Future reconquers Atlanta’s throne?

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Courtesy of Epic Records

He actually does no such thing. But, he did drop two albums within two weeks and that’s pretty crazy. There is something to be said about the rate at which trap artists push out music: Native Atlanta artist and trap music architect, Future released two full-length LPs within a week of each other. These two projects, respectively titled “FUTURE” and “HNDRXX,” were presumably recorded over the past year since the release of “EVOL” in early 2016. These two albums, while bogged down with serious limitations, show Future at his most ambitious since the release of 2015’s “DS2.”

Perhaps this rollout is a new trend in hip-hop culture: Frank Ocean did the same last year releasing “Endless” and “Blonde” within days of each other. Where “Endless” and “Blonde” were entirely different projects, however, “FUTURE” and “HNDRXX” are invariably fraternal twins: Two different records, created within the same headspace and meant to be seen together. Only an artist as ambitious as Future can pull of a 1-2 punch such as this, churning out two albums that overlap, extending and contradicting the expressive undertones of the other.

“FUTURE” is hard-hitting, aggressive and filled to the brim with uptempo trap anthems. “Rent Money” opens the album with some serious heat: A sinister synth melody fades in, fades out, then back in with gothic backing vocals. As soon as the percussion pops off and Future’s warbling flow come in, the militant tone of the entire album is set. The following track, “Good Dope” falls in a similar vein: Heavy bass drums, synth melodies and fluctuating chimes. While structurally most of the songs on “FUTURE” seem identical, smaller harmonic and percussive variations — along with Future’s phenomenal flow throughout the entire record — keep the listener entertained throughout. Hands down the best track on this record is the Metro Boomin-produced, “Mask Off,” featuring a pitched up sample of Tommy Butler’s “Prison Song” which provides the melodic backbone for the the track before the 808 drums explode onto the track.

While it may be tempting to deem “HNDRXX” a corollary to the first project, it manages to very clearly establish itself as a completely different album, toning down from the aggressive flows on “FUTURE” in favor of a soundscape far closer to R&B. While both albums are layered with dense synth melodies and heavy 808s trap percussion and bass drums, “HNDRXX” sees Future emphasizing his vocals over his flows, with larger melodic harmonies. Arguably the best track on the album, “Coming Out Strong” featuring The Weeknd starts off with layered piano melodies as The Weeknd sings, “Like a nigga don’t dance, but he make moves/They fuck around, now a nigga gotta shame you.”

“HNDRXX” fails, ironically, due to Future’s own ambition to sonically branch out. While there is something to be commended when taking an aesthetic risk, the album itself comes across as awkward, featuring some of the worst cuts in Future’s discography. For example, the vocalizing on “Looking Exotic” comes across as awkward and insipid. His inability to use a higher range on many of these songs comes across as a serious limitation, making many of these songs feel like trite imitations of Ty Dolla $ign or The Weeknd. Combine this aesthetic limitation with songs which invariably use the same song structure and you have a roadmap for listener boredom; after seven tracks, the album becomes repetitive.

While these projects are chock-full of pretty excellent tracks, both are bogged down by repetitiveness, highlighted by the extraordinary runtime of both projects: Clocking in at 62 minutes and 69 minutes, respectively (both with exactly 17 tracks). For every great song, there are at least another two that are not even half as compelling, especially on “HNDRXX” which is the weaker of the two projects.
Moreover, this sonic repetitiveness is definitely not aided by how lyrically boring this album is. Future’s flow and delivery are better than ever on “FUTURE” but it seems that there has not been any lyrical or thematic progression at all since “DS2.” His lyrical warbling without really focusing on any lyrical schematics like internal rhymes or puns just gets old an hour into a record which is structurally identical.

FUTURE: 7.5/10

HNDRXX: 5/10

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