Future and HNDRXX: An MTV News Reaction Roundtable

When the Atlanta superstar released two albums this month — FUTURE, followed a week later by HNDRXX — MTV’s music team sprung into action. Read on for a spirited roundtable discussion of both albums, featuring Molly Lambert, Tirhakah Love, and Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib.

Lambert: What’s better than a new Future album? Two new Future albums!

Love: Shout out to the legal pressures that may or may not have helped motivate homeboy to saturate streaming services with as much sizzurpy rap as his fans can swallow. Say what you will, Future seems up to the challenge. And while Future’s workaholism deserves applause for releasing two albums in #backtoback weeks, I’m more impressed with the albums’ shrewdly executed curation. Future is centered within a prism of pleasure-seeking pop-rap anthems that share genetic code with 2015’s DS2, while HNDRXX‘s warbly soul exhalations wail in a darkness that’s more reminiscent of 2014’s Monster and 2015’s introspective 56 Nights. Future’s tone and timbre are divergent enough between albums that their consecutive release, at the very least, complicates — and at the very most, emphatically undermines — any claims that his approach to making records is too static. Future is known to feel out a beat, quickly find an emotional center, and take off from there; the way he’s organized Future and HNDRXX as a dialectic between his hedonism and wariness, respectively, highlights his compositional smarts and attention to lyrical and aesthetic details that such a pivot requires.

Lambert: Future is like DayQuil and HNDRXX is NyQuil: The former is a motivational soundtrack for the sunlight hours, and the latter is built for nighttime listening. Future is caffeinated confidence and HNDRXX is hungover regret. At times it plays like a cycle about Future and Ciara’s relationship — the manic highs and lows of a bad breakup. Future is a blazing star and HNDRXX is an ice planet. I was definitely more interested in exploring the ice world.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/3IJPE9ICRq5PxVZxdv1sEv

Willis-Abdurraqib: I found myself underwhelmed by Future, even though it was doing some pretty interesting sonic stuff that felt like a small departure from Future’s regular sound palette. I think the flute on “Mask Off” is the best rap flute we’ve gotten in any song since “Oochie Wally,” and I think “Mask Off” is a much better song than that one. But outside of a handful of moments, I was starting to wonder if Future’s great run was maybe becoming a thing of the past that we’d look back on longingly, like we did with early-career DMX. Then HNDRXX really swayed me in every imaginable way. I’m overwhelmed by how deeply sad parts of the album are, how steeped in misery the album seems to be. Future sounds like he’s still reeling from the parts of his personal life that fell apart, and I think HNDRXX is the first time where I’ve felt like he made the feelings plain. I don’t really know when his run will end or how much longer he’ll keep this pace, but I think HNDRXX feels like a logical bookend to pair with Honest, the album that started the run. It takes some of that album’s more hopeful elements and turns them on their side, and does it without some of the darkness that permeated DS2. I was a fan of that darkness — but it has been good to see Future lean into a more plain and direct grief. It makes HNDRXX a very relatable, touchable album for me in a way that DS2, even though it’s the crown jewel of the run, wasn’t.

Lambert: Sad Future is my favorite Future. I realized that circa “Jumpman,” when he veered suddenly and unexpectedly into the void at the end of that otherwise breezy song — saying “I know I’ma get my bitch back” in a way that let you know he is absolutely never going to get her back. HNDRXX‘s “My Collection” is likewise the saddest macho brag in the history of time. It’s the sound of someone defensively looking back on the choices he’s made, and trying to convince himself that it’s better to have a wall of taxidermied doves than a live bird in the hand. “Any time I got you, girl you my possession” is a cute attempt. A sad Future is also a sensitive Future. The claims made on HNDRXX’s songs aren’t always that different from those of Future — he makes a lot of money and fucks a lot of hot chicks on both — but his delivery and context feel totally changed. Ciara haunts the proceedings, the ghost of “Body Party” appearing whenever Future addresses the unspecified “you” who demonstrated to him the hard way that his heart is breakable.

 

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