The announcement of a second Future album in as many weeks came as an unexpected surprise. While most fans were just beginning to digest last week's self-titled LP, Pluto’s most notorious trapper decided to hit the streets with more.
When DMX released both It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot and Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood in the same year, people were beyond impressed. To release two full-length albums only separated by seven days would have been an insane feat in ‘98. Thanks to the modern convenience of streaming services and Future’s bizarre work ethic, however, outputting two albums in a two-week time span in 2017 is not only possible to accomplish, it's fairly easy.
The reviews for FUTURE were mostly mixed both by critics and fans alike. A quick scan across social media showed equal parts enthusiastic fans and disappointed Hive members. After a week of sporadic revisiting, I've found his first offering to be enjoyable. Songs like “Draco,” “Mask Off,” “High Demand,” “Might As Well,” and "Feds Did A Sweep” are the kind of highlights you return to again and again.
For those who felt let down by the album's trap-driven tunes, HNDRXX is expected to show the other side of Future―the far more melodic, rhythmic artist. Since Auto-Tune ballads are Future’s forte, eyebrows were raised when they were notably absent from FUTURE.
FUTURE felt like a project that didn’t care much for radio, an album made for the underground. With features from Rihanna and The Weeknd, it’s safe to conclude that the radio hits and crossover anthems were saved for HNDRXX.
I’ve never been one to complain about Future’s vocals being drenched in Auto-Tune and lean, he has the voice of a Promethazine angel. When HNDRXX was first announced on Future’s Instagram, the caption read, “The album I always wanted to make.” Even if this is an album meant to complete his contractual obligation to A-1, this isn’t some sloppy throwaway project.
I also find it interesting that HNDRXX’s album cover features Future’s body but his face blurred―Future albums are notorious for always having his face on the artwork. This isn’t a coincidence, but I have no idea what it could signify.
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
Let FutureSZN continue.
1. "My Collection"
DJ Esco just ran through some Future classics on FBG radio. Now he’s ready to play the album. Beats1 is the new radio. I don’t know if it’s the future of radio but it is the present for artists like Future and Drake. Okay, just dropped the first song. Compared to the aggressive, mean spirited “Rent Money” that opened up FUTURE, this is the polar opposite. The sound of money being counted. Feels like crisp 20's in the booth. This would make a great commercial for a trip to Pluto. Metro Boomin sample game is a beautiful switch up. How does Future find these girls who are sleeping with multiple rappers and ballplayers? We need to get him to church. Future is singing about selling dope at his grandmother’s house but the production sounds like sailing around paradise. A soft, sensual vibe. This is very chill. Love the way these drums are hitting. “Even if I hit once you’re part of my collection,” Future really is the scumbag Ash Ketchum that trap music deserves. Feels like I should light a candle and pour some Hennessy. I imagine this record is what PND would make if he was from Atlanta, just a hot take. I like, I like a lot.
2. "Comin Out Strong" (ft. The Weeknd)
The Weeknd came in smoother than a 5th grader on a Slip N Slide. Abel doing the rap/singing flow. He always sounds so pure, like an angel fresh from AA. This is nothing like "Low Life." A rather slow-tempo banger, it reminds me of what would end up on Future’s debut. I really like this Weeknd hook. Everything about this song is just easy on the ears. It will make excellent background music in the coming days. Future has a thing against blogs, but I guess when you’re famous false stories do get a bit irritating. Singing Future isn’t my favorite Future, but this is good. I never expected Future and Weeknd to be a winning combination. Might have to do a piece on all the women Future has named dropped like the Drake piece. Okay, the beat just went Clams Casino. Sample loop, broken vocals, like an alien invasion just interrupted the studio session. Or if the engineer started mixing after drinking from Future’s Sprite bottle.
3. "Lookin Exotic"
I’m pretty much ready for rappers to get over the exotic wave. This one has the dynamic knock that I wanted from The Weeknd collab. Future’s voice really does sound like he mixes his Percocet with his Auto-Tune. There will be an NBA player reference on every album. Also, he’ll let you know about how tipsy/high he is. (Beats1 tries too hard to be like terrestrial radio with these clean edits—c’mon, if they’re old enough to have an iPhone, they’re old enough for a little profanity.) I really like how hard the beat knocks, it’s like an R&B song that could easily flip into a trap anthem. You can tell Future took an obviously different approach here than he did on FUTURE. Content is very similar, but it lacks the edge. THE BEAT JUST DROPPED AGAIN AND IT WAS LIKE A MISSILE. I feel like Future is making sure I don’t nod off.
Four songs in and not too impressed. NOW THIS IS DIFFERENT. WHOA. WHOA. WHOA. Future is going K-Ci & JoJo. The intro took me back to '90s R&B with a sprinkle of coke on top. Nice beat, nice temp. The bounce is infectious. WOOOO THIS IS GOING TO BE ONE. Yeah, this is the first true winner. The way Future is trading off vocals is rather wild. The aggression contrasting with this elegant production is emotional. “Stop trying to fuck my life up.” Such a statement. The clean version is starting to really irritate me. “My role model fucked my life up,” I wonder who that might be? Yeah, this is like Fire Marshall Future meets Future Vandross meets Future Savage.
