Catching Up With the Coolest DJ: Esco Talks ‘Purple Reign’ and Future’s 2016 Takeover
Out of nowhere on the evening of January 16, Future announced the follow-up to the chart-topping success DS 2 and What a Time to Be Alive. The Atlanta rapper/crooner has teased — on numerous occasions — he’d be dropping new mixtapes, but none of us imagined it would come so soon. The project, Purple Reign, was set to drop at 11:56 PM on Saturday night, a nod to his critically acclaimed mixtape, 56 Nights. After a slight delay, Future and his executive producers, Metro Boomin and DJ Esco, shared the tape early Sunday morning to a fervent response. The hasthag #PurpleReign trended worldwide, and proved Future’s reign is nowhere near over.
Surprisingly, DJ Esco has stayed off the Internet and social media since the release of Purple Reign. He says he believes that critical reviews cloud his judgment about how he makes and puts out music. He promises that Purple Reignwon’t be the last time Future puts out music in 2016. And he’s even planning on dropping his first solo album. “Get ready for that,” he tells us. “It’s going to have several artists on there. I’ll also be introducing an artist this year from Atlanta. I don’t want to say his name yet, but something special.”
A week after the release of Purple Reign, we spoke to the “Coolest DJ in the World” about preparing fans for Future’s upcoming Purple Reign Tour, the reason for the tape’s delay, and how a Kanye West verse almost made the cut.
What’s the past few days been like for you since Purple Reign dropped?
It’s been quiet before the storm. I ain’t talked to nobody since it came out. I pretty much turned my phones off. I really have not been on social media or anything for real since Purple Reign [dropped]. I do that when I drop stuff. I don’t like to read blogs about when I drop music because I didn’t drop it for the blogs. I dropped it for the people. So when you drop things, so-called music people have their opinions about what you just made. I’m not one to listen to too many people’s opinions. I just take the other route. Instead of reading them and making myself frustrated, I just don’t read them at all because I put out what I wanted to put out and I’m happy about that.
You haven’t read anything about it? It’s actually been getting a pretty good response.
Yeah, I haven’t read any blogs. You want to know why? I’ll tell you a quick story. This is why I don’t read blogs: I have never read one in my life [after] any music that I ever put out or Future put out ’cause it isn’t really my thing. I decided to read one day. I had just dropped 56 Nights. I had just got out of prison. I had just made [56 Nights] pretty much in a hotel room. I remember when we dropped it, I had read one blog and it said something about DJ Esco collabs, which was a subpar mixtape compared to Monster and Beast Mode. It’s subpar, third-tier. That shit really fucked me up, and I closed my computer and I was like, “I’m never reading one again.”
When I put out 56 Nights, nobody in the room could have told me that this mixtape was going to be as big as it was. Nobody believed that this mixtape was gonna be bigger than Monster or Beast Mode. No one knew how big “March Madness” was. I had all these feelings. It took a year damn-near to get the response that I knew it deserved the day I put it out. Now people go back and be like, “Oh, 56 Nights is a classic. ‘March Madness,’ oh my God.”
But the day I put it out, that’s not the response it got. I got a negative response to56 Nights, even though it came to be the biggest thing I ever done, the best thing I ever done, the best project [and] the biggest at the time. If I read what everybody thought that week, that day 56 Nights came out, I would have probably discouraged myself from making a whole bunch of different things. Because I would have been leaning on, ‘Ah man, they didn’t like it. They thought this, they thought that.’ Now, I have enough confidence from 56 Nights that I don’t really care about other people’s opinion because I remember what they thought about56 Nights.
It just means that you’re ahead of curve.
God gave me a gift. And I pray and appreciate it every day. I don’t take my gift for granted. I have a gift to see around curves; I see around corners. You know what I’m saying? Most people, they can’t see anything but what’s right in front of them. I’m already around that corner that you can’t even see around until you get to the end of the street. I’m already down that corner. So when I do something, I’m already doing it with that corner bent. So sometimes when I do things, all you see is straight ahead and you don’t get it until you finally get to the end of that street and look around the corner like, “Oh my God. This is where he was going. I didn’t see the yellow brick road because he was around the corner. Now, I get it.” That is kind of how my music goes. I have different visions, and sometimes they seem wackier. They seem left-field.
Where does the title come from? Is it inspired by Prince’s Purple Rain?
