I can’t say I’m particularly thrilled to be talking about Future twice in such a short space of time. Despite the fact that I was relatively nice to him in my review of his last album (you can read said review here), which was released just a week before this new album, HNDRXX, I still see him as one of the least talented rappers in the game currently. He epitomises the phrase ‘one-trick pony’, with nearly every song he has ever put out until now featuring his usual mediocre, autotuned rapping, typically atop rudimentary trap beats and with little interesting going on lyrically. The reason I was nice enough to give his last album, FUTURE, a 6/10 was because I try to bear in mind an artist’s purpose when I’m reviewing their work, and in Future’s case, he doesn’t attempt to present himself as a revolutionary artist, nor is that what his fans see him as. His objective has always been to put out trap bangers for people to party or get high to, so I’ve often felt like to fault his music too heavily as a result of its lack of intellectual depth would be to miss the point of Future somewhat. This being said, I still don’t see a huge amount of merit in the man’s music for the most part, and I have always wanted him to be a bit more adventurous as to maintain my full attention for an entire project. At the end of the day, I just want to hear something different from Future, even if it is atrociously bad, because the rapper seldom makes any attempt whatsoever to develop his sound or his style beyond the bare-bones trap aesthetic he has been working with since the beginning of his career. This is by no means a reservation unique to me; in fact, I rarely read a review of Future’s work without a plea for the artist to be more creative or innovative. It seems that the rapper is aware of this common criticism of his material, and HNDRXX seems to be his response. As previously stated, this new project was abruptly announced three days before its release, and only four days following the release of Future’s previous album. Upon this new record’s official announcement in music publication Hits Daily Double, it was described as being a more “rhythmic-leaning and radio-friendly” album than the artist’s previous output. Translated, it seems that this means HNDRXX was intended as the R&B-orientated sister record to FUTURE, with these tracks featuring some breezy beats whilst Future tries his hand at an entire album’s worth of soulful crooning. If one thing can be said about this endeavour, it’s a relatively ambitious feat, considering Future is known for slathering his mumbled bars in autotune to mask the fact that his rapping is often lacklustre. Therefore, a project wherein the rapper’s singing is the focus of the record, with only two guest features from The Weeknd and Rihanna, which also brings 59 minutes of material to the table, is certainly a sign that Future is perhaps finally willing to work outside of his comfort zone. He may have attempted this style on the odd song in the past, such as on Rich $ex from his third studio album DS2, but never has this sound been pursued with this much commitment from the Atlanta artist. However, whilst this record is a significant change of pace for Future, it suffers from the same problems as his usual work, for the most part. I mentioned in my last review that it often seems like Future piles as many songs as possible onto an album for no obvious reason, and with 17 tracks exceeding an hour in length, HNDRXX continues this tedious trend. Similarly, just as projects from the rapper tend to be compiled of songs that all sound so similar to the point of forgettability, practically every cut on here follows the same blueprint as the last, leaving few memorable moments, which is only exacerbated by the clear influence from other artists evident on many of these tracks, most notably Drake. Moreover, I try to bear in mind that few people look to Future’s music to hear insightful, or even remotely unique, lyrics, but HNDRXX features some of the worst lines of the rapper’s career. It seems that Future attempts to supply some sensuous lyrics that would pertain well to an album of impassioned R&B tunes, but for the most part, his bars, along with his goofy delivery, have almost the complete opposite effect of what the artist is striving to achieve. Lastly, and most significantly, Future’s singing is even more questionable than his rapping, and no level of autotune can fully mask the extent to which he strains his voice at times. By and large, most of these songs are relatively passable, with HNDRXX being more forgettable than horrendous.
This album’s most prominent shortcomings are evident from the very first track, My Collection. Even before the song properly starts, Future’s sung introduction displays his wanting singing ability, with the rapper struggling to maintain clarity whilst reaching into his lower range. Over the main beat on this cut, Future clearly exhibits the influence that Drake had on a significant amount of this record, and I’d venture to guess that the Canadian artist was the main catalyst for this project’s inception. Future opts for a delivery that incorporates both rapping and singing, and his performance on My Collection, for the most part, is adequate, although his flow is most definitely off at times. I must say that this cut’s beat, courtesy of Metro Boomin and Cubeatz, works relatively well with the sleepy, laid-back aesthetic of the album, particularly with the heavenly female vocals that feature prominently in the mix. In fact, for the vast majority of HNDRXX, it’s the beats that shine through on a lot of these tracks. Many of the producers employed to help assemble this album seem to have a better vision of what Future is aiming to achieve than the artist himself does. Case in point, Comin Out Strong is one of the most competent tracks on the record, with some solid production from High Klassified and Detail that features some lovely, warm keys and a strong trap beat. Whilst I’m not often a fan of The Weeknd’s own work, it’s at least refreshing to have him appear here and carry this track with a capable vocal performance, although it does highlight just how lacking Future’s singing is hearing the two perform one after the other. Once again, on Selfish, I’m thankful for Rihanna’s feature simply for taking the microphone away from Future for a minute or two. Unfortunately, I find myself struggling to say much more about this album. Practically every song on here follows a completely cut and dried formula that is incessantly repeated, with each track feeling more and more tired. HNDRXX isn’t unworthy of any merit whatsoever, but none of the good elements of this record come from Future himself, rather they come from the outside help he employs.
HNDRXX marks the first time in Future’s career that has seen him genuinely try and work outside of his comfort zone. Unfortunately, this shows, and ‘uncomfortable’ is an apt word to describe the majority of his performances on this record. What’s more, with the album’s 59-minute runtime, his weak vocal performances become less and less tolerable as the album stumbles along. The tracks on here that do stand out only do so because of some impressive production value and, to be fair to this record, there were a number of occasions where I was pleasantly surprised by the beats that were brought to the table. Then again, ultimately, this is a Future album and not a Southside or a DJ Mustard record, and the rapper’s performances are passable at the best of times. For such a long album to provide me with so little substance to discuss just about sums up the primary issue with this record. I don’t feel particularly averse to it, but it’s merely a shallow and unfocussed attempt at a contemporary R&B sound that is largely plain and uninteresting. HNDRXX has made me bite my tongue with regards to wanting to hear Future challenge himself more because, if this is the result, I’m willing to tolerate some more average trap records.
The Vinyl Verdict: 5/10