Atlanta Must Reads for the Week: Future, Perdue’s happier chickens, and an escaped Georgia convict

Plus, remembering Frank Barham, the rebuilding of a burnt African American church, and the rise of an Atlanta-born K-Pop star
Kirkwood rapper Future

Photograph by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Power 105.1's Powerhouse 2015

Brian Hiatt for Rolling Stone on Future

For this week’s cover story, Hiatt profiles the Kirkwood rapper’s rise and fall and rise in the world of Atlanta hip-hop:

Tonight, Future will write and record four songs from start to finish. (“Ain’t gonna never be sober,” he raps in one of them. “You can’t lose your composure/’Cause once you lose it, it’s over.”) “Future was always the person to knock out multiple bangers in one night,” says producer Mike Will Made It. That ability helps explain Future’s astounding output since October 2014, a creative run pretty much unmatched in quantity and quality by any contemporary in any genre: five mixtapes, two full-fledged solo albums, plus What a Time to Be Alive, his smash collaborative album with Drake.

The influence of Future’s ever-evolving sound—centered on his melodic gifts, spontaneous, mesmerizing flow and a digitally augmented baritone growl that sounds like he’s gargling ones and zeros when the Auto-Tune is cranked up—is everywhere: Fetty Wap seems to have gotten his entire style from Future’s 2012 hit “Turn on the Lights,” while Brooklyn rapper Desiigner has been dominating radio with “Panda,” a song so derivative in its lyrics, flow and production that Mike Will, for one, thought it was a Future track on first listen. (Future is reluctant to address this subject: “I never worried about anyone else … I don’t even want his name in the article,” he says of Desiigner.) The actual Future pops up on standout tracks on both Drake’s and Chance the Rapper’s new albums (at one point, a Drake-free version of the Views track “Grammys” plays in the studio), and Future and Drake are touring arenas together this summer.

It’s been an insane streak, all in the wake of a life-shaking mid-2014 split from his former fiancee, R&B star Ciara, the mother of the youngest of his four children. He’s determined to keep it going. “I want to keep doing what I’m doing and see how far I can go,” he says. “See when it stops. See what the end is like. I want to make this moment last as long as I can make it. If I miss a day, I’m afraid I’ll miss out on a smash record.”

Read: Future: Syrup, Strippers and Heavy Angst With the Superstar MC

Maryn McKenna for National Geographic on Perdue’s pledge to grow happier chickens

Earlier this week poultry giant Perdue Farms announced that it would take drastic steps to raise chickens in a more humane manner. McKenna, an Atlanta-based journalist, lays out what the company’s plans entail:

Perdue Farms Inc., the fourth-largest poultry producer in the United States, shook the chicken industry two years ago by becoming the first company to renounce routine antibiotic use. It is likely to have the same effect today: It will announce a comprehensive animal-welfare plan—the first among large producers—that will change how its chickens are bred, raised, and killed.

In a sign of how far Perdue has come, three long-standing critics are backing the company: the animal-welfare organizations Compassion in World Farming, Mercy for Animals, and the Humane Society of the United States. Perdue is unveiling its welfare plan at an event in New York City Monday morning. It contains four significant changes, which Perdue leadership explained in advance to The Plate: new standards for how birds are raised and slaughtered; an increased voice for its contract farmers; a transparency initiative that includes annual publishing of metrics; and creation of an “animal care culture” that includes new executive positions.

“We’re talking about this as going back to the farm, to the way we used to do things,” Jim Perdue, Perdue Foods’ chairman, tells The Plate. “Maybe they were a little smarter back then than we thought they were.”

Read: Why Perdue Will Grow Happier (and Maybe Healthier) Chickens

Collier Meyerson for Fusion on the rebuilding of a scorched black church

In June 2015, Dylann Roof stepped into a historic black Charleston church and fatally shot nine people. The following week at least six other black churches were scorched to the ground. Meyerson visits one in Macon that’s now being rebuilt:

Gladys, her family members, and her fellow congregants are still adamant about not wanting to believe or assume the arson was the work of a white supremacist. Still, Gladys admitted, “the timing was just weird.” Mostly the congregation is looking for some sort of answer. “We are a peaceful congregation. We wanted to know why,” said the church’s assistant pastor, Jeanette Dudley. “There is no animosity towards whoever did it. But we do want to know why this happened.”

But even without answers, the churchgoers are beginning to move on and rebuild. Gladys frequently emails with the church’s insurance company, which is still conducting its own investigation a year later. “One reason we didn’t get started on the church was we kept trying to wait,” she said, hoping that all the money from the insurance company would appear. But churches from all over the country donated more than $150,000 to the church and Gladys was anxious to show them that the money is being used to rebuild. “We struggling, suffering, waiting,” Gladys said, sighing deeply. “Somebody donates money to you and you can’t even give them a report on what you’re doing.”

Read: A year ago someone set fire to a black church in Georgia. What now?

