Future has become a house hold name for hip-hop heads everywhere. In the past year alone, he’s released 3 mixtapes, 2 solo albums, and a surprise project with fellow rapper, Drake. He’s also been one of the most heavily featured artists in the game featuring in songs with artists like Chris Brown, Meek Mill, DJ Khaled, Miley Cyrus, and Ty Dolla $ign. But what is it that allows Future to create such a large quantity of projects while maintaining such a strong positive feedback from fans and critics? Now if you’re thinking it’s because all his songs sound the same, or because his songs lack any lyrical substance then you’re terribly wrong. Although all trap music in general may sound similar to the untrained ear, real musicians know that it’s still a complex form of music that takes talent and skill.

Future, born Nayvadius Cash (I’m not sure why he didn’t choose that for his rap name) is from Atlanta Georgia. First introduced to music at a young age by his cousin Rico Wade who, as one third of Organized Noize and a member of the wider Dungeon Family collective, produced OutKast’s debut album – 1994’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. With mentors like his cousin, Future was able to develop an ear for music and understand the work ethic that it takes to become a successful artist and that my friends is where the formula for Future’s unparalleled ability starts to come together.

In a 2014 interview with The Guardian, Future was asked where he gets his inspiration from. Instead of coming up with a generic and scripted answer Future stopped the interview and asked writer Lanre Bakare to stop and listen. Not to his album, not to his beats, not even to the music at all, but instead to the sound of the air conditioning machine and to the sound of pens tapping against a pad of paper within the room. “I’m always listening for melodies, it’s crazy,” he said “Like just then when I heard tapping on the pad, that’s got a rhythm to it: tch-tch-tch-tch-tch. Now the air-conditioner is going wwwwuuuurrrrrrrr,” he added. “Those things make me want to do something. That shit wicked: the air-conditioner.”

When Future first burst onto the scene in 2011 with his mixtape Dirty Sprite, his music was unlike anything currently in the game. He didn’t mimic a sound that existed but instead he dared to be different, original, and unique. This is what keeps Future ahead of the curb – he doesn’t wait for new trends to appear in order to make songs, instead he creates his work and unintentionally creates trends in the process. In his interview he shared: “Having your own character and having your own image, no matter what they say about you. I want to show my versatility and how diverse I am, how I approach the track, my rhythm, my melodies. It’s something different. Sometimes the things I do haven’t ever been done.”

Like most hip-hop stars, Future doesn’t lack self-confidence, but he’s also got the work ethic to back it up. Amid the fame, Future stays pretty low key when it comes to media attention and ironically enough he even has a secluded and private studio nicknamed the “Batcave” because it’s so hard to find. Amongst collaborators he’s known for being able to bang out a hit record in 25 minutes and claims to have more than 1,000 finished tracks sitting on his hard drive.

So the magic formula isn’t generic sounding songs or meaningless content, instead it’s a trained ability to extract insight and inspiration from the most uncommon places and use it to create something without trying to be anyone but yourself. For those reasons alone, Future will continue to stay ahead of the pack and continue to inspire dozens of other rappers in the game.

If you haven’t already heard Future’s recent album, EVOL, listen to it beloew