Ruminations on the rapper Future, who comes to Ak-Chin Pavilion on June 28.

Music Notes: The Future of the Atlanta Sound

Written by Jason P. Woodbury Category: Arts Issue: June 2017
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Music Notes: The Future of the Atlanta Sound

While accepting the Source Award for Best New Rap group in 1995, André 3000 of OutKast famously stated, “I’m gon’ tell y’all something: The South got something to say.” More than two decades later, rappers like Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn, better known as Future, continue to prove Dré right. The rapper plays Ak-Chin Pavilion Wednesday, June 28, in support of FUTURE and HNDRXX, his dual 2017 albums.

The records demonstrate the sparse “trap” sound that defines the work of Atlanta’s current crop of hit-makers. Featuring dense synthesizers and booming kick drums, the style was popularized in the 1990s by Atlanta production team the Dungeon Family. It proved an adaptable style. Over the decades, groups like OutKast and Cee-Lo Green’s Goodie Mob added psychedelic soul touches to the template; in the early 2000s, rappers like T.I. and Gucci Mane amplified the crunch of the beats and featured lyrics about the drug trade. Trap has reached ubiquitous status – you’ll hear elements of its aesthetic in pop songs by Katy Perry and Beyoncé.

But Future represents a distinct case, offering both a tangible connection to Atlanta’s past – he was shepherded by the Dungeon Family early in his career – and indications of where the city’s sound is going next. His murky sonic landscapes are punctuated by trunk-rattling drums, and even though his voice is filtered through woozy effects, the sharpness of his flow is undiminished.

“I gotta do payroll, my check on Jose Canseco,” he raps on “Super Trapper,” one of many songs extolling living at the top of his game. Instead of using Auto-Tune to adjust his vocal pitch, Future utilizes it as a compositional tool, bending his flow into something otherworldly. The South still has something to say. Future’s inventing new ways to say it.

— Jason P. Woodbury