I don’t want to seem like a yes-man, but Future’s not putting a foot wrong; ‘HNDRXX’ is gorgeous, a hallucinatory pop/trap/R&B whirlwind that balances pleasure and pain – even innocence and arrogance like they’re the same damn thing. Well, innocence might be a little too strong (we’re talking about a guy who kicked off his last project with, ‘Your baby mama fuck me better when the rent’s due’). Nevertheless, this thing dazzles. ‘HNDRXX’ trades in the unadulterated, head-bopping grit of ‘FUTURE’ for falsetto-led victory laps, decadent anecdotes and heartfelt confessions – bathing them in the melodic warmth of R&B instrumentation from a variety of eras.
I shouldn’t really have to fill you in on Future’s last album, I mean, it dropped last week for fuck sake. Anyway, it turned out to be the best version of what, I imagine, we all expected: a Super Future trapathon. Everything about it was relentless, and I suppose, in some ways, conclusive. He could have left it there. Alas, that’s really not his style; a follow-up was announced. Despite the fact that ‘FUTURE’ managed to colour inside the lines of his well-recognised formula and still keep things interesting, a further seventeen tracks of pure bass and bravado may have triggered some thumb-twiddling. So, a change of pace was pretty essential.
Enter Dre Moon, Detail and Major Seven – three key producers on ‘HNDRXX’. The initial two are both noted to have produced Beyonce’s ‘Drunk In Love’, a pitch-perfect R&B ballad which Future hopped on first and, perhaps unknowingly, laid down a banging reference track. You might see where I’m going with this: with the help of these three additional producers, ‘HNDRXX’ taps into, explores and fleshes out an area of his canon which has been dormant for a while now. That is to say, the glossy production and shimmering vocal lines of cuts like ‘Turn On The Lights’, ‘Codeine Crazy’ and ‘I Be U’ all manifest on this project – a project where Future casts aside his draco, lets his guard down and opens up.
‘Incredible’, for example, lands somewhere in between a track from ‘Pluto’ and Kehlani’s ‘SweetSexySavage’ – a major key pop effort that’s as candid as it is funky. Amidst the thick slap bass and Dre Moon’s swirling synths, Future let’s go: ‘I’ve been having trust issues / But I’ve been having way better luck since you’ (probably aimed at Ciara). In these first few bars, he completely disregards the cagey, macho sixteens from ‘FUTURE’. It’s quite odd, really – Future rarely balances fun and vulnerability. In the past, Future exhibited vulnerability in diligent little snippets, often cloaking them in darkness or anger to offset them. Here, however, he demonstrates emotional progression, and not just as a chart-reach – perhaps he just wants to show his fans that he can.
It doesn’t stop there, either. The Metro Boomin produced ‘Sorry’ cuts deeper than perhaps anything else in his catalogue. Clocking in at over seven minutes long, the falling, warped piano mirrors Future’s pain as he apologises for, seemingly, everything. The pain in his vocals is so visceral, you might miss some of the shit he’s actually confessing to: namely, ‘Sold crack to a pregnant lady’. Nevertheless, the various musical tools that he employs to convey emotion are so powerful – it’s often difficult not to overlook some of the things he says on record.
Don’t be fooled by Future’s pop sensibilities, however, ‘HNDRXX’ contains some of his sharpest bars ever. For example, a hilarious double entendre on one of (I imagine) his favourite words: ‘Oh you done more drugs than me? / You must be hallucinatin’ / Oh you blown more cheques than me boy? / You must be hallucinatin’’ (‘Hallucinating’). He even, at times, can be rather poetic: ‘When you get high enough / You can dodge raindrops’ (‘Use Me’).
‘HNDRXX’, then, should not really be spoke of in the same breath as ‘FUTURE’ – unless you’re talking about the timeframes in which the two albums came out, that is. They are, for all intents and purposes, written by two different people; not Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – but Super Future and Future Hendrix. One talks about stashin’ dracos in his ‘book-bag’, and the other enlists popstars to elucidate the highs and lows of fame. The bottom line, however, is this: Future has mastered both mouth-pieces.