Future's Atlanta birthday bash was slated to divulge new music from an album titled "Forever or Never"-- as it turned out, it was the latter.
I arrive to Future’s 36th birthday party a little before 10PM to a line of people already waiting at the door. I speak to the bouncer, who jovially grills me about why I’m here and tells me I have to wait in line. I decide to inflate my sense of self-importance and make a call to my contact at Freebandz, who comes to the door to tell the bouncer to let me in. This is probably the only time I’ll ever be able to skip to the front in any sort of line involving a bouncer.
As I enter, there’s a large projection of the words "FOREVER OR NEVER" (expected to be the title of Future’s forthcoming album, a title he first revealed to fans way back in the summer of 2016) set to a backdrop of clouds, as well as a gigantic egg that will later be inhabited by a model. Inside, the room is sparsely populated, but already filled with blunt smoke. I head to the bar, which is only serving tequila. They do not have soda water, but they do, however, have “Premium Hydration Alkaline Water.”
Much of the venue is decked out with fake flowers and greenery. A garage door covered by a white curtain and guarded by a bouncer opens and closes to let out dancers, models, and other VIPs. Women clothed in feather bikinis walk around the venue while ballerinas climb and spin around on pieces of cloth hanging from the ceiling, like some sort of Freebandz version of Cirque du Soleil. I note that the DJ is playing exclusively Future. He eventually switches to “Ballin” by Roddy Rich & DJ Mustard, then immediately back to more Future.
The event "officially" begins with birthday wishes from Future's friends, family, and mother. More and more people begin to file in and fill the room. Though this was supposedly an “all-black, semi-formal” event, many people have a loose interpretation of what this means: camo hoodies; Timbs and red flannels; all-white tracksuits with metallic silver shoes and fur coats. There is what appears to be a 16-year old wearing a hoodie that says “ABSENT” spelled out in sequins, as well as socks and sandals. He is my favorite guest.
I eventually strike up a conversation with someone who tells me they’re a friend of Future. I ask if he knows when Future's supposed to come out to allegedly make an announcement about Forever or Never. He says he doesn’t know anything about that and asks me if I know how long the party lasts.
After grabbing another drink, I sit down for a moment, and a petite woman asks me if I have a spare Backwoods. I lament that I do not, but we get to talking about why we are at Future’s birthday party, and she tells me she works for a label as a songwriter. We speak about goals, ambitions, and networking, and she advises me to “talk to anyone with a chain on (no cap).” She orders a hookah for her crew, which they use for about ten minutes before they get a call that that someone is here with Backwoods and all head outside. They do not return.
No less than 30 seconds after they leave, two college-aged women ask me if they can smoke the hookah. I tell them it’s not mine but sure, and they admit they were watching our table and waiting for an opportunity. When I ask why they’re here, they smile and point to a friend and tell me that they “made it happen.” They’re clearly just excited to be here, and it’s somewhat refreshing to speak to people who aren’t trying to network or up-sell me on their importance.
I get up in search of a bathroom, another drink, and more Premium Hydration Alkaline Water. At this point in the night, the men’s restroom is full of people rolling and/or smoking, and approximately zero people using the bathroom. At the bar, I run into someone who recognized me from the line outside who tells me he’s a classically trained pianist and engineer. He introduces me to producer M16 of “Duffle Bag Boy” fame, who shows me Luh Soldier’s Instagram.
As I speak to more and more people, I find that when I tell them I’m a writer, most assume I mean “songwriter,” which is perhaps the only context this would ever happen to me. When I clarify that I’m a journalist, they often ask for my contact info for artist promotion. One person who asks me for my number makes a point of taking out both of his iPhones and telling me that one is dead so he has to use the other one.
At some point, Future makes an appearance to snap a few photos by a set of giant angel wings plastered on the wall that read “Forever or Never” (yes, those Instagram-influencer-photo type angel wings). Someone from the roped-off VIP area throws hundreds of one dollar bills in the air. The DJ is still spinning almost exclusively Future, playing songs from nearly every album and mixtape from the original Dirty Sprite all the way up through The WZRD, including his recent single “Last Name” with Lil Durk.
Around 2:30, the DJ stops spinning and the lights go on. Most people immediately clear out, leaving the room almost surreally empty in comparison to how packed it was moments ago. I hang back for a bit just in case something else is going to happen, but after about 15 minutes the bouncers start ushering out the stragglers. I leave with no news of Future’s new album, but lots of phone numbers and instagram handles from people I’ll probably never speak to again. Future’s birthday party is a place where everybody is somebody, or wants to be somebody, or wants you to think that they’re somebody.