Thursday, March 2, 2017

Future - Hndrxx Review

Well, that was quick. While Future's work never struck me as very multi-dimensional, there was a clear side missing from last week's Future, despite that LP donning his signature pseudonym. Composed primarily of Trap bangers with minimal detours, the self-titled release felt predominantly single-minded. Being Trap's kingpin, and also one of its most rudimentary artists, the stale nature of such a release would've slipped by me without much of a second thought. However, in Future's eyes, a self-titled project can't be complete without the full alias. And thus, Hndrxx was born. Another 17-track affair, the second LP in as many weeks finds Future exploring his softer side, trading his often-touted braggadocio for romantic squabbles caught in Trap's misogynistic net. In theory, the existence of two such projects is rather clever. Future, the name he's known to the masses by, reflects his radio-friendly bangers, while Hndrxx, the under-utilized nom de plume, represents the artist's personal affairs. While Hndrxx still struggles to overcome the limitations imposed by its creators' artistic inadequacies, the project finds a stronger commitment from Future, both lyrically and topically, while maintaining solid Southern Hip-Hop production whilst shying away from Trap's trove of redundancies.

If there's one frustrating aspect of Future's quantity over quality approach, it's that if he had restricted himself to one reasonably-sized project over two larger ones, he'd have another fan to call his own. But alas, filler plays just as prominent a role on Hndrxx as it does on Future. The key difference being how quality divides itself. On Future, the bulk of the highlights were concluded by 'Mask Off,' the album's seventh track. However here, Hndrxx's high marks are sprinkled throughout, limiting stagnation despite the length. While 'My Collection' is an admirable introduction that finds Future consciously honing in on a topic, the first memorable track occurs at number seven with 'Incredible.' It'll appear elsewhere, but Future's Drake impression is most prominent here, with production that sounds similar to 'With You.' The appeal of 'Incredible' may be exaggerated due to the preceding tracks though, especially 'Damage,' which uses a painfully derivative hook as the basis for its existence, and 'Lookin Exotic,' which is riddled with cliches from top to bottom. Elsewhere, I'm not sure how Future pulls off the nasally-sung hook of 'Fresh Air' or the nimble nuances on 'Turn On Me,' but both efforts work despite side-lining his typical go-to moves for something more musically-inclined.

More than that, Hndrxx comes equip with the best Future song I've ever heard; 'Hallucinating.' Apart from the content, which, while certainly better than other cuts here, isn't exactly revolutionary, everything else 'Hallucinating' has on offer is praiseworthy. One of Future's most astute hooks, the underlying simplicity and non-expressive singing allows for creativity and catchiness to shine alongside one another. This all on top of Dre Moon production, who also produced 'Incredible' and 'Solo,' that flourishes in the subtleties of vocal loops and aquatic percussion. A rare case of restricted variation actually improving a song, the repetition heightens the sense of unclarity after a late, late night at the club slowly gives way to dawn. Two other standouts can be found later on in the form of 'Selfish' and 'Sorry.' For two drastically different reasons, 'Selfish' excels because it treats Rihanna as the lead in what could very well be a summer smash, while 'Sorry' finds Future focusing on the pen, drawing up some of his strongest bars yet. Somehow, the seven-and-a-half minutes of 'Sorry' are entirely warranted, including a one-minute instrumental fade-out, unheard of in Future's music, and an enthralling verse set dead center that aims to prove why Future, if he tries, can be up there with A$AP Rocky as having one of Hip-Hop's best flows.

By and large, the hits have been accounted for. Just like last week's affair, filler seeps between the cushy fabric. While more forgettable whiteout's were found on Future, there's another inexcusable misstep on Hndrxx that causes any potential advantage to become null and void. That, of course, is Future's blatant misogyny and hypocrisy, two side-effects of living in Hip-Hop's present where braggadocio and the appreciation of women coexist. Thanks in large part to the popularity of Drake's soft side, countless rappers who once treated women as objects are now being programmed to respect them. However, as is often the case, Future's true persona trips over his fake one constantly. How one could muster gooey love ballads like 'Damage' ("Girl, I've been there for you, and you know that it's true") or 'Sorry' ("Ain't really mean to hurt you, sorry it's gotta be this way"), whilst kickstarting the album declaring every girl he has sex with is now apart of his collection is beyond me. The hypocrisy isn't just evident there, 'Keep Quiet' is literally about keeping a taken girl's mouth shut while having sex so as not to alert suspicions, while both 'Coming Out Strong' and 'Use Me' find Future condemning those who are liars and have secrets.

Whilst one could argue Trap has never been the most progressive of genres, and those who are prominent names within it absolutely not fit to be role models, the popularity of artists like Future, Migos, and Gucci Mane means adolescents listening to them will absolutely borrow ideas. Is trying to fuse the mentality of respecting women whilst demeaning them better than the outright misogyny of Hip-Hop's past? That's a question without a straightforward answer. However, what is rather evident is that Future's mental gymnastics hurts Hndrxx, especially because the rapper single-handedly filling up 15 songs is essentially unavoidable. Being that my lifestyle differs strongly from Future's, it's not unexpected that a guilty conscious arises every time 'Hallucinating's' beautiful web of vocal harmonies speaks over attaining a women's love by purchasing it with exotic gifts. How marvelous can an album really be when the lyrics, one half of the project as a whole, contradict each other so much that both sides fizzle out into regurgitated vapidness? We can leverage Future, lower our standards to meet his, and appreciate the production, hooks, and flows, which all improve over last week's self-titled. Or, we can include every facet on display and understand that Hndrxx, with greatness and ignorance in tow, isn't as rewarding as it could've been.

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