Too Much Music: How Future’s Two-Album Strategy Has Killed ‘HNDRXX’

By | Posted June 7, 2017
The album that should have topped pop charts is wasting away thanks to too much music.
2017-06-07-future-killed-hndrxx
Photo Credit: Joyous Ferguson

“Future fucked around and dropped what may prove to be his masterpiece. 'HNDRXX' is the highest incarnation of Future: that alchemy of joy, drugs, and pain that makes you unsure whether you want to cry or celebrate—probably both. It’s as if Future realized that the best records he ever wrote were “Codeine Crazy,” “You Deserve It,” “Body Party,” and the first draft of “Drunk in Love.” This album is crystallized and purposeful.” - Jeff Weiss

Jeff Weiss said it best in his review for Complex, HNDRXX bleeds Future’s best, most enamoring musical qualities. He is the wizard who can make emotional roller coasters sound like Six Flags attractions. He is the Atlanta alien whose journey into the purgatory of sex and drugs is hell hot with filth, debauchery and bacchanal adventure. Life and lust, love and pain, reflection and confession—they are all woven together by daring crooning and pleasant production. Under the moniker most associated with Jimmy, Future elevated.

HNDRXX is trap, pop and R&B infused by their roots in a way that only a post-T-Pain hybrid artist like Future could construct. HNDRXX is superior to FUTURE by stepping outside of the comfort of straightforward trap rap and falling into far more risky yet compelling waters. By presenting a more audacious album, Future’s second project of the year received a bigger wave of approval than its predecessor. Fans raved, critics praised, and the immediate expectation was that HNDRXX would be the album to run our summer. “It’s February and the summer is already Future’s,” wrote Micah Peters in his review on The Ringer.

I believe Micah’s premonition foresaw a beaming June sun and splashes from swimming pool cannonballs being soundtracked by the warm tropical breeze that is “Fresh Air,” Future’s gift to day parties and day drinking. “Testify” and “Incredible” are also records sonically tailored for the post-April months, both predicted to scorch up charts as the heat index rose. "Incredible" was even performed on Ellen, a sign that Future trusted the song would be his next big one.

Enlisting the talents of Miss Cleo wasn't necessary to see the promise of “Selfish,” the album's excellent Rihanna collaboration and the most likely crossover hit to send Future into the next echelon of rappers dominating pop. "Selfish" entered the Hot 100 at No. 37 and had all the makings to be Future's next smash, yet it stalled and despite a Gold certification never became the chart-topper many predicted. "Comin Out Strong" with The Weeknd, HNDRXX's only other certified record to date, barely cracked the top 50.

HNDRXX is loaded with chart-topping prospects and summer song conquerors, but surprisingly, June is here, the pools are open, and the most likely moments from Future’s opus have yet to infiltrate society. “Mask Off” stole the thunder of far more superior records, including the jubilant “Draco.” It appears that the #MaskOffChallange has put all focus on promoting “Mask Off” as the big single, which would be acceptable if Future only released FUTURE, but there’s an entire album being neglected. HNDRXX was deemed more radio-ready, the commercial rocket ship ready to blast off, but hasn’t begun to stir the charts or the world as the hive continues to buzz to new heights.   

Speculation surrounded FUTURE and HNDRXX as albums released just a week apart as a defense against former friend Rocko and his lawsuit. There’s been no confirmation if the two projects cleared his contractual obligation but with 34 brand new songs in the world, this massive amount of material isn't getting the traditional post-release treatment. Epic Records got behind “Mask Off” due to its social media explosion, allowing the consumer to dictate the hit, but in doing so has completely forsaken the potential power of HNDRXX. “Selfish” is up to 111 million streams on Spotify, largely due to Rihanna’s feature, and “Comin Out Strong” has 45 million, largely due to the Weeknd’s appearance. None of the album's solo records have reached Spotify’s top ten Future songs or received a presence on radio. FUTURE may have been deemed the lesser project but it’s receiving nearly all of the attention.

