Future started 2016 off hot. He added to his stocked cupboard of hot mixtapes with Purple Reign on January 17, and not even three weeks later, dropped Evol — his fourth studio album.
Then, he went quiet. Not completely quiet, but no more albums or mixtapes. Popular singles were sprinkled in here and there to keep his taste in our mouths. After Purple Reign and Evol’s popularity went down a bit, the other Atlanta rappers started taking over the scene. No, the throne was not taken away from Future. But he didn’t live in the castle alone, either.
Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz are the OGs. Gucci dropped two studio albums and a mixtape within seven months of his release from prison, and Chainz’s ColleGrove peaked at fourth on the US Billboard 200. Young Thug released two commercial mixtapes in exactly five months, Lil Yachty released his first two mixtapes, and 21 Savage truly burst onto the scene with Savage Mode, produced by Metro Boomin. To top it off, Migos leaped into the mainstream at the beginning of 2017 — both with the “T-Shirt” music video and Culture studio album. Oh, “Bad and Boujee” was alright, too.
Future was never alone as a popular Atlanta rapper, but the scene has never been this crowded. At this point, Future doesn’t need to do anything special to remind us that he’s the king of Atlanta rap. But he did anyway.
Within one week, Future released two studio albums exactly a week apart — Future and Hndrxx. Future didn’t release these albums — this close together — just to remind us he’s still dope. There’s more to it.
When listening to these albums separately, it’s not hard to realize they are very different. Hndrxx wasn’t leftover Future tracks. These are separate pieces, representing different things. Perhaps those things are the two sides of Future — or two of the many, at least.
Of all celebrities and mega-rich people, rappers may be the toughest to really know. Some are genuine, and truly write and rap about their life. But a lot, if not most, are in the fabrication business. Which is not a problem. Music sells, especially music that relates to people or makes people feel good. If a rapper has to act a certain way to appeal to listeners, so be it.
Future — and his pal Drake — may be the best at putting on these different personas. Drake is teased for his sensitive, soft, vulnerable music. Drake is teased for having sensitive, soft, vulnerable fans — over, you know, the real rap fans that bury their emotions so they don’t look weak. (Sorry, the Drake fan in me had to get that one out.)
But, in reality, that is not Drake. He has probably had his heart broken, perhaps even multiple times. Who hasn’t? He needs love like the rest of us. But he’s not some sad loner walking around looking for his soulmate. The commercial value of putting on that persona, however, is incredibly high. Drake started off as an actor on TV, and became an actor in the studio.
Future has taken the opposite path as Drake — in regards to music style — and ridden that wave to the top. He’s the hard trapper from the ATL. And that’s mostly what we got from Future: it was the Future we met, talked to, and got to know. We liked him. Loved him, even.
Hndrxx, though. It was new. It may not be the new Future, but it was another side to Future. A side we may like, a side we may love.
Future has not shied away from lovey-dovey singles in the past. The song that turned me onto Future’s music was his feature on Rihanna’s “Love Song.” I had heard Future’s other music, and it didn’t appeal much to me. But that Future, that was the Future that got me hooked. It introduced me to the other Future. A Future I grew to like, grew to love. So the re-introduction of the L-O-V-E Future was a pleasant surprise.
With Future, we get that classic Future. It wasn’t bad. There were good songs, potentially some hits. But it was nothing new, really. It was the same old, same old. It exemplified Future — The Rapper, perfectly.
With Hndrxx, there’s meaning to the music. With different songs, we seemingly get different love stories of Future’s — if you want to call them love stories. With “Damage,” Future talks about trying to balance women and money. It’s a common rap topic, but Future made sure to give the women meaning — not just value them for their lady parts. When it comes to rappers, you’ll take that.
In “Fresh Air,” Future talks about needing a woman to spend his time with. In the chorus, he seems to admit to experiencing some loneliness.
“I’ma need fresh air, I’ma need fresh air. I need to get out on my own. It’s been t0o long.”
“Solo” was a little hard to dissect, for me. My interpretation is he is messing around with some girl that has a boyfriend, and is enjoying himself, but when he gets too popular, he has to cut it off so the boyfriend doesn’t find out. He doesn’t seem too upset about it ending, but hey, again, we’re getting somewhere. This girl is not just another “bitch” to him.
And in my personal favorite, “I Thank U,” Future seems to be enjoying himself with another girl (which he also respects). In the chorus, he is thanking her for making him hustle — seemingly giving her some credit for where he is today. But it is clear that she is in the past and no longer apart of the picture.
Rihanna even reunited with Future on Hndrxx, and they made another beautiful love song — “Selfish.” Probably the purest one on the album.
Dirty Sprite 2 is one of my favorite rap albums ever, and Evol followed it up nicely. We all need our hype songs, and Future is one of the best in the game at making that kind of music. Taking a 180° from Future to Hndrxx may have been a risk among his biggest fans, but it was a calculated one at that. To the fringe fans, Future was one dimensional. That’s how I first saw him. Then I saw some raw emotion. He addressed that he feels, too. Hndrxx emphasized that, perhaps showing those fringe fans that he is more than that Atlanta trapper — he’s a real person that we can relate to. He can put real experiences and feelings onto paper, pair it with a dope beat and make something beautiful.
There’s no actual way to tell who the real Future is. He may be more Future, or he may be more Hndrxx. Those two albums did show us something, though: he either does have two sides to him, or he’s really good at faking it. I’ll take either one.
Hndrxx is far from being a beautiful love story, but it may be as close as Future ever gets. Hopefully he throws some more music out with this R&B flow, but in all likelihood he will go back to being the old Future—whether it be the real or fake version of himself. For that reason, we need to cherish this.