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HNDRXX is the Fullfilment of Future’s Pop Star Prophesy

For the second consecutive Friday, Future has a new album out. This week, it’s HNDRXX, an R&B-laden diary packed with tales of the Atlanta innovator running to and from his indulgences. The hedonistic defense mechanisms that made last week’s Future a sword for the trap star to wield disappear on HNDRXX, replaced by the difficult process of self-affirmation and the search for transparency in others. HNDRXX puts out the fires that Future ignites.

The best part about HNDRXX‘s melody-driven sonic palette is the fact that it’s the completion of a prophecy born of Future’s painfully obvious pop star potential. After forcing his way into the mainstream’s consciousness with a handful of undeniable anthems in 2011 and 2012—”Tony Montana,” “Magic,” “Same Damn Time”—Future used the newfound attention he’d garnered to shine a light on what he believed was his true talent: songwriting. What followed was “Turn On The Lights,” an Auto-Tuned, bonafide R&B ballad about finding love in the club. It was an overwhelmingly pop concept, which meant it should have been unthinkable for a guy who’d just rapped about “fucking two bad bitches at the same damn time” on his previous single. Regardless, “Turn On The Lights” was Future’s first release to crack the Top 50 of Billboard‘s Hot 100. It was soon followed by collaborations with Kelly Rowland (“Neva End”) and Miley Cyrus and Mr. Hudson (“Real and True”). And that’s how “Future Vandross” was born. The nickname was a humorous allusion to the sheer unlikeliness of a trap rapper being able to pull off the records he was pumping out, but he willed it into being. Future was now the next big thing in rap and pop, at the same damn time.

Then Honest happened. Future’s sophomore album was a critical darling of sorts, but it failed to resonate with fans, who suddenly weren’t sure which version of Future they preferred. Would it be the “I Won” Future? Or the “Move That Dope?” Future? The album played like Future and his team were having trouble making up their minds too. After only making it to the number two spot on the Billboard 200 and failing to chart a single song in the Top 40, Future’s spaceship stalled.

Six months later the bounce-back began. First he pledged allegiance to the trap with Monster, a blistering mixtape produced almost entirely by Metro Boomin. No more Auto-Tune octaves or Bryan-Michael Cox-esque choruses. “It don’t fuck with my conscience, I serve my auntie that raw,” rapped Future on the tape’s title track. Screw your pop charts, America! Three months later, another mixtape followed, Beast Mode. Two months after that, another one, 56 Nights. Three months after that, a full-length album, DS2, that refused to sacrifice the mixtape formula and still debuted at No. 1. He was done with release dates and music video trailers. The streets needed to be fed.

This is when the real magic happened. Future doubled down on his growled bars about codeine and strip clubs, and he began achieving pop success without any help from Miley or Rihanna. “Commas” was a near-instant hit. “Trap N****s” and “March Madness” made 56 Nights a baby LP. DS2 delivered “Stick Talk.” Then Drake wanted in. Not just for a song (DS2‘s “Where Ya At”) but an entire project. Their collaboration What A Time To Be Alive became Future’s second straight number one album. Drake went back to his “Billboard melodies” a few months later on Views, but Future wasn’t done. EVOL arrived in January of 2016 (his 3rd straight number one debut), just weeks after another mixtape, Purple Reign, launced another record, “Wicked,” into the Top 40.

Still there was unfinished business on the pop and R&B front. Before Honest finally materialized toward the end of 2013, Future had plans to release an album titled Future Hendrix. As he told Zane Lowe on Beats1 last week, he had no plans to emulate Jimi’s epic guitar riffs. He was trying to evoke the frenzy Hendrix brought with him everywhere he went. Future the rockstar. But it wasn’t time yet. His work in the trenches wasn’t finished.

Last Friday, closure on that work came with Future. With today’s release, HNDRXX, Future makes good on a three-year-old promise that some thought would never come to pass. Those unaware of this arc may consider it a fluke, but this was no accident, and no one knows it better than Mr. Nayvadius Wilburn himself.

 

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