It’s kind of inspired by Dirty Sprite, DS2, and Purple Reign. It’s kind of like the theme. Prince definitely has inspiration because I do listen to a lot of artists and Prince is one artist that I really like to [work with]. Prince is amazing. I guess what I feel like I have in common with Prince, just to bridge the gap, is people didn’t really understand Prince’s personality. To this day, people are still confused about Prince. I remember when I was a kid, I was confused about Prince, like, I didn’t get it. Like, the clothes he was wearing. It was so different. I didn’t know what the fuck — what is he? You know what I’m saying? I don’t know what he is. He’s just Prince.
It’s so many opinions about what Prince is and what he’s not. And to me, that’s how I think of myself. People look at me like, “He looks kind of weird. Kind of Prince-ish. What is he doing? He’s got a whole different look. Is this hip-hop? What is he doing? I kinda don’t get him. If I looked at him, I wouldn’t tell you if he’s a rapper. I wouldn’t even think he’s a DJ. I don’t know what he would be.” I just would look at him and be like, “He’s something. I don’t know what he is.” Prince turned himself into a symbol because that’s how much confusion it was. “OK, I’m not Prince; you can’t even label me as anybody. Now, I’m a symbol.” [Laughs.]
To me, Purple Rain [and] Prince are amazing because he became bigger than his name. It’s not even about [his name]. I want to be bigger than just a DJ Esco, its like a whole thing with me. It’s just a whole aroma about him that when you look at him, there’s something different about him, and the music is different. When I hear his music, and I look at him, I talk to him, now I start to get a better picture of how he’s thinking.
Was there anything you were trying to achieve with Purple Reign? DS2 and What a Time to Be Alive were so successful.
We just putting music out. Future has so much music. He could put out another tape today, and nobody would be thinking about Purple Reign, you know what I’m saying? He could put out a tape every month, and it would be all new music every time. And you could name it something different every time. There was no goals for Purple Reign other than to just keep feeding fans with music. This is what no one really realizes is when I’m making a project, there’s a purpose for it. And the purpose is bigger than dropping the mixtape, it was the fact that we have a tour called Purple Reign coming up. I thought this tape would be custom-made for the tour. It would be a fan appreciation thing. [Fans] would get to actually hear some of these songs that were actually made just for this tour. Exclusively.
So when you come to the Purple Reign Tour and you hear the rain drop from the intro of Purple Reign, you gonna feel like you’re on the right tour. You’re at the Purple Reign Tour. That’s why you gonna hear the rain. You might not get it now, but if you look around the corner on the curb, you will see we got a Purple Reign Tour coming up. The sound effects and the things, that’s going to make the vision of the tour. When you see him on stage and you hear that rain, you are going to know this is [the] Purple Reign [Tour], and you hear certain songs like the “Purple Reign” song. It’s going to make the tour more custom-made. It was really for the fans and the tour.
Fans have made the connection that Future always drops a tape in the second week of January. How are you building off that foundation? Is it through quality or quantity?
We try to always make always quality. We could put fucking 25 songs on the CD if we want. We try to keep it down to like 10, 11 ’cause we have so much. We are giving you a lot but we could give you so much more if we really [want]. He records so much, it’s hard not to [release music]. What ends up happening is Future ends up having a billion songs that we never could put out. If we just put out one album a year like most artists or two albums maybe at the most, we would have 500 songs no one’s ever heard that would never come out because we are still recording. So those songs just get old and they pile up with dust on them. You know what I mean? And then it’s like, “Well, what should we do with them? Leak 1,000 songs?” Nah, we could give the fans some more music and just give them doses at a time because he has so much. They’re just mixtapes. The quality of the albums usually ends up being a whole lot better. The process of it. Mixing and mastering and all that shit. Mixtapes we end up putting them out there.
When did you start working on Purple Reign? Were these tracks you had in stash or were you making new material?
Purple Reign is a collab of mostly new and again, when I say old, it’s not really old. It’s shit we did a month ago, maybe? We just pull them up and use them. It’s kinda how we made everything with the exception of Beast Mode because every track was with Zaytoven. It was kind of fresh and new. But Monster, 56 Nights,DS2 and Purple Reign, we used new songs and songs we’ve done in the past to make it one fresh album.
When it was supposed to drop at 11:56 on Saturday, there were some delays. What happened there?