The Economist on an escaped Georgia convict who was captured

In 1979, Bill Burchfield escaped from a Georgia prison, adopted a new identity, and started a new life in London, Kentucky. The British magazine sits down with him after his capture:

“Everybody can change,” Bill insists; “everybody has the ability to turn their life around and do something good with it.” His own experience, after a youthful spell behind bars, vindicates that optimism: in many ways he is a heartening model of rehabilitation. In jail he realized that “I need to do better than this”; at liberty, he has “done everything I could to do the right thing.” Those who know him best think he has succeeded. He is “a very giving, caring person,” says his pastor, Charles Shelton, who recalls Bill taking in strangers who had broken down on the road. “Just a good man,” Mr. Shelton attests. The only wrinkle is the way he gained his freedom.

That, and his crime, were a secret he guarded for 37 years until, on the evening of June 15th, two local detectives visited his home on the outskirts of London, a small town in Laurel County, Kentucky, in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. Bill recognized the men and wasn’t alarmed by their appearance on his doorstep: “I didn’t think nothing about it,” he says, “until they told me what they were there for.” Namely, their hunch that the paunchy, grandfatherly 67-year-old was not, in fact, Harold “Bill” Arnold, as his outward life suggested, but Bill Burchfield, who had escaped from prison in Georgia in 1979. At that point, Mr. Arnold/Burchfield recounts, he thought, “Here we go.”

Which of his surnames to use is only the most obvious question raised by this tale of redemption and recapture. Bill’s story—a warped parody of the American ideal of self-invention—also underscores doubts about the purpose of prison, to which he now seems destined to return. Meanwhile the confusion over his name points to deeper mysteries, philosophical rather than legal, concerning the nature of identity and its mutation over time.

Read: Billy the kid

Ben Gray for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution on his late friend Frank Barham

Last year artist Frank Barham rolled his wheelchair from Atlanta to Savannah for charity. The journey, though, was cut short by a fatal, multi-vehicle crash. AJC photographer Ben Gray reflected on his friend’s life as he completed Barham’s unfinished journey:

After six hours of running alongside major roads with the roar of trucks, the acrid smell of overused brakes and the sun burning my skin, I turn onto a shaded, quiet street. Tall trees form a tunnel over the road and the sounds from a breeze rustling the leaves replace the noise of the highway. Frank didn’t get to experience this payoff a year ago, but I can feel him with me as I move forward with a renewed sense of purpose.

A year ago to the day, Frank Barham would have been excited but probably a bit melancholy, too, as he wheeled his chair along this very road, thinking about all the things he had experienced on his 10-day wheelchair roll from Atlanta to Savannah. A little sad for it to be drawing to a close, tired from the journey but excited to reach his destination. He would have appreciated the shade and the change of scenery after a long day in the sun.

Frank never got to travel this road because as he rolled his chair south on Ga. 21, he was killed in a fiery crash. A tanker truck hit the support van that was traveling behind him, also killing Margaret Kargbo and severely burning Carrie Johnson inside the van.

Read: Remembering Frank

Isha Aran for Fusion on an Atlanta native’s rise to K-Pop stardom

Eric Nam, a 27-year-old Atlanta native, almost became a consultant in 2011. But then, he decided to pursue a career in K-Pop. Aran catches up with the entertainer trying to change how the genre is heard in America:

“You guys, I’m drinking water, it’s not a big deal,” Eric Nam said calmly to a crowd of thousands of shrieking teenage girls. They only got louder. The man knows how to work a crowd. Before the 27-year-old K-pop phenomenon took the stage, a video on the stadium screens showed him dressed in a dapper baby blue suit at a flower shop. He picks up a large bouquet of roses and then sets them down, unconvinced. He turns around and an even bigger bouquet of roses catches his eye. Nam then appears on stage IRL, dressed in the same suit and holding the same giant bouquet of red roses, to the screams of his adoring fans.

My entire face failed me—my jaw was on the floor and I couldn’t believe my eyes. My God, he’s really committed to this, I thought. He handed out roses to his fans, one by one, before passing the rest of the bouquet to a throng of wailing girls. They grabbed the flowers and immediately shredded them in a terrifying and awe-inspiring display of devotion. In an instant, the roses went everywhere. In another, they were gone.

This hullaballoo went down last Saturday at Newark’s Prudential Center on the final night of KCON New York, the annual convention that celebrates Korean pop culture. Nam, who performed without backup dancers, shared the stage with newer acts like girl group Mamamoo (clap-o-meter reading: 9) and rock band Day6 (clap-o-meter reading: 8) as well as the immensely successful Bangtan Boys, also known as BTS (clap-o-meter: broken), the first K-pop group to have an album spend more than one week at the top of Billboard’s World Albums list—and who accumulated more retweets than Kanye this past March.

Read: Eric Nam could become the first K-pop artist to make it big in America