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Meaghan Garvey

Meaghan Garvey is a writer and illustrator from Chicago currently living in New York. She has written for Pitchfork, Billboard, The Village Voice, Noisey, and others, along with occasional illustration work, and is currently working on a new and secret project. She has published illustrated Greek mythology-themed Future investigations in The Pitchfork Review quarterly magazine, and digitally self-publishes a collaborative, samurai-themed comic strip about Future, Chosen One

“Same Damn Time: Future and the Art of the Alter Ego”
From his earliest mixtapes on, Future has employed a rotating cast of alter egos, abstractly correlated to the media-shy rapper’s personal life, in his lyrics, and occasionally even in interviews. That in itself isn’t new: the rap alter ego has been a thing, from Thizelle Washington to Makaveli to Tony Starks to Roman Zolanski. But Future’s alter egos seem to function on a more psychological and seemingly therapeutic level. Early personas included the Astronaut Kid (positive and motivational) and the Wizard (his earliest and grittiest iteration). A never-released mixtape was dedicated to his Super Future and Fire Marshall Future characters. Before it was re-titled Honest, his transitional second album was intended to be called Future Hendrix, after his most persistent alter ego, a tragic romantic easily seduced by drugs and women. His latest persona is that of the Monster, a character introduced on his late 2014 tape of the same name, the pivotal release of his career. Personally, it may be his most insidious: born from the messy breakup with ex-fiance Ciara shortly after the birth of their child (named Future) and an increasingly serious-seeming assortment of addictions, his characters seem troubled and defensive, like coping mechanisms. Perhaps perversely, it’s only heightened the piercing clarity with which his songs project emotion. At times, the alter egos are clearly identified, in the form of an adlib (“Future Hendrix!” in the intro of “Deeper Than the Ocean”) or a recognizable theme in production. But increasingly, as of Monster, they’ve started to not only overlap, but to become further entangled with his own psyche. This paper identifies and investigates some of Future’s more significant alter egos and the ways in which he relies on them, artistically and existentially.

“Reflections of the Future Present”
Since his 2010 emergence as some extraterrestrial mixtape phenom fortuitously crash-landed in Atlanta, rapper/singer Future has cultivated one of the most unique and prolific voices in popular music, his warbling, Auto-Tuned rap often blurring the boundaries of speech and song, man and machine, real and unreal. In 2015 his career reached new heights: in the first half of the year alone he released the mixtapes Beast Mode and 56 Nights as well as his critically-lauded studio album, DS2, causing Complex to marvel in September that “Future already has three of the most impactful hip-hop releases of 2015.” That same month saw the release of his chart-topping album-length collaboration with Drake, What a Time to Be Alive, a work whose title felt less like a boast than an affirmation. This panel, composed of a diverse array of critics and scholars, offers a variety of responses to what we have deemed “the Future Present.” Our four papers plumb the musical and cultural implications of rap’s greatest Auto-Tune MC, including such topics Future’s position within the African American vernacular blues tradition; Future’s paradoxically confounding-yet-revelatory deployment of alter-egos; the ways Future’s distinctly inhuman voice fosters both humanity and human desire; and the lessons that an Auto-Tune rapper can teach us not simply about the current state of rap, but the future of the voice itself. “The present is histrionics,” Dave Tompkins has written of Auto-Tune. “The moment, all over the place.” Ultimately we seek a better understanding of Future’s now, and precisely what sort of time it is to be alive. 

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