2 Records, 1 Lean-soaked Rapper
When I say Future is the voice of a generation, there is a lot of reluctance in my tone. His lean-soaked, auto-tune driven style has become one of the most recognisable cadences in modern hip hop, and his endless archive of club bangers have rocketed him to star status. He is widely seen as the leading figure standing atop the thousands and thousands of rappers helping the sweeping dominance of Trap music, draped in chains and the most expensive fur you could imagine. I reluctantly say these things because, to me, he’s an artist that is yet to put out a credible project that stands as his defining stint in the game – the one album that fans can pin him too.
Future is, like many is his niche-yet-ever-growing sub genre, a mixtape merchant. Before the beginning of 2017 and over a 3 year period, the guy has headed a total of 10 mixtapes along with 3 albums. You can imagine my cautious optimism when he announced that he would be gracing the month of February with not one but two full-blown studio albums: ‘FUTURE‘ and ‘HNDRXX‘. Two chances to come out with something impressive, or two chances to disappoint.
The first, ‘FUTURE‘ is a 17-track showcase of Future’s mostly consistent persona; bold, brash and… boring. What essentially boils down to a commercial mixtape, the rapper’s self-titled project is an hour-long parade of how to make the most uninspired trap music and still get in Apple Music’s top 5. The record is not much better than what a half-decent backpack rapper would sell you, often seeming to be content with letting the most basic instrumental play out while Future is just left alone in the studio to spit whatever he can come up with on the spot.
It’s obviously a record that requires minimal concentration, and that works at points with tracks like the opening ‘Rent Money’ embodying the hardened persona Future’s become so accustom with, complete with a grandiose instrumental utilising 808’s and a choral sample. The only other stand outs would be ‘Mask Off’ and ‘Outta Time’, both of which feature slightly more interesting production, yet still nothing to rave about. If you try, like really try, you can enjoy this LP for what it is: background music. Because nothing really stands out here, every track just merges into one another; the same rattling hi-hats used over and over again with some basic melody lazily repeated over the top. The likes of ‘Super Trapper’ and ‘Poppin’ Tags’ just sound like compositions that we’ve heard a thousand times before – same beat, same energy, same nap.
Speaking of energy, Future himself is one of the most disappointing elements of the first album. Sounding half-asleep most of the time (although that could be the lean), he comes across as half-arsed as the instrumentals, often sounding like he’s just trying to get the world record for amount of times someone can use the word “molly” on one record. And my God is this project calling out for a feature – like I get the whole ‘self-titled so I’ve got to do it all myself’ thing, but just 2 or 3 different voices would be very welcome and would wake me up for just a little while. Thankfully, on his second outing in the same week his reverb-tinted voice is used to greater effect.
If you somehow make it through the slog that was ‘FUTURE‘ you’ll make it to his second LP of the week: ‘HNDRXX‘. Labelled by the rapper as “The album I always wanted to make”, it’s a much slower, personal and passionate affair than the last. Right from the get go, you get a sense that this thing is significantly more focused than the last, with initial tracks like ‘Comin Out Strong’ (with a stellar hook from The Weeknd) and ‘My Collection’ having more personality and flair than the entirety of the previous outing. Future seems a little more at home here too, as not only does he get to discuss women (his favourite topic) in more depth, but the R&B flavoured production allows more a more melodic and therefore enjoyable approach, reciprocating in the listener. All across this second LP you’ll find pepperings of smooth, uplifting synths and soft vocal clips, used much more effectively than the rinse and repeat *insert trap drumline here* method.
As you go further on, the record (while again having too much filler over its long run time) is notably more focused, even sexier its execution of both beat and host. ‘Incredible’ sounds like it should be a Jeremih song, but somehow Future sounds at home on it, and more comfortable Future means more comfortable listener. While more soulful tracks like ‘Fresh Air’ and ‘Selfish’ are made to sound more cheap by opposing morals in other pieces (see ‘Keep Quiet’) they serve as evidence that the Atlanta rapper can actually put a little bit of excitement and devotion into his work. It’s not great by any stretch of the imagination; it’s still empty wallpaper music made to please a crowd of easily-pleased people – but ‘HNDRXX‘ a hell of a lot more memorable than a lot of what he’s done before.
It’s as if Future set himself the challenge of releasing two projects that showed off two completely different sides of him in the shortest amount of time he could, a coupling of music that would confuse even the most easily-impressed music academic. The appetiser ‘FUTURE’ is, for the most part, hot garbage. Lazy, overly-long and just plain boring, what sounds like a DatPiff usual showcased everything that trap-haters love to complain about – embodying the more disappointing side of Future’s work. On the other hand, as if the guy suddenly saw the light, Future delivered a much more enjoyable and personal LP in the form of ‘HNDRXX’; a slower, more sensual collection that shows that trap and R&B can work as one – it was a relieving and delightful surprise after the shit-show before it. Though neither of them fail to do anything outstanding, it’s gratifying to see that Future is capable of making something not-so beige in his purple-draped world.