zoku Runner, the legacy brand's first Ultraknit shoe which pays homage to its heritage in past decades with a comfy cushion sole made of -- ironically, to a hip-hop fan's delight -- DMX Foam.
The biggest current milestone for Future, however, is his release of two albums in back-to-back weeks: Future on Feb. 17 and HNDRXX on Feb. 24, his fifth and sixth studio efforts, respectively. At the time of this interview, Future had hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200, while HNDRXX was well on its way to reaching the top -- an unprecedented feat. Notably, forecasters predict that not only will HNDRXX reach No. 1 this week, but Future will only move down one notch, which would make his releases the No. 1 and No. 2 albums of the week. He's also taking both projects for a spin on his forthcoming Nobody Safe Tour, where he tells Billboard he will be bringing a live band along for the first time.
"I'm on Cloud Nine right now. It's only been two weeks," Future told English hip-hop veteran DJ Semtex on the sneaker's actual launch day at a Reebok Classics event (March 2) in London before his show. He adds of his collaboration with the shoe company, "I feel it was a good time for me to come out with Reebok, 'cause no one was giving it attention... It's a classic brand."
Before his Manhattan appearance at the pop-up event at Reebok's Union Square store to extend the Zoku Sneaker celebration, Future briefly spoke with Billboard on his private jet about Reebok's latest footwear, his plans to release more projects this year amidst rumors of a third album, his back-to-back album release strategy and his hopes for a Grammy nomination.
Billboard: You recently partnered with Reebok to help celebrate the release of the Zoku sneaker. What stuck out to you first about the shoe?
Future: How light they was. It was comfortable. When I wake up, that's what I want to put on when I'm going to the studio.
What kind of accessories or outfits would you pair them with?
I like to wear joggers. You could also wear jeans, depends on if they fitted.
Beyond the Reebok partnership, you just dropped two albums in two weeks. HNDRXX is on its way to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, which, if accomplished, would make you the first artist to debut in the top spot with back-to-back new albums. What sides of Future do you think each album represents?
The Future side just represents me as my past and everything that I've been through. It's a reflection of the club side and more up-tempo. The HNDRXX side is just more me personally -- everything I done been through personally to where I'm at right now in life.
When was the light bulb moment when you decided you would hit your fans with back-to-back projects?
I just reflected on it and was thinking about doing this since the end of last summer. I started thinking about how I wanted to put the project out.
Were you confident that each project would be successful chart-wise?
With the timing of the music, I didn't know because it was so much music coming out. I wouldn't know the space and timing that I would have for the music.
There were rumors that a third album would be released. Do you plan to drop any more projects this year?
Not right now.
On HNDRXX, you reconnected with both The Weeknd and Rihanna. What is it about each artist that helps make your creative process stronger when you collaborate with them?
The Weeknd came with a record ["Comin' Out Strong"] that pretty much summed up the whole [HNDRXX] album. It just made me want to tell the complete story [of my life]. It was one of the last songs that I ended up getting for HNDRXX.
The Rihanna collaboration [for "Selfish"] came about from me just playing her the record. She fell in love with the song. She was like, "I want to be a part of this record," and ended up going to the studio, laying her vocals down and it came out amazing.
What can we expect from your forthcoming collaborations with Chance the Rapper and Nicki Minaj?
I just want to be able to connect, create and do more features with different artists and just see where they take me as far as my creativity level and just being able to spread it out.
A post shared by Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) on Feb 20, 2017 at 3:29pm PST
A post shared by Future Hendrix (@future) on Feb 27, 2017 at 9:02pm PST
That explains why you've also done songs with Ariana Grande and Maroon 5. Is there any artist outside of hip-hop who you think would kill a Future collaboration?
Probably Coldplay. They're super melodic, their wordplay's tremendous and I feel like [a collaboration] would be a great, standout song. At the same time, whatever collaboration I come with, I want to make sure it's a great record first.
Beyond making history on the charts, do you hope these two albums will lead to Grammy nominations?
Yeah, I hope so. Sky's the limit. I'm wishing for the best.