Valley rapper Futuristic arrives at one of his three houses where Mesa and Tempe intersect. Dressed in his trademark brightly colored clothing, Futuristic—born Zach Beck—jogs up to the door of the middle home.
The modest abode holds his studio and, once inside, it’s clearly a playhouse. A mirror image of the fluorescent rapper, the walls are bright, and memorabilia lines the walls. Then there’s the game room with oversized graffiti of basketball stars, old-school videogames and board games. Beck pushes aside the jenga bricks to make room at a table.
Beck has spent a decade rhyming and methodically marketing, touring and releasing his albums to amass his 1.2 million followers on Facebook.
This year is about being prolific. Beck is releasing singles each 1st and 15th of the month in 2019. He admits it does add pressure to his already-prolific self.
“I have enough music easily to do it, but I want to put out videos and dope content,” he says. “It keeps me constantly being creative and constantly doing dope stuff.”
Nobody doubts his creativity. Beck’s latest slate of singles is produced with everyday sounds and noises.
“I have a single called ‘Hibachi,’” he says with a smile. “We went to a hibachi restaurant and collected sounds from it with a recorder like this. We came back and made a beat out of that.”
Call it the musical version of repurposing.
“We make music off household items and just different random sounds,” he says. “Have you seen those rooms where you can go smash things? We went to one the other day and we did a song all out of breaking things.”
Changing his tune
Beck was born to a drummer father and a music fan mother. They relocated to the Valley when Beck was in high school; he subsequently attended McClintock High School in Tempe.
“I’ve been rapping since I was 6 years old,” says Beck, who was influenced by Will Smith, Ludacris, Eminem and Busta Rhymes.
“My family’s in music. My pops is a drummer. My older brothers—one’s a drummer/guitarist/bassist. My other older brother raps. My little brother plays drums. From a very young age, I was always around music. When you’re in a house and it’s there, you do (music) without even thinking.”
Still, he didn’t quit his day job until 2013, when he was working at Ross and an Italian deli.
“I was taking the trash out and this girl was like, ‘Hey Futuristic. What are you doing here? Are you volunteering or something?’ I said, ‘This is actually my job.’”
She advised him to quit.
“You’re going to be famous,” he recalls her saying. “I don’t remember if it was that day or maybe a couple of days later, my boss said something to me and I was like, ‘Nah, forget this.’”
When Beck toured with the 2017 Warped Tour, it proved to be life changing. It led to his current rebranding.
“I have a big platform and there’s a better way to use it than the way I was using it,” he says.
“The goal is obviously to touch as many people as possible, but I’d rather say the right things to the people I do touch and talk to them about positive things. I want to help them in their lives, instead of just being ‘The Internet Rapper Who’s Being the Internet Rapper in Warped.”
Why the change of heart?
Kids from the Make a Wish Foundation were side stage and he was almost embarrassed about the amount of profanity in his music. He quickly censored himself on stage.
“They’re looking up to me and I’m saying the worse stuff ever,” he says. “I didn’t want this 8-year-old kid idolizing this.
“I cut out a lot of the curse words. The last two songs I put out are completely clean. I didn’t purposely make them clean. I just changed the way I operate.”
His music and his career now have a purpose.
“I’m just thinking about it more when I’m writing,” Beck says. “I’m not just talking (crap).”
Beck recently returned to Arizona after living in California.
“Arizona is this untapped market and there are so many artists who want to be ‘the one,’” Beck says. “I think anytime you have that competition, it’s hard for people to support you. But now it’s more unified than ever. Since I’ve moved back, I’ve seen the change and I’ve submerged myself in it even more.
“The main thing I try to tell people here is, ‘If I win, we all win. If you win, we all win.’”
His DIY ethic is so well known that Forbes profiled him in 2016. That isn’t a reflection of his support at home.
“I think I have more support in Arizona than I used to,” he says quietly. “But I’m not trying to please anybody else. I’m just going to make dope music and cater to my fans. There are times when I think, ‘Dang. I feel like radio should welcome me a little more.’”
Beck adds he felt he had to travel outside of Arizona to get respect.
“When I did ‘Jimmy Fallon’ I was selling out shows and did my own tours,” he says. “That was when everybody was like, ‘OK, we should probably rock with him.’”
He’s learned to appreciate moments like being on “Jimmy Fallon.” After playing two shows in Alaska this month, he’ll travel to Urbana, Illinois, to open for Nelly and Twista in May.
“It’s not a huge deal, but it is because they were some of my favorite rappers when I was a kid. I’m living in these moments and reflecting,” he says.
This summer will mark a new album for Beck, and he’s starting a membership program called “I Am.”
“It’s basically just to help people in their everyday life,” he says. “I want people to be able to come in, join these communities and everybody can lean on each other. That’s missing these days.
“People will get behind-the-scenes stuff. They’ll get merchandise, different discount codes and things like that. But more importantly, we’re going to be issuing monthly challenges and life goals to help people and hold them accountable.”
Examples include running a set number of miles and living healthy.
“I want to help people live the right way,” he says. “I see it through my DMs (direct messages). I see it in the comments on my videos and just the way people act in general. Everybody wants to look up to something and be a part of something. We need a support system and a lot of people don’t have that. I’m super excited to launch it.”
He’s accomplished a lot in the 20-some-odd years. Left to conquer are touring spots with Childish Gambino and/or Jon Bellion.
“Either one of them would be really, really dope,” he says.
What’s dope for now is maintaining this multimedia empire.
“I just like to do different creative things all the time,” Beck explains. “I enjoy helping people and finding different ways to use my platform. I just think it’s exciting to grow new businesses and do different things.”
For Beck, it was never a question of if he was going to be successful.
“I always thought I would make it,” Beck says.
Now he’s frequenting Grammy Week, where he was doing interviews and collaborating.
“I’ve done a lot of dope things,” Beck says. “But there’s more to come.”