I met with Chad Future a few months ago on the set of “Rock the World” at around 9:30 p.m. I stumbled onto the set holding two bottles of champagne and a vanilla cake with “You did it!” scrawled amateurishly in chocolate along its bottom edge. Future had emailed me a few days ago with their schedule; assuming they were on track, they had been on set since at least 9 a.m. with no intention of stopping until the shoot was over. Smaller artists and companies don’t have the same luxuries the Big Three can afford: multi-day movie shoots, extravagant locations, actual pyrotechnics. I figured the cake and champagne would provide some consolation from a grueling work day, what with the glamour and lifestyle of these big-headed entertainment types. Much to my surprise, I found out less than 15 minutes after arriving that Future is: (1) hardly a big-headed entertainment type, (2) does not treat his work as Work, and (3) doesn’t drink.
By the time we sat down, Future was still in high spirits and certainly in a much better mood than an average person would be after listening to your own voice played back to you for the past 12 hours. It had occurred to me before that everything I had assumed about the infamous Chad Future was probably littered with inaccuracies but after conducting the interview, “foot in mouth” is a definite understatement for myself. Despite fandom’s very vocal opinion towards him, Future’s all passion, drive, and opportunity. It would be a shame to judge a dude badly for that.
For the Soompi people that might not be familiar with you, please introduce yourself.
What up y’all, my name is Chad Future. I’m from Detroit Michigan, born in Detroit! I live in LA now and I’m an A-Kpop artist which is American pop blended with Korean pop. I got really inspired by Kpop but [my music] has its roots in America because I’m not Korean, I’ve never even been to Korea, actually! So for me it’s a blend. In a way, it’s combining the best of both worlds.
Tell me more about your single.
Today we are filming the video for “Rock the World” featuring Ravi from VIXX. The song is very powerful! I think the message of the song is international music; Ravi’s verse is all in Korean, and my verse is in English and I have two lines in Korean that I rap as well. It’s a really nice blend of both styles and cultures together. It’s produced by a Korean producer called A-Dee, he’s a good producer and friend of mine. It was also co-written by Drew Ryan Scott (producer of Rainbow “So Cool,” TVXQ “Tone,” Seo In Guk “Shake It Up”). He also did a few of VIXX’s songs and is in my opinion, one of the most prolific Kpop producers out there. It’s really interesting to me because he’s not Korean either! So it’s a good blend because we have some really amazing producers and writers who are American and Korean. The song was recorded in November when VIXX was here for their Starlight tour, so the day before their performance in LA we recorded it in a top secret studio in Hollywood. That’s when I got to meet Ravi for the first time! And the song! It’s my favorite song I’ve done so far, and when I listen to it, I feel like it really exemplifies what A-Kpop is, it really illustrates what my concept has been.
What do you hope to accomplish with this single? How do you plan on releasing it?
We have big plans to roll out a few different singles! “Rock This World” is gonna be the lead single off of my mini-album that’s gonna be out later in the summer time. I also got a track called “Got It Figured Out” with Aron from NU’EST. He was in town about two or three months ago to record that song and video with me. Aron really exemplifies A-Kpop too because Aron was born in LA but works in Korea. We really hit it off since he’s from LA; he’s a homie. That single is produced by Ichiro Suzuwa, who is formerly of Duble Sidekick (Sistar’s “Loving U,” B1A4 “Tried to Walk,” B.A.P. “Stop It”).
Everything in my project is really coming together so amazingly because I had this idea maybe four years ago to do Kpop as an American. Everyone laughed at me in the beginning; “You can’t do kpop!” and I’m like, “Ah, but I love it.” So I’ve been working towards this goal for four years now – even longer before then – but really on just this one thing. So to see it come together now is really a gratifying experience for me. I get to see my dream come to life, and being together with Ravi, it’s really like, “Wow, it’s real.” We get to hang out and spend time together and it’s just really cool! I hope this story inspires people too, because a lot of people, maybe they have a dream too. They have a dream… they wanna do something that seems impossible. When most people, being an American Kpop artist is impossible, like, “You’re white, you can’t do Kpop, that’s impossible, you’re stupid.” They’ll hate on you, whatever. But I hope through this I can inspire people to be more motivated to follow their dreams too no matter what it is like, “I really wanna be a fireman, but it’s impossible because of this.” But you know what, if I can do this, then imagine what you can do. so i really want to continue doing this even more so just to inspire people out there that they can follow their dreams too.
So speaking about that dream, am I allowed to ask about Heart2Heart?
Yeah, for sure!
May I ask… whatever happened to that?
