The mainstream popularity of Atlanta rapper Future has always baffled me. He has had five studio albums top the Billboard 200 in less than two years. His fanbase is largely comprised of the fans of pop rappers/singers such as Drake, The Weeknd, Young Thug, and Travis Scott. You would think Future is making melodious, cookie-cutter pop rap. You’d be wrong.

Future’s trap rap style, once unique to him and now copied by many, consists of auto-tuned mumbling atop woozy banger beats. Future often sounds lazy, out of sorts, high out of his mind on the mic. How his music became so astronomically popular is almost beyond me. My only theory is that Future’s drug-addled sound and decadent lyrical content allow straight-edged listeners to live vicariously through him.

Now, I’ve never been the biggest Future fan. His flows are cumbersome and he has the vocabulary of sixth grader. I have, however, casually enjoyed the intoxicating aesthetic he created on DS2 (2015) and the sparkling instrumentals and memorable hooks on Beast Mode (2015).

In mid-February, Future released two new studio albums, spaced one week apart. I will be reviewing the later release, HNDRXX, without having heard the earlier FUTURE. 

HNDRXX sees Future opting for a clearer, minimalist aesthetic. The beats on this project feature the same loud trap-rap drums, subtle sub-bass, and nondescript, airy synthesizers. Often, overly-processed vocal samples pop up in the mix. Other than the electro-funk synth leads on “Incredible”, the instrumentals on HNDRXX are bland and interchangeable. On previous Future projects, the grimy, colorful, balls-to-the-wall beats often masked Future’s tedious MCing skills. Unfortunately, the lack of detailed instrumentals on HNDRXX brings Future’s subpar rapping out of the druggy haze and places it underneath a microscope. It’s not a good look for Future Hendrix. His flows are lackluster and choppy, his lyrics are unfocused and inconsistent, his songwriting is unstructured and unstable.

However, when considering the lyrical direction of HNDRXX, the decision to spotlight Future’s rapping makes sense. A good deal of the song topics on this album consist of Future lamenting a lost love (possibly ex-girlfriend and singer Ciara). It seems that Future is attempting to make an album that is more focused on lyrical depth and introspection than it is banger beats and a druggie persona.

Unfortunately, Future still sounds like Future on HNDRXX. He’s lathered in auto-tune, he’s crooning aimlessly on the beat, and I can hardly understand anything he is saying. Even when I read the lyrics, Future’s bars are pretty generic (“Where is the love tonight? Where is the drugs tonight?” from “Fresh Air) and at times contradictory  (“I was havin’ trust issues/But I’ve been havin’ way better luck since you/I know it’s true love with you” from “Incredible”). What’s even worse, most songs on the album cycle between Future’s lovesick clichés and lyrics about his sexual prowess and drug-related escapades. Even when he’s heartbroken, he just can’t seem to rid himself of the braggadocios junkie within.

Future enlists a couple of guest vocalists to break up the unbearable monotony and homogeneity of this album. The Weeknd merely goes through the motions on the snoozer “Comin’ Out Strong”. Rihanna’s powerful voice is a welcome additional to the tropical house-flavored “Selfish”, but Future’s auto-crooning does its best to drown her out.

Some moments on this album are better than others. Future’s raspy urgency on the “Use Me” hook is HNDRXX’s most emotionally provocative moment. I even enjoy some of the lyrics on the album’s opener, “My Collection” (“No this codeine ain’t got nothin’ to do with my lil’ child” and “If you the one, then God will let me know”). Still, I probably won’t be revisiting these tracks anytime soon, if ever.

Usually my reviews are longer than this, but I don’t have much else left to say. This piece of garbage is the most disjointed, undistinguished disaster I’ve ever had the displeasure of reviewing. With HNDRXX, Future has created the gold standard upon which I will judge bad music for years to come. At the very least, that is a feat in itself.

Grade: F

Best Tracks: none

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