5. "Use Me"
This song sounds like the album cover, a body floating without a head. I really want to hear what Future and Clams Casino would make if put together in a room. A weird build up. Oh man, he is singing from the very depths of his lean belly. Man, he hit that note like a batter knocking one out of the park. Slow flow. So far it seems like this project is definitely an ode to his different relationships. He’s doing some interesting things on this bridge or is it the bridge? Future does not care about song structure. This isn’t the kind of beat you expect for Future and these notes he’s hitting aren’t what you’d expect from a trap rapper. I wonder what the sample is. [Editor's note: No samples were used.] There is something very ghostly about this song. “When you get high enough you can dodge raindrops.” I don’t know if I ever want to be this high. Vocally this song is something else. Switching from ballad singer to trap rapper is really an unorthodox mix that only Future can successfully pull off. This isn’t just harmonies, this fool is singing.
These chords are so tropical. Very warm. This is refund money vacation music. This is just hit the lottery and bagged a supermodel music. This is we didn’t have a winter because of global warming music. I love this. I’m almost in awe this is a Future song. He’s floating. Another moonwalking Michael Jackson line to add to the archive. Another impressive hook. This sounds like something PND would make, to be honest. The wave he’s adding to the vocal arrangement is what makes Future one-of-a-kind. He really went and made two completely different albums. Sonically this is nothing like what was delivered. My man went from telling us about the feds doing sweeps to this tropical, romantic R&B. Get you a woman that will make you sing like Future.
Okay, I can’t be the only one that thinks this sound likes a stage from Sonic The Hedgehog? Man, it is so video game-esque. But that isn’t a bad thing, I love the jubilant energy. I swear, they could put trap drums over a giraffe snoring and Future could make it a banger. Another floating rap verse over this strange but soothing production. It’s like he’s running toward the sun or just stole another rapper’s girlfriend. Once you go with a Bonnie and Clyde reference in the hook, you’re guaranteed to be quoted on Facebook. Facebook loves cliches. No, this is really good. I don’t know if this is the radio hit, but I see summer potential. Another jab at blogs. Future is pretty much telling all his girls that bloggers are spreading fake news. Probably voted for that orange guy. A song this easy on the ears could very well take over Billboard.
8. "Fresh Air"
What the hell was that!? There was a voice but it wasn’t speaking English. Future is on the dancehall-esque pop wave now! Holy shit, this is his “One Dance.” He’s even throwing a little inflection into his voice. This is groovy and also weird. Again, this is like East Atlanta influenced by the Caribbean. I know this sample, I can’t put my fingers on it. But these claps, oh my, Buddha this is infectious. What is happening with the drums? Nah, this record just went a bunch of different ways. Dammit, I can’t think of the sample. All I know is this record is going to be a huge. The music feels way too good. This is going to stick to people like a passionate stalker. This is straight crossover music. We’re lucky he gave us FUTURE because this album is so far from the street that it's levitating. Dancefloors will have drunk people hitting these notes. This isn’t Gambino singing “Redbone” but it’s damn impressive to hear him switch it up like this. Issa hit!
9. "Neva Missa Lost"
A woman's voice is asking why someone is in her bed. Another ballad. Need to get the production credits so we can applaud these folks for giving Future the soundscape to switch up his style. The way his vocals are delivered makes me believe that Future has to do at least 100 punch ins. This is wild. Future Pendergrass is a smooth brother. I’m not in love with this one, but I’m not displeased. I’m more stunned that he pulled off a Nelly with the double albums. Interesting vocal pitch. Going up and then going down. You can feel the pain, kind of like missing someone at 4 am. Might revisit this one when the hour is right.
10. "Keep Quiet"
Keys. A nice trap ballad for all the trap queens. Obviously this song is about not snitching. This is another one that could either be big at radio or big on a Top 50 playlist. This hook is going to go. Plus the way his hi-hats are doing the “Hotline Bling” dance is just perfect. When Future pairs the ice skater flow with the heartfelt hook it is hard to miss. Second verse kind of lost me but as soon as the hook came back in I felt more charged up than an iPhone on 100%. I'll play this when I’m in lust with someone that I’ll still choose the dirty over.
The songs seem to be short. Just two verses, a bridge, and a hook. Another song smoother than a silk pillow. “I can turn a stripper to a diva.” Whatever sample loop is playing in the back is setting the perfect atmosphere. This is an atmosphere album, it’s a tone album, the kind of project that just puts you into a soothing vibe. I could loop this song for the rest of forever and I wouldn’t be upset. Just play this and let it take you to mars or Pluto or Trappa; it will surely take you somewhere like an Uber driver. Future seducing women with nice cars is Peak Future. He seems like a man of few words. Also, something I expect Lil Wayne would say. I really want to know what world he lives in.
12. "I Thank U"
Who is playing the guitar? Has anyone ever had guitar strings on a Future album? I’m telling you, this is the kind of production you wouldn’t think Future would select. This album is one big subtweet to all the various women in Future's life. The kind of album you make after spending a summer touring with Drake, losing your ex-fiancee to a football player and getting sued by a former brother. I wish this one was a bit longer. It is painfully short. With the guitar solo at the end it feels like a sad ending. No… don’t go. This is how I felt when Mahershala Ali character dies in Moonlight, gone too soon.
