Similar to his 2014/2015 championship-winning mixtape streak, Future is making a play for 2017’s throne of ubiquity starting with his self-titled, featureless fifth studio album and now, ode-to-alter ego sixth outing in HNDRXX. Sidestepping the “play it safe route,” Future makes good on a recent promise to make his most personal project yet.HNDRXX could also be considered a musical turning point for the man who once popularized the concept of “Gucci Flip Flops” and cheating.
Whereas FUTURE was a high energy trap-a-thon geared toward the streets, HNDRXX is a somber look into where his life is at now. The subjects primarily circulate around his complicated relationship with women, drugs and wealth. At times, the album feels more like an R&B album as the ruminative “Never Messa Lost” serves as an example when he singles “See I got many type of flaws.” The opening track, “My Collection” has Future baring his soul about his relationships and self-medication as if he’s come to terms with being a walking contradiction. Sure, Future, along with damn near half of Atlanta, have become the poster children for Hip Hop’s controversial “mumble rap” subgenre. Considering HNDRXX’s lean toward R&B, his melodic yelps actually fit better here than other attempts in the past. Those ideas are permeated throughout HNDRXX ‘s hour-plus timespan. Using The Weeknd-assisted “Comin Out Strong” as an example, Future is at the point in his career where crafting catchy songs with a decent amount of depth is easy for him. However, leaving the street stuff behind makes him a lot more approachable outside of the R&B and rap spaces. Rihanna holds down HNDRXX’s other guest spot thanks to “Selfish” which could potentially become his biggest collaborative hit to date if it makes radio. If that doesn’t happen, “Incredible”, with its jovial 80s dance R&B attributes, should do the trick as well.
A reliable cadre of producers such as Metro Boomin, Southside, Dre Moon, DJ Mustard and even Jake One enable each record’s ability to glide between each track smoothly. The guitar and drum sounds of “I Thank You” makes the track a real standout as he expresses gratitude toward the woman who pushed him to hustle harder. HNDRXX does offer a take on classic Future minus the drug and gunplay through early tracks “Lookin Exotic” and “Damage.” The late night creep hymns of “Use Me” should make Bill Withers proud as his same-titled classic evokes the similar sentiment and marks the most romantically vulnerable a the Dungeon Family member has ever been this side of Andre 3000.
HNDRXX does lose steam during its final third as tracks including “Turn On Me,” which lays the sap on a little too thick and “Sorry,” which looks to be the soul-bearing closer but rehashes themes already championed on the album. They simply don’t maintain the same momentum as its early and mid portion. If one is going to add filler, might as well add them at the end as they don’t get in the way of the album’s best tracks.
Future didn’t have to abandon his comfort zone of trap bangers to rally his loyal following. Regardless, he tried his hand again fearlessly by fully shedding his superhuman trap star exterior and HNDRXX is better because of it. This isn’t just the Draco shooting, trap praising figure who thinks anyone who does more drugs than him are “Hallucinating.” HNDRXX provides a view into a modern rock star indulging in a side of himself that’s more thoughtful and dare one say, honest.