The story goes that ‘future brown’ was envisaged in the peak of a magic mushroom trip in upstate New York.
Solomon Chase, co-founder and editor of exploratory online platform DIS Magazine, reportedly came up with the concept. The idea was a synthetic representation of nature, a hyperreal, high gloss, ultra-saturated brown. Now the moniker for the production outfit of conceptual grime producer Fatima Al Qadiri, Asma Maroof and Daniel Pineda of Fade To Mind duo Nguzunguzu and Jamie ‘J-Cush’ Imanian-Friedman, the founder of New York’s Lit City Trax label, together they make hyperreal, high gloss music, spanning melodically rich, grime-anchored beats and raucous club rhythms. Each producer has links within artistic spheres that span further than music; Nguzunguzu have been commissioned by French high fashion brand Kenzo, Al Qadiri is known for her work within art collective GCC and for meta-brand Shanzhai Biennial, while J-Cush recently dabbled in modelling for his designer peers.
Together, they are a globally informed production collective, linked through their ties to DIS and beloved by avant-garde fashion labels Hood By Air and Telfar. In the same way that the latter brand warps and reappropriates ideas of familiar consumerism, Future Brown recently undertook an exercise in capitalist surrealism for their Vernáculo music video, a fake beauty advert commissioned by Pérez Art Museum Miami that mocked ideas of global beauty standards.
The track, featuring bilingual lyrics from New York’s Maluca, appears on their self-titled debut album. A hybrid of wispy grime, dancehall, reggaeton and various club syncopations, the keenly anticipated LP acts as a platform for a rotating cast of vocalists, Kelela, Tink and Ruff Sqwad among them, to interpret their mutated production style.
We met the outfit in a Peckham studio the day before their show at London’s ICA for this specially-commissioned shoot.
Since its inception, Carhartt WIP has aimed to build organic relationships with inspiring, provocative figures in music, becoming synonymous with underground cultural movements, as well as working with fresh, upcoming labels like Neighbourhood, Patta, APC and Junya Watanabe. As such, Carhartt WIP’s collaboration with the cultural cross-pollinators to present their first European tour made for a perfect fit. Once we’d navigated the stairs – Al Qadiri was suffering from a fractured knee which forced her to pull out of subsequent gigs in Berlin and Paris – we settled down to talk basketball, Bob Marley and creation at the intersection of art, music and fashion.
Future Brown has strong ties to the art world, including collaborations with MoMA and Art Basel. Do you feel like the visual elements of Future Brown are a particularly important part of the overall project?
Fatima: Every artist these days has some kind of basic visual set up, right? I mean, we don’t do it – we’ll say we like this or we like that, but we’ll collaborate with DIS and Thunder Horse Video for visual aspects of the project. I think it’s just important for all artists to have some kind of a visual.
Asma: I don’t think we are any more involved in the art world than any other artist, but we have a visual aesthetic and taste.
F: The art world is a patron, like a festival is a patron, know what I mean? Some museums have bigger resources and can pay for a music video commission – like, the video Vernáculo was commissioned by the Pérez Art Museum, so they’re patrons in their own way.
Can you tell us a little bit about the concept of the Vernáculo video? What does it say about the language of global beauty brands?
F: Personally, from the perspective of women, global beauty and branding or global beauty and marketing have this pretty gross reality. It’s about reaching or promoting this unrealistic idea of ‘beauty’. Beauty is so many things, beauty for me is imperfection, it’s not non-visible pores. The kind of beauty that’s being promoted by companies – this pore-less, this pseudo-scientific…
A: … Cyborg
F: Cyborg, garbage, photoshopped-to-hell image of beauty, it’s just not real. Beauty is something that is so much more infinitely complex and so much more subjective.
You collaborated with DIS for your performance at the Museum of Modern Art, with choreographed basketball drills as the backdrop to the set. How did you feel it enhanced your performance?
A: It definitely enhanced our performance. We were really just like a side note, in a way, it was just our music and that visual. It was like you were watching a music video in real time. They ended up getting these, I guess basketball players, but they choreographed them…
Jamie: Basically they were doing basketball drills with perfect rhythm, which is really hard, like on beat to every song. I tried it, it’s hard.
A: It was also a sonic experience as well, the drumming of the ball hitting the ground is like a percussion sound. Also it was in a dome space, they really thought that out and it was such a beautiful performance.
You’ve all contributed in some way to DIS Magazine. What do you find appealing about that platform?
F: They’re our friends, they’re our old friends, so when your old friends ask you to contribute you’ve got to do it.
J: I always really loved what they did, like how free-spirited everything was, they were just doing all this far out stuff. Whether it was in fashion or music or just conceptually with some art pieces, they always push the boundaries. I think they are also a really wonderful place to grow your ideas, like an incubator. They are the nicest people, and they let you create with them instead of trying to control you and that’s really cool.
Jamie, you’ve done some modelling recently. How did you find the experience?
J: I’m really awkward and bad at it.
A: He’s good! He’s being modest.
Daniel: He’s being model.
A: He’s being modelist.
You’ve done a lot of shows with Prince Rapid. Do you find that the response to grime music varies across different countries, or are most audiences familiar with it?
J: I think even if they aren’t familiar with it, people seem to be re ally receptive and have open ears. Rapid is great at reacting to the crowd, so he can pull them in pretty much straight away, even if they don’t know the lyrics. Like when we’ve been in France or Italy, and some people might not even speak English that well or understand the slang, but people are still in awe of this guy because the flows are different to what they hear in rap tracks or whatever. I think people want to hear something different.
F: They respond to his energy too, he has great showmanship, so it’s very exciting to see him. It’s just the way he responds to the beat, he’s a flawless MC.
Do you find yourselves adopting the faux ‘future brown’ shade in your wardrobes?
A: Well, have you seen Fatima’s cane?
F: Have you seen my cane? It’s a future brown cane.
J: I found these Air Max 97s in LA that were like so sick and the only time I ever considered wearing brown.
F: Whenever we see future brown the colour somewhere it’s exciting, it’s like ‘Yay, future brown!’
A: We don’t want to necessarily define it in that way, because of course it can not be defined, but you know, every now and again we’re like ‘oh, that Twix kinda looks a little future brown.’
F: There’s future brown in the room! But it’s not … I mean, I get why you would call it ‘faux’, but it’s not ‘faux’. Future brown is…
J: It’s a colour that doesn’t exist.
F: The thing is, it’s a brown that doesn’t exist in nature, so all metallic browns technically are future brown, because they’re not real. It’s an artificial thing.
Finally, are there any underrated designers or music artists who you’d like to recommend to our readers?
D: Check out Bob Marley.
J: There’s a lot of people. The Kuduro scene in Lisbon is popping off, there’s a lot of people there check that out.
F: You should definitely listen to 3D Na’Tee, she’s on our record. All the vocalists on our record.
D: Tink, if you haven’t.
F: ATMG, the rapper. Some are less known than others, but I would urge everybody to dig into the vocalists that we worked with, really, there are a lot of names there. As for fashion designers…
J: Cav Empt.
D: Everybody wears him.
A: I thought like, Phire Wire.
D: Everybody doesn’t need to wear the same brand all the time.
J: But check that Phire Wire out.
A: Yeah, check that!
Photography: Dexter Lander
Assistant: Sam Rubenstein
Styling: Hannah Ryan
Interview by: Alice Jones