'FUTURE' vs. 'HNDRXX': Future Proves His Alter Egos Are No Gimmick

Ricky Saiz
Future

Future has entered the pantheon of rappers with well-defined secondary personas. Not unlike Eminem, Tyler, the Creator and Nicki Minaj’s collection of alternate characters (not to mention Tupac and Makaveli), the Atlanta rap star has switched up his personality on wax to diversify his overwhelming discography and remain at the center of pop culture.

Most recently, he tapped into both sides of his persona to produce a pair of albums, FUTURE and HNDRXX. The latter appeared just one week after the former's initial surprise drop, and though talk of his legal issues with A1 Recordings founder Rocko threatened to overshadow the one-two musical punch, both bodies of work are impressive showcases of his unstoppable creative energy.

Serving fans with back-to-back releases is an obvious nod to Super Future, the hit-maker with the stamina and singular drive to flood playlists with 34 new songs in a week’s time. On the self-titled portion, the narrative of the rapper's ascendance from the streets to a position of unbridled braggadocio and extravagance remains at the forefront, but not without the typical inclusion of R&B b---es as bedded casualties (“Rent Money”) and pink molly as a late-night muse (“Draco”) along the way. "From food stamps to a whole 'nother domain," he raps over the Metro Boomin-produced "Mask Off,” an early highlight on the record, while on “POA,” he brags juxtapositionally about sitting in Chanel “like it’s a trap.”

But where the usual creative formula on FUTURE that drove his previous winning streaks (read: the 2016 run encompassing Beast ModeMonster, DS2) may prove exhaustive, HNDRXX is where Future refreshes and excites. As he grapples with his Super Trapper ego, the softer, vulnerable side he dubbed Future Hendrix early on in his career affords us glimpses into the romantic highs, hurt and questioning he first crooned about on cuts like “Loveeeeee Song” and “Turn On the Lights.”

“If we never speak again, I'm just glad I got to tell you truth,” he says on the album’s second line, a clear indication that the singing rock star is about to get painfully honest about how his lifestyle of fast money, women and hazy, pill-popping nights “be f--king my life up” (“Damages”). The trap-meets-love themes are accented by appearances from a pair of pop megastars, Rihanna (“Selfish”) and The Weeknd (“Comin Out Strong”), the only featured spots throughout the twin projects. Singer-songwriter and producer Detail also shows up to lace the FUTURE follow-up with outstanding background vocals and further bring the brightest spots on the hip-hop/R&B hybrid album to life.

To keep it a buck, Future’s main character traits are excess and nihilism, which appear in different ways on each project. On FUTURE, he dismisses all attachment, hovering in the realm where nothing matters outside of Maybachs and G5s. But while HNDRXX finds him attempting to convince his listeners, and himself, that Percocets and promethazine numb and dismiss any lingering romantic emotion — that there’s bitterness there, but really, he just doesn’t care — his steely trapper persona gives way to those nighttime Drake-esque feels once the high wears off.

He reiterates his skepticism of women on songs like “My Collection,” “Use Me” and “Damage,” preferring drugs and other men’s wives to opening himself up to love. His overt obsession with not caring, however, only reinforces that he is, in fact, affected; despite his attempts to state otherwise, HNDRXX in particular shows plainly that he has a lot to get off his chest.

Despite his five-plus-year run of trap bangers, crossover pop hits and songs for (and about) women, his prolific musical output has polarized some fans: Is it too much? Has he peaked? What else does he have to offer besides drug talk and loose groupies? It’s safe to wonder if there’s a side to Future we've yet to see. 

But his fifth and sixth studio albums have proven that not only does Super Future have plenty of songs in the bag, but so does his flip side The Wizard, the mastermind who helps fuel his musical je ne sais quoi, and the culprit who clinched the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 (and is on an unprecedented track to double up with HNDRXX). If Future’s goal is to keep fans guessing right when we believe we’ve figured him out, mission accomplished. And if nothing else, Future’s latest stunt also confirms that his alter egos are no gimmick.