Unless Future and Epic are waiting for fans to begin a social media movement as the deciding factor for the next single, they’re missing the window on multiple records. This is the problem of oversaturation with commercial releases. While more music is able to chart due to the new laws of streaming, not working songs as singles can be a fatal flaw keeping promising hits left in the forgotten sunken place. You also can't shift focus from a single that's thriving for what could be the next big record, potentially ruining a moment by doing too much at once. This is the dilemma of too much music and not enough time to allow records to grow. 

When Future released Monster, Beast Mode and 56 Nights, the mixtape trifecta was embraced by adoring fans as if Christmas, Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King Jr. Day all came early. The three free projects weren’t meant to reap widespread approval, but strictly to feed the hungry wolves who found Honest to be a kale salad instead of the expected banquet. This is why “March Madness” became a cult moment and not the official national anthem. The music from those three projects wasn’t expected to be bigger than the internet. This kind of fanfare promotion works once a hive is created, and when the fans become a cult, but it doesn’t allow for much expansion. While Future diehards will continue to enjoy and praise HNDRXX for all it does right, the commercial darlings that could allow the album to ascend are left and abandoned.

Lyor Cohen once scolded Young Thug for treating songs like orphans, and that’s exactly what Future and Epic are doing with the double albums―royal records are being discarded like throwaway scraps instead of being heirs to "Mask Off"'s throne.

What we’re witnessing with FUTURE/HNDRXX is a rare occasion of an artist cannibalizing his own music. FUTURE was the safe, cautious trap album associated with Future’s biggest bangers while HNDRXX wasn’t a complete reinvention, but a focused approach driven by melodies and the raw emotion of his Auto-Tuned singing. The two personas can coexist, but when delivered in the form of two full-length albums delivered days apart, both projects have failed to dominate the planet in unison.

Despite the two LPs garnering back-to-back No. 1s for Future, the momentum of their union has been completely mishandled. Four months after their release, we've seen very little post-album rollout for HNDRXX. A Rihanna single with no video—how do you have a Rihanna single without a visual!? "Comin Out Strong" and "My Collection" received visual treatments but are only available on Apple Music, trapped behind the bars of exclusivity. HNDRXX has practically existed in marketing limbo playing the background like an unloved illegitimate child. 

French Montana’s “Unforgettable” is the biggest solo single of his career. Originally released in November 2016, the song didn’t start to build a following until it’s re-release in April as an official single. “Unforgettable” has since peaked No. 18 on Billboard's Hot 100, charted worldwide, garnered over 74 million plays on YouTube, and was certified Gold at the end of May. What could have ended up a forgotten gem has instead become a song of the summer contender with the proper push behind it.  “Fresh Air,” “Testify,” “Incredible” and “Selfish” all have the potential to follow in “Unforgettable”'s footsteps but only if Epic decides to work the records and allow them to stand out as singles, not just songs on the project.

Look no further than "Selfish" co-star Rihanna as proof there's still a benefit in the traditional method of working records and allowing them to grow over time rather than leaving them behind when they don't pop organically. Her Anti album was still producing hit singles a year after its release. Breaking “Mask Off” was easy once Twitter branding allowed it to spread like chicken pox, but time is ticking on its follow-up, and the longer it takes to build a campaign around HNDRXX the further the album will fall from ears, eyes and the mind.

An artist's best project doesn’t have to be their most commercially successful; Lupe’s Lasers outsold Food & Liquor and there’s no question surrounding which is the better body of work. What’s frustrating about HNDRXX isn't that the music is good—it's better than just good—but the potential it has to knock down doors for Future unlike any of his other albums. As an isolated release, I'm almost certain HNDRXX would have done wonders across the boards, but sharing the spotlight with FUTURE has put the project primed for the spotlight in the dark.

Future finally made the album he always wanted, music for grimy trap houses and penthouse parties, for broken hearts and active drug purveyors, die-hard fans and pop socialites―but none of this matters if the music is drowned out by the sounds of Metro Boomin’s snake-charming flute.

The album may be dying but in this era of streaming and excess amounts of music, the single is also at risk. Here’s to hoping the label wisens up before winter because once the temperature drops HNDRXX and all its promising singles will be put on ice.

By Yoh, aka YOHDRXX, aka @Yoh31

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