Before I discovered the beauty and ease of New York’s premium weed delivery services, I was relegated to sketchy pick-up means. I’d venture to the outskirts of Manhattan’s Upper West side, patiently sit on a curb, typically wait 30-minutes for the guy, and then jump when I saw his BMW’s front bumper peek from the shadows. No, this wasn’t your dad’s BMW. This was the BMW you’d expect a 23-year-old weed dealer to drive: 5-series, racing stripes, gaudy rims, hot-boxed. I was pretty much Dave Chappelle in Half Baked picking up from the dudes in the park before he could afford Sampson’s delivery service.

We’d make eye contact; he’d casually nod his head, motioning me to hop in the passenger seat. My first two or three times doing this, paranoia convinced me that the cops were in the backseat, waiting to take me away. (Because every cop loves going down the chain of command to lock up the big bad consumer, right?) However, after several successful transactions, my arrest fear dwindled, and my dealer and I actually developed a nice rapport—our mom’s still play mahjong together. 

One summer night while waiting to receive my promised Blue Dream (the cliché favorite strain, but a favorite nonetheless), I relaxedly, happily hopped up front. Future’s then newly released, DS2, set the ambiance for our exchanged pleasantries. My dealer’s pesky real estate license still eluded him. I told him to hang in there. 

As Future’s staple mumble continued, we began shooting the shit about Hip Hop—the ultimate weed dealer - goofy Jew equalizer. Yes, he was surprised that his clearly Jewish customer was a diehard Hip Hop head. I told him how much I was loving A$AP Rocky’s 2015 project, and he responded with saying he couldn’t stop bumping the new Future. Since this was our 10th (or 30th) rendezvous, I felt comfortable enough to challenge him on this and question his love for the trapper. Although I hadn’t yet listened to DS2, my Future experience convinced me that his library’s monotony made a bad and good project indecipherable. I’d always enjoyed him in limited capacity, like on features or hooks (I spent weeks memorizing his hook on Vince Staple’s “Señorita”), but solo Future projects bored me. However, I actually did enjoy 56 Nights. 

I candidly told him that I simply didn’t get Future’s aesthetic or appeal, to which he replied, “Man, I relate to this shit.” It’s funny, lack of relatability never deterred my Hip Hop passion—I can’t personally relate to 98% of Hip Hop’s content, but I have this ineffable love for the genre. Pusha T is one of my favorite rappers, and the majority of his content revolves around flipping cocaine. But the way he talks about it is artistic (and he annunciates). Future was just this droning barrage of auto-tuned slurs.  

But that notion stuck with me: “Man, I relate to this shit.” Here’s a young, “entrepreneur” relating to Future on multiple levels high above my cognition: there’s obviously the glamorous drug connection, but Future also exposes drug abuses’s primary functional dependency—a vice that masks depression. Future gives a voice to the voiceless. This encounter altered my perception of Future, and even encouraged me to bump DS2, which I was pleasantly surprised with. It’s heavy trap sonics voyage through Future’s drug-laced mind and thoughts, revealing his depression and vulnerability. I started viewing my dealer more as a human, rather than a guy to provide my fix. Still, not many people have the opportunity to re-evaluate their Future perception based on understanding him through a drug dealer’s/addict’s vantage point. His following trended more cult than commercial. 

With the help of DS2’s Drake-assisted “Where Ya At,” and subsequent collaboration project What a Time to Be Alive, Future’s audience began widening. After DS2, he released several solo projects and two collaborative tapes (lest we forget, Future is one of the game’s hardest workers). But, personally, they still all sounded so “Futurey”—completely robbed of varied sonics/content.

After listening to his 2/17-released self-titled studio album, FUTURE, my hope for him to branch out dwindled. Same lines about drugs; same mumble, auto-tune aesthetic; same production. Monotonous. And then, in typical Future fashion, he released another official studio album only one-week later, HNDRXX. I’ll admit, I was skeptical, but curious. 