You know, with Heart2Heart, that was my first try at all of this. Because like I told you, I am passionate about what I do, I’m passionate about Kpop, I’m passionate about music, I’m passionate about combining American pop and Korean pop. What I think people need to realize is that no one knows the answer yet. I don’t know the answer, you don’t know the answer, no one knows the answer of how exactly to how to bridge the gap and combine american Kpop and Korean pop. so, Heart2Heart was just the first try because I knew in my head “I don’t know if this is right or wrong. I don’t know if this is right way to go or the wrong way to go but I have to try it.” And I think in life that’s the most important thing, that maybe you don’t know if it’s right or wrong but you have to be bold enough to try it. I’m still proud of the video! People need to realize that we did that ourselves. I paid for that video myself, I saved up money, I paid for that video, Lance Bass did a cameo in it – I know it was reported that he was managing the group – he did a cameo. I did the video, I paid the money, there’s backstage footage of me building that set with everybody from the group. We built that set, we rehearsed ourselves, the choreographer was a part of our group and the whole project took four days to film. I edited it myself, I did all the visual effects and everything. So what people need to realize is that, yeah, maybe you thought this about it, but it also was a very honest attempt at trying because I didn’t know the answer. People really didn’t… I guess… I guess you could say love it, but it went viral and people talked about it. Still, at the end of the day, I said “Maybe I should kind of reposition.” But it was good, I’m proud of it still because I did it, I created that. It’s a really nice video. Visually, it looks like a $100,000 video and that’s an accomplishment that I proved to myself I could do this with my team.
So, that was the start of this team today, most of the people on that Heart2Heart video are still with me and all of them are passionate about Kpop too. They love Kpop like I love it so the lighting guy even has been studying Kpop for four years because nobody in LA does Kpop lighting. People in Korea do it, but not in LA! So I’ve had to, together with my team, we’ve all trained ourselves on how to do a Kpop style video with an American style. So even the lighting guy, he studies every day. The camera guy. Everyone in the art department. We’ve all started from that point and gotten better and better to where we are now, where it feels more right for everyone. Now it’s like, “Oh, this is how you combine it.” Heart2Heart was where we started, like, oh okay, let’s rehash it, let’s try this. You just gotta go for it. If you love something, you gotta go for it.
I actually didn’t know that about Heart2Heart. Wow… But bringing it back to your mini album, how many tracks are gonna be on that?
Five. We could even do another mini-album if we wanted! But there are definitely five tracks on this album. Some of the songs are solo, some features. We have another feature in the works too that we’re gonna be doing in the next couple of months, and we’re working with more Kpop producers in the next tracks. Everything’s been top notch. I only want the best and I really work hard to make sure that we get good quality stuff.
So you’re gonna be releasing this iTunes, maybe?
Yeah, we have distribution too, so it’ll be available worldwide. It’ll be available in Korea, America, Japan, a worldwide release!
So, why Ravi?
The first reason is I think if you talk about boy groups in the Kpop scene, he’s definitely one of the dopest rappers in the industry. I was talking to a lot of different people and who would be a good match, and everyone said “We think it would be cool to get a boy group rapper that would fit with your concept really well.” So we kind of took all the rappers and laid them all out and talked about them, and Ravi turned out to the be the one that would be really great. And as luck would have it, he was actually in LA when we were finishing the song so fate kind of put it together. I had help from a friend help to organize it, so it was a team effort! When Ravi walked into the studio for the first time, it was kind of surreal, like…
Like a, “Oh man, this is actually happening?”
Like “This is so crazy!” I was so nervous, too!
Yeah! [laughs] I think we were both nervous because Korea and America is different, you know? Like when you shake someone’s hand in America, it’s like “Oh, what up?” Bam! [does hand motions] But in Korea, they bow. So when we first met each other, it was like this weird limbo where I was kind of bowing and slapping high five and he was kind of like shaking my hand. We both just wanted to make a great song!
How long did it take for you to record that?
Well, it took me a long time. But Ravi recorded maybe 20 takes and was in there for about an hour and a half. In my opinion, he killed it. He did amazing. His rap sounds so cool in the song.
It does actually.
It sounds so cool. Like, the demo exists in English; I performed the second verse in English at KCON and I like the song, the song is good. But when Ravi came on and did the second verse, the song got so much better. I was like, “Oh. This is it.”
Did he write it?
