Moving at the Speed of Futuristic: Tempe Rapper Makes Moves to Go National
Courtesy of Futuristic Futuristic
Hip-hop moves at the lightning-fast pace of the Internet these days, and Futuristic, a Tempe rapper on the verge of making it big, knows that better than anyone.
In the past two years, the 23-year-old Bloomington, Illinois, native has written dozens of songs, released two albums, recorded enough tracks to fill another, shot at least a half-dozen music videos, two of which have more than one million views on Youtube, and was featured in RAW Cyphers and on the Sway in the Morning radio show.
Leaning back in a chair at a sports bar in Tempe, Futuristic, aka Zach Beck, doesn't seem to have any plans on stopping soon.
"If I go two weeks and don't put anything out or don't do something, I feel stagnant," Beck says.
Everything about Futuristic moves fast. The rapper's got a smooth-as-butter flow and a high-horsepower delivery, revving up from Devin the Dude to Tech N9ne speeds at will. In the five years since he's been performing, he's already shifted from playing with a live band to just performing with a DJ and is about to make the shift back to a live band again. He dropped his latest album, Traveling Local, in early June. It was mid-July when the rapper talked with New Times; he said he had already recorded 20 songs since then.
"The album was done probably 90 days before it came out," he says. "So by the time it came out I was like, 'This is old to me.' So now I'm just making new shit."
Beck grew up in Bloomington, Illinois. When he was in fifth grade, his parents split, and a few years later he moved with his mom to Danville, Illinois, which he calls a "ratchet-ass town." His mom got her nursing degree there and then moved the family to Tempe when Beck was entering high school.
By Beck's account, his parents' separation made him grow up quickly. His mom worked two jobs trying to make enough money to keep their house, leaving Beck to take care of his little brother. In Danville, Beck started developing a sense of how to make money, and soon made enough cash gambling with his friends to lend his mother money for bills.
"I was big at collecting stuff," he says. "I never played with toys, but I always collected them."
A store in Mesa called New World Culture would sell him Air Force and Air Jordan shoes for cheap, and he would flip them to classmates. He even hustled kids out of Pokemon cards -- he collected an entire set through purchases and trades with friends that his mom eventually sold for roughly $15,000, of which he got $1000.
He would also do odd jobs for his dad, a drummer and DJ, who inspired him to value hard work and believe that anything he created had value.
"He was like, 'You have to put a value on yourself,'" Beck says. "[Now,] that's my only income. I have to sell it."
It was a lesson he would maintain as a musician. He doesn't give away his music for free (though it's all available for streaming online, from which he says he makes significant amounts of money a month). He started rapping young, performing with his brothers in a talent show in first grade. By fifth grade he was burning CDs with his songs and selling them to anyone who would buy. He refined his business sense over the years, and two years ago, he quit a job at Capriotti's Sandwich Shop and started rapping full time.