In a sea of Auto-Tuned trap rappers and copycats, Future is operating ahead of the field. The Atlanta superstar just scored his fourth No. 1 album with FUTURE, and is looking to do the same with last week's HNDRXX.
Using two wildly different approaches for each album, Future managed to sound just as convincing in his 808-driven trap zone as he is crafting vulnerable, radio-friendly pop-R&B. In his quest for two back-to-back No. 1 albums in back-to-back weeks, though, Future only really has one competitor in his quest for dominance.
By releasing two projects in 14 days, Future has once again asserted his dominance—FUTURE sold 140k SPS equivalent units, while HNDRXX is projected to move 110-125k—but despite waiting a full year to follow-up 2016's EVOL, this sudden inundation of new material could be the exact kind of “churn and burn” approach that has a negative affect on his career.
Back in 2001, a wise man named Sean Carter posed the question, “do you fools listen to music, or do you just skim through it?” I couldn’t help but think about that question while charging through HNDRXX having not yet fully digested FUTURE. In releasing two 17-track albums in such a short span of time, Future has all but removed the choice from that question, a move that could very well result in his fan base being satiated within the first two months of the year, and him risking declining relevance as the rest of 2017’s release schedule unfolds, sans-Future.
Two weeks ago, a rumor began floating around the web that Future is using this rapid-release strategy as a contractual workaround following a lawsuit filed by his former manager Rocko. If that’s the case, there’s at least sound purpose behind Future’s back-to-back release strategy, but even so, it doesn't diminish the potential long-term effects it could have on his fanbase.
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I consider myself a fairly dedicated Future fan, and even I was hesitant to hit play on HNDRXX after having only running through the FUTURE a few times. I can’t imagine the casual listener will have much more motivation.
In the digital era, time is the ultimate competition for any artist. As listeners, we’re bombarded with literally millions of listening options depending on our habits and the services we use, and a large (yet admittedly shrinking) portion of us are still concerned with quality projects.
Looking only at the date (February 24) that HNDRXX was released, hip-hop and R&B listeners were also treated to new projects from NAV, Oddisee, Steve Lacy, Thundercat, Stormzy, THEY., Taylor Bennett and Allan Rayman. Lots of music, not much time to listen, and much less time to digest it all.
When an artist releases so much music in succession, I can’t help but think that at least a one of the projects is a throwaway—if not portions of both—and even if that’s not true, such frivolous distribution of meaningful art isn’t exactly the presentation I would recommend.
The release of music is a tricky path to navigate these days, and I’m not saying that Future won’t find success in his strategy—he most likely will from a commercial standpoint. I mean, he’s Future.
But, if commercial success comes at the price of oversaturating your fan base with music, that strategy becomes unsustainable, and the risks begin to outweigh the rewards.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
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