I got a text from my boy asking if I’d heard the new Future. Of course thinking he was referencing FUTURE, I said yes and voiced my displeasure. “Not the self-titled one. HNDRXX. It’s premiering on Apple Music right now. Not same old monotonous Future,” he responded. “Okay, I’ll bite,” I thought to myself.

I jumped in mid-premiere at track six, “Incredible.” Dre Moon’s instrumental presented a sharp contrast to Future’s conventional trap production, piquing my curiosity—this beat is fun, light, and melodic; almost trance-like. Not only does the music itself sound incredibly different than Future’s traditional style, the content navigates unconventional waters for Atlanta’s purple king. Describing former female trust issues born from unfaithful relationships, Future discusses feeling incredible with his new girl who has re-instilled confidence in him. The auto-tune vocals blend well with the beat to create a euphoric product, highlighting Future’s lucidity. This surprisingly pleasant anecdote enticed me; the Beats 1 premiere’s remainder converted me. 

HNDRXX is the Future album I’ve been waiting for. After years of confusion regarding his fans’ passion for him, HNDRXX repositions Future’s musical place. This album’s wide-ranging production and concepts allow him to escape the typecast depressed trapper role he’s assumed since his 2008 arrival. For awhile, I think Future felt a responsibility to continue discussing trap content over his customary beats, for fear of letting down his core followers and stepping outside his comfort zone. For fear of not being relatable. As impressive as his voluminous releases are, one has to think that regurgitating content on relatively singular production becomes quite formulaic, and in turn easier and easier to produce. It’s difficult to break out of a cycle that seemingly isn’t broken—his core fanbase will always champion him. HNDRXX demonstrates Future’s artistic and personal growth that will translate into a deeper, richer career by encompassing a broader demographic. His musical experimentation is similar to watching Vince Carter’s game transition from freakish athletics to sound fundamental play, effectively extending his career. While Future still discusses standard braggadocios and drug content, he’s doing it differently. 

Future’s singing - rapping dichotomy showcases his versatility lost on previous projects without robbing his artistic integrity. While he’s dabbling with new sounds, his trap heart still strongly, proudly beats—just more melodically than we’re used to. The Southside-produced “Lookin Exotic” revamps Future’s classic sound by supplying a more varied composition that embarrasses common trap instrumentals. Songs like “Selfish” introduce an unfamiliar Future thanks to his singing juxtaposed with Rihanna’s vocals, complemented by the pop beat. These varying facets are bolstering his palatability. Future’s household status is unquestioned, but HNDRXX is necessary to shed his trap-only image, and increase his commerciality.

After digesting this album, and going back for seconds, I can’t help but think how my dealer would view this project. I think most Future purists will be upset with HNDRXX for two reasons: (1) it strays from his typical sound and (2) it will broaden his fanbase. Future “hipsters” will brag about knowing his dopeness ever since his debut album, Pluto, and hate on those bandwagon fans. People are weird, man—we have this extreme pride of ownership when things aren’t ours. (I’m not even going to broach obvious examples.) It’s like when you look in a music video’s YouTube comments and see some douche write, “here at 500 views!”; that makes sense, because that artist is now definitely going to give you royalties for your early patronage… It’s not necessarily that the hipsters don’t want Future to reach his potential, it’s just that they don’t want him to breach the masses (AKA white girl popular) off a sound that didn’t structure his rise. I 100% understand and appreciate that. But, if these purists truly have Future’s best intentions at heart, then they’ll put aside pettiness and celebrate his growing palatability.

Future’s meteoric ascension over the past four-five years is impressive. He’s an example of what happens when talent meets hard work and sage strategy—releasing new projects regularly, coupled with teaming up with superstars like Drake, and his empathetic trap king role position him for niche success. But Future’s rise is no accident—his moves are calibrated and deliberate. HNDRXX strategically flirts with commerciality without cheating on his core fanbase.