13. "New Illuminati"
Why the hell is Future even titling a song "New Illuminati"? The YouTube kids are going to have a ball with this one. The stutter singer flow, one of the many magic tricks that only Future could pull off. Is this a romantic song about joining the new Illuminati? He makes the secret society sound like joining a swingers club. FUTURE THE ILLUMINATI IS NOT WHAT YOU BRING YOUR NEW GIRLFRIEND INTO!!! Can you imagine using the Illuminati as a pick up line? Is that a stunt? I want to be mad at this but his flow is so interesting. Everything about this song would be great if he didn’t strangely reference the Illuminati. I can’t get over it. THe R&B-esque records with bounce is like Chick-Fil-A lemonade levels of refreshing.
14. "Turn On Me"
Really sparse percussion. An elegant drop. Man, on the FUTURE album the beat drops were strong enough to knock the wind out of your chest. The beat drops on HNDRXX have the force of a paper cut. I love the trumpet playing in the background. Why is this song making me sad? He sounds like he’s singing after getting some terrible news. I think Future loves being famous, but man he has had a lot of people turn on him. I heard "lawsuit" and thought he was going to talk about Rocko but nope, went right back to talking about a woman in bra and panties. Lowkey, this feels like Future’s Take Care. Minus all the sensitivity and simping. The horns that come in on the hook are so lovely. The intricate elements to his production really brought something different to his palette. I like this rather sad song that’s not really sad at all.
15. "Selfish" (ft. Rihanna)
Rihanna and Future are back together. RiRi bringing the vocals. Rather powerful, but not overpowering. The beat just dropped and Future just appeared out of nowhere like Brainy behind Helga. Rihanna and Future duet, this is like watching two angels on a first date. This isn’t what I expected, not at all. Future can pull off the struggle singing like no other. I really want Future and RIhanna to be peanut butter and jelly, but they’re kind of pineapples on pizza. Not for everybody, but enough people will like it to make you think it should go together. Rihanna sounds lovely, OH SHIT. Rihanna just went Anti with the vocals. She might have tickled God’s foot with that high note. It definitely reached the heavens. Okay! See, I would be more interested if this was just Rihanna or maybe just Future, but hearing them overlap each other really is an odd mix. But this beat, the lyrics, and Rihanna is going to make this a summer song for sure. Maybe I’ll enjoy it more on the second listen.
Future doesn't want to let someone down. These chords. This is one of those beats that sounds like it doesn’t have any foundation. Like Future’s vocals are just floating in space. There are a few risks taken on this album. He went out his way to do things that weren’t exactly in his comfort zone. “Solo” seems to be one of those experimental moments where the drug confidence gave him the boost to try and mix it up. There are moments where I feel like I’d play this again. “I don’t wanna let you down, I don’t wanna let you down,” I could drop some real thug tears to this. The longer it goes on the more it grows on me. Future albums should not be heard while sober.
Starting rather heavy. I love Future and those deep piano keys. It's sounding like an apology. Rather emotional, you can tell this is a heartfelt letter. Future will juxtapose thoughts of going insane with his mink draggin on the floor. A man who cares about the details. I like this. “It can get scary when you’re legendary.” It is rather interesting to hear about relationship turmoil from someone who is relatively famous. Well, if you break someone’s heart I guess the best way to ask for forgiveness is on your second album of 2017. Oh, THIS THIRD VERSE. There's an energy in his voice. It reminds me of Weezy. Ha, there’s an 'I barely speak English' line that’s hilarious. Okay, he took off on a rocket to Pluto. Future knows how the hell to close an album out. He’s still going, mannnn, I thought the hook was coming back in. He has to be freestyling, it feels focused but also unwritten. Yeah, the way it just ends abruptly tells me he felt the vibe and couldn’t stop. What a way to end it all. She has to forgive him after that performance.
I hope you’re ready to hear Future all summer long because the entire focus of this album was to conquer the warmer months.
He is infectious and catchy, understanding the perfect way to merge trap and R&B in an era where music is naturally blended. If you prefer Future delivering ballads over bragging about Draco's then you’ll enjoy HNDRXX.
What is more impressive than what he does vocally here is the production he sings over―once again producers prove why they are such an essential component to trap music. Not a single beat felt generic or stale, and that is what keeps Future sounding refreshed.
Is HNDRXX better than FUTURE? That depends on the listener.
I will say HNXDRXX sounds like the successor to Honest, Future’s sophomore album. It took him a few years but this truly feels like an album crafted as a treat to all the fans who adored the Honest project. There are two artistic sides to Future, and instead of trying to balance them on one album, he divided them into 2 different projects. FUTURE and HNDRXX are like a double disc, the best of both Future’s—Future the trap rapper and Future Hendrix, the R&B trap star.
Say what you will about Future, but he is undoubtedly a shining star who isn't on the verge of dimming anytime soon.
By Yoh, aka YOHDRXX, aka @Yoh31.
Photo Credit: Epic Records