Fans of Atlanta-born hip-hop artist Nayvadius Cash, better known as Future, were pleasantly surprised last week at the artist’s announcement of his sixth studio album after the success of his fifth album just five days prior. Over the course of a week, the highly ambitious trap artist released a total of 34 tracks across two albums, FUTURE and HNDRXX.
What results is a well-crafted and emotional foray into trap that not only cements Future’s command of the genre, but also introduces the development of a style rooted in the delicate fusion of synth pop and hip-hop that is new to the artist.
FUTURE — A-
Overflowing with confidence almost to the point of pompousness, FUTURE takes listeners on a guided tour narrated by Future, who recounts his rise to fame from the streets of Atlanta.
The album opens with the bass-driven and energetic track “Rent Money,” in which Future uses vivid lyrics to paint a picture of his monetary success. Future intrigues listeners by including spoken dialogue at the song’s end, using irony to mock his doubters with the lines “What, you wanna Grammy?/ Boy, you trippin’; you trippin’, bruh.” Future manages to command his own narrative in “Rent Money,” creating a track reminiscent of songs from Pluto, the artist’s highly praised debut album.
Unfortunately, Future fails to take chances in the following five tracks of the 17-song album, very obviously overworking the same beats that make “Rent Money” such a likeable song. What results is a celebration of love, sex and drugs that feels repetitive and oozes smugness all at once.
But FUTURE is resurrected by the album’s seventh and undoubtedly best track, “Mask Off.” Set to dangerously addictive bass, haunting background vocals and a solitary woodwind, “Mask Off” encompasses Future’s unveiling of the man behind the overly confident mask that obscures the album’s previous songs. In this track, Future relays the story of the loss of his identity as he croons “Mask on, fuck it, mask off.” In the airiness of his own false image, Future constructs a deeply personal and gut-wrenchingly emotional narrative that whisks listeners into the complexities of his inner demons.
It is the second half of FUTURE that is particularly compelling, with tracks such as “I’m so Groovy” and “Feds Did a Sweep,” in which Future sets forth confident vocals with an earnestness that makes the delivery of each line unforgettable. Future rounds out his eponymous album in an organic fashion that leaves the listener hungering for more of his intoxicating mixes, eager to replay the work from start to finish.
HNDRXX — B+
While FUTURE confirms Future’s mastery of trap as a medium of expression, HNDRXX puts forth an entirely new direction for the artist. The first track of the 17-song album is enough to conjure the image of a Future rooted in R&B and synth pop. “My Collection” infuses trap with complex and airily seductive intermittent vocals reminiscent of The Weeknd while Future confidently raps “Any time I got you, girl you my possession/ Even if I hit you once, you part of my collection.” With overtly auto tuned vocals and piano and guitar instrumentation peppered throughout, HNDRXX certainly does stray from Future’s classic sound.
HNDRXX, although it does not feature as many memorable hits as FUTURE, invites guest artists The Weeknd and Rihanna in the tracks “Comin Out Strong” and “Selfish” respectively, introducing a new twist in Future’s style that successfully fuses his infamous beats with well-arranged and insistently catchy pop melodies. Yet Future remains true to himself in HNDRXX through songs such as “Hallucinating” and “Sorry,” the closing track on the album. Even though his musical inclinations take a turn, he still manages to create a perfect blend of devastation and emotion through dream-inducing beats and his own haunting, sonorous vocals.
Future uses HNDRXX as a successful plane for experimentation in which he manages to develop a decent soundscape that is both refreshing and still a direct follow up to the command of trap he solidifies in FUTURE. There is a beck and call between the two albums that interweaves their equally compelling stories. In a tweet published a few days prior to the release of HNDRXX, Future informed fans that “If U purchased #FUTURE u will understand #HNDRXX.” It is this intersection of the two albums that makes the combined work so engaging and enjoyable, despite various dud tracks.
The albums undeniably parallel one another through complementary lyrics and shared motifs, yet perhaps the best depiction of the symbiotic relationship between the two albums is the thought-provoking cover art that graces both works: FUTURE depicts Future’s disembodied head, while HNDRXX shows Future’s headless body. In this way, FUTURE and HNDRXX represent two complex, beautiful and simultaneously devastating halves of an intricate whole that is Future himself.