He wrote it. Ravi writes all of his raps. I wouldn’t say it’s unusual for a Kpop rapper to write their own verses, but I think it’s definitely commendable that he writes everything. It’s a feather in his hat and it makes him, in my eyes, even more legitimate as an MC and a rapper and he really takes it seriously. He’s an amazing producer, lyricist, MC. He’s really good, man. He proved himself. I think people are gonna like it. I played the track for my American friends and they were like, “I don’t know what he’s saying, but I love it.” It just has a feeling to it. Especially when it gets to that [fast part of Ravi’s verse] it’s like HE’S GOIN’ IN!
[laughs] That’s true! Do you have any part of the video that you’re excited to show us?
The whole experience has been something noteworthy in my life and I hope for other people as well.
Is this your biggest production?
It feels like it! It’s only a one day shoot, usually we do two days, but this is definitely one of the biggest we’ve done to date. For sure. I’m excited for people to hear the story! That’s the most exciting part for me for this whole thing, that we can really combine so much together and do things people thought wasn’t possible!
Do you consider this, like, your rebirth? Your rebranding?
I didn’t think about it like that! It’s definitely a comeback.
Comeback without a space.
[laughs] Yeah, it’s definitely a comeback without a space. I don’t know if it’s rebranding, but there’s been phases in what I’ve done.
So the first phase was the Heart2Heart band. It was doing our best to combine the two together and that was phase one. Phase two was, okay, let’s do a solo project and our best to make songs and combine the language. And then there was phase 2.5, where I really wanted to do covers of well-known Kpop songs and spin them into English. I felt very fulfilled because we ended up getting ranked #1 on Soompi’s Best Kpop Cover and we got tweeted by BAP! They reached out and said they loved it and that video has well over 400,000 views. Then the “Wolf” EXO remixes are well over 500,000… So I felt accomplished with the covers. I spent a year doing just covers and honing it in. When I saw all those numbers, I was like, “Okay, from now on, we’ll just do phase three” which is what we’re on now, actually working with Kpop artists, not just covering them. And this feels the best. It takes awhile to get there. You can’t just say “I wanna work with this person!” You have to work your way up to it. So I’m proud to say I’ve stuck with it and the team is stuck with it! We’ve gone through everything we’ve done: adversity, a lot of hate, a lot of people that said we should “kill ourselves and stop.” You have to either be passionate as hell and keep going or you quit. And I couldn’t quit.
Did you ever think about quitting?
Yeah. Of course. I think I have. You know what it was? It was a combination of the team being so supporting and saying “Man, you gotta do this.” And them saying to me, think about that girl in Indonesia who loves Kpop, who loves Chad Future. You can’t just quit. You have too many fans that look up to and are inspired by you. You can’t just quit. So there’s definitely been ups and downs and I get it harder than most people because I’m not Korean and delving into the Kpop industry. I definitely would be lying if I said if it was easy the whole time. I try to make it look easy because you can’t show them that.
That it’s hard.
Yeah. You can’t show them that. You can’t be like “Hey guys, could you be a little nicer? This is Chad Future, signing out.” So I’m grateful for my team. Everyone you see here. They all really support and care about me as a person. Not just as an artist, a person. They wanna see it happen too. They put the hours in.
Did you come up with this concept yourself, then?
I think I was inspired by the beat A-Dee made first. I met him at a coffee shop and he was like, “I think I got a beat for you, man.” And I was like, “Alright.” He gives me the iPod headphones, hits play. Thirty seconds into it, I ripped off the earphones and was like, “Yeah.” It was that instant for me. Thirty seconds. I was like, “Yeah, man. That’s the song.” I knew it right away. So when I was writing it, I just visualized a party, a worldwide party. It felt very international, it felt energetic and party-like. It might kind of be an easy concept but it really felt like a worldwide party! I really liked how my voice sounded in the certain filter we put onto it in the chorus mixed with a strong yell, and that motivated the rock vibe to it. Then Drew Ryan Scott helped create the hooks and it came together!
Then the music video?
I just wanted it to be big. I wanted 12 dancers, I wanted cars, I wanted fire, I wanted a lot of fire. I wanted fire everywhere. So the concept is powerful. Breaking cars. It’s a Kpop video. Kpop videos don’t have a lot of storyline sometimes, it’s just, “Oh, it’s cool.” I hope people enjoy it too.
What else do you have planned for other concepts? Clubbing? Fire inside the club?
That’s gonna be expensive. The next one, I have everything already planned. I’m not sure how much I should say. [laughs] Basically, it’s gonna be another high profile feature. The song itself is a dance song with a really unique twist to it and a very unique dance that people can copy and share. And it’s so cool, fun, and it has even more of that A-Kpop style and blending to it. It’s exciting!