Future Thrives as a Hitmaker on ‘HNDRXX’ Album
Popular sayings like "quality over quantity" and "less is more" are spewed ad nauseam, especially in creative fields, where the more rare or sophisticated a performance, composition or work of art is the better it's received. However, there are always exceptions to any rule, with Future being an example of one that has been able to buck that way of thinking to much success and critical acclaim.
The most prolific artist in mainstream hip-hop at the moment, Future has slowly separated himself from the pack of Atlanta trappers vying for attention, becoming one of the city's most bankable solo artist and a certified superstar. But in addition to his music, Future has been the topic of conversation due to matters stemming outside of the booth, particularly his bitter child support battle with his ex-girlfriend Ciara, with whom he fathered a child in 2014, as well as the lawsuit filed against him by his former business partner and collaborator Rocko, seeking upwards of $10 million. Future countersued as a result.
Rumors of a settlement being reached between the two began in early February, with details emerging that Rocko was entitled to a substantial portion of the profits generated from Future's live performances, as well as royalties from the rapper's next two albums. While those reports have yet to be confirmed, Future's swift decision to unleash a surprise self-titled album shortly after those rumors surfaced made them more plausible. Scoring his fourth No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200, Future would be well received and was considered his most focused release since DS2, but it wasn't long before Future announced a subsequent album, HNDRXX, to be released exactly a week after. The news took surprised many fans and critics, but the shock quickly turned to curiosity and anticipation regarding the direction Future would take on this outing.
Whereas Future's previous long player was billed as a return to the rapper's underground sound and a transition from his more radio-friendly offerings, HNDRXX finds Future having a change of heart, turning in an album full of pop-centric hits that should keep his name on the charts for the foreseeable Future. The CuBeatz and Metro Boomin-produced "My Collection" sets HNDRXX off, and includes a few digs at his famous ex. "If we never speak again, I'm just glad I got to tell you truth," the rapper states, before alluding to what he deems as her promiscuous ways, rhyming. "She told me she was an angel/She fucked two rappers and three singers/She got a few athletes on speed dial/I'm tryna get the case dismissed before I see trial," he raps.
"My Collection" is a great first salvo and gets HNDRXX going in a positive direction, but the album's second selection, "Comin Out Strong" quickly raises the stakes. The track, produced by Detail and High Klassified and with a guest appearance from The Weeknd, sees the two heavyweight drug champions joining forces for a noteworthy collaboration.
"Like a nigga don't dance, but he make moves/They fuck around, now a nigga gotta shame you/I'm shameless, I be rockin' all my chains too/They told me, 'Boy I think the money's startin' to change you,'" The Weeknd croons, as he sets the record off with a cocksure performance before Future tackles the second verse. Touching on the bad blood between Rocko and himself, Future croons, "My brother Casino said you wasn't Freebandz (Freebandz)/And at the time I couldn't see what he was sayin' (he was sayin')/You turned your back, I shouldn't have ever gave you a chance (gave you a chance)/I got four lawyer fees, shit ain't ever end," while voicing his regret for ever letting his former cronie into his inner circle.
The album hot streak continues with the Jake One and Southside standout "Lookin Exotic," a song in the tradition of other Future tracks dedicated to tossing bands and mingling with foreign eye candy. The first quarter of the rapper's latest body of work may lean more towards his brooding and emotive selections, but the vibe quickly shifts with "Incredible," a sparse, pulsating track produced by Dre Moon, and a rare joyous moment on HNDRXX. Another upbeat ditty from HNDRXX that sees Future basking in the moment is "Testify," a breezy offering over which the trap star urges his lady to "Confess your love for me, testify" and "Show me everything I need to see on my blind side/Show me you gon' be there for the love of a real boy/I just wanna be there for my dogs, they need me/I just wanna be there for the game, then leave it."
The convivial trifecta on HNDRXX is completed with "Fresh Air," a seismic production, courtesy of Detail, Mantra, King BNJMN and Major Seven, which is powered by pounding bass, hi-hats, claps, synths and other wrinkles. This makes for a soundscape for Future to belt at will. "Sand touch your toes while you cookin' breakfast/Pacific Ocean out the backyard lookin' sexy," Future sings as he paints the scene before dark clouds appear once again on the Cicero and DY of 808 Mafia produced "New Illuminati."
Future's failed past relationships, most noticeably his union with Ciara and the bitter aftermath, is the driving force behind much of the content on HNDRXX, but it isn't until the album's final tracks that he truly addresses the elephant in the room at length. "Turn on Me," a Nash B-produced number, aims directly at Ciara, with Future lamenting his displeasure with what he perceives as her conniving ways and showing disdain for her current relationship with clean-cut NFL Quarterback Russell Wilson. "I smoke so much, the ashes startin' to burn on me/I told you from the start you was gon' turn on me/I seen so-called good girls turn on me," Future drawls, before adding ,"After I give you this game, you should never let a lame hit it," a subtle dig at the Seattle Seahawks player who's taken his place.
One song on the LP tracklist that is sure to garner much interest is "Selfish," a collaboration between Future and Rihanna. HNDRXX ends in grand fashion with "Sorry," a CuBeatz and Metro Boomin-produced heater on which Future atones for the faults and missteps in his love life. "Ain't really mean to hurt you/Sorry it's gotta be this way/Ain't /mean to try to desert you/Sorry, tryna be this way," he chants while admitting his remorse.
Running 17 tracks long, as did his previous self-titled release, HNDRXX is Future's most glossy effort since 2014's Honest, but has received marginally less criticism than that breakthrough effort, with listeners and pundits praising its expansive production and Future's melodic emoting. While the Future album may have been an intentional attempt to get back to his underground rap roots, HNDRXX is a reminder that no matter how hard he tries to shun his reputation as a hitmaker, Future remains one of the most reliable acts in mainstream music, his reluctance aside.
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