We had a show at the same that we were trying to put it out. Future was in KOD in Miami doing this fucking concert. So we were trying to get the timing of the concert. We had to be on stage at 12, and try to put it out at 11:56. Something happened with the files, some computer shit with the .wav, .mp3 situation. So it was like, “Hold on, we’re delayed.” It was just some computer malfunction, but it was all good. It just ended up being a little extra long wait. [Laughs.]
LiveMixtapes tweeted that you and Metro were trying to tighten it up a bit.
Oh yeah, we were just trying to bounce it back down from a .wav. I think he wanted it in like an .mp3, 320 [kps]. He wanted it in a specific way, and we didn’t send it the right way. So we had to go back and be like, “Oh shit, re-do the files. Let’s send it back the right way.” We wanted to make sure the sound quality was coming out the right way.
Have you heard of the #FutureHive? They were going crazy waiting for it.
The Hive? Oh yeah. I haven’t seen one in a long time. I remember when the “Where Ya At” video came out. It was the “60 for a walkthrough” scene, they were tagging me a lot. Other than that, the #FutureHive is crazy. The fans, they come up with the craziest shit. But creatively, a lot of it is actually impressive. We’re like, “Damn, these people, how do they think of this shit?” It’s dope though. I think it’s fun.
Do you guys laugh at the memes in the studio?
Hell yeah. We always laughing at them, showing each other if we see something funny. I’ll even like it on Twitter or Instagram or something. Even if it’s making fun of me, sometimes I’ll like it ’cause I’m like, “Man, that shit is funny.” Like whoever took the time to do that, that’s fucking funny. [Laughs.]
Was there originally supposed to be any features on Purple Reign?
We don’t really do any features anymore ’cause Future was always the one that was featured. It was always like he was featured on this album or featuring [on] that album or doing this hook or that hook. I didn’t want Future to be boxed in to “he can only do this.” Like, “Oh, you don’t really have to listen his shit ’cause you can just get him on a feature and then that’d be good enough.” I didn’t want him to get trapped into that kind of artist. So I was like, “Man, you’re such a good artist. You’re like a ball player who can play all the positions. You can do more than just shoot. You can dribble. You can pass. You can play D.” But The League doesn’t know this yet. Let’s start showing The League that you can play everything, so let’s just back up off the features and feature yourself.
He’s a dope artist. “You could do the verses. You could do the hooks. The beats are going to be crazy. You don’t need anybody right now musically-wise to enhance it.” To me, features get watered down now because features are supposed to make the song better. Or, when you get somebody on the song, it’s supposed to enhance the song. It’s supposed to make better than it would be if it was just you. You are getting somebody on your record because it’s making the song better. That’s a great idea; you need that sound that will make this record that much better. It’s turned political now. “I’m just getting a feature ’cause it might help me. He has fans over here that might get me fans.” Now, it’s got fucking lame.
I’m just trying to keep it organic and authentic. If you want to come to the studio and vibe with us. The vibe is right, and the song is right that you might get in the booth? Those songs come out a thousand percent better and more authentic. They feel better. I could tell when a feature has been done and sent over e-mail. Or when a feature has been done in the office or they’re in the studio together. You could tell. I’m more old school and doing the history and watching old DVDs and all that shit. I’m into that. When both of the artists are in there, making a song together, that’s fucking dope. That’s hip-hop.
I was scrolling through Twitter that night while we were waiting for it. People were saying there might have been a Kanye verse. Is there any truth to that?
Nah, I heard he was going to try to drop the verse before he put it out. But it was so last second. I’m sure Kanye could have pulled it off because he’s Kanye. He could probably do anything musically. I don’t doubt him in any way musically, so I’m sure if he could have had enough time, I’m sure he could have done it. I think he actually wanted to do it, but I felt like we just ran out of time. I know he’s such a perfectionist and all that. We didn’t want to rush anything with Kanye. But yeah, it would have been so dope and so fun to have Kanye on Purple Reign. I wish we would have enough time. We just ran out of time.
What song would he have been on?
I think the actual song he would have been on isn’t even on Purple Reign. I think it was a whole different song. So that might be released one day. [Laughs]
Future tweeted Purple Reign was a pre-warm up. What are we getting ready for?
Right, do you see what I’m saying? I think he about to go in another zone. We did about four or five, six [mixtapes] last year. And this year, I think he’s going to break the record again. Just be ready at all times for Future to drop anything. The day he dropped Purple Reign, he went to the studio that next day. He don’t stop.