Is it weird that that the hottest rapper in the game is playing with fire?
With the release of HNDRXX, Future may have just turned the trap into Benihana by dropping his second album in six days. It feels like this decision requires some examination; a process which takes years for some artists — or decades if you’re name is Dr. Dre or Andre 3000 — Hendrix just gave the streets two solo LPs in the span of 144 hours.
It’s easy to assume that Future, who hadn’t dropped an album since last February, simply looked to make a triumphant return as a solo artist, then capitalize on that momentum, especially considering there is a precedent for this. Game did it last year. Double CDs had been around forever. E-40 will put out an audio book’s worth of material in one day if you let him. But album releases are extremely intentional, calculated events. Even when an artist puts out a surprise album, it’s still a calculated event.
It appears Future’s move was to satisfy a contract from which he was desperate to flee. The Atlanta rapper was slapped with a lawsuit by another Atlanta rapper, Rocko, who had signed Future to A1 Recordings in 2011. Future allegedly then signed with Epic before putting out the required number of albums under the A1 umbrella. It’s not a completely befuddling decision (as it also has precedent), but one that may carry unintended consequences.
Even at a time where content is king, the “What A Time To Be Alive” rapper is rolling the dice that over-saturation won’t hurt his brand. When 2 Chainz was at the height of his fame, you couldn’t turn on the radio for more than five minutes without hearing one of his several hits or a 16-bar feature. By the time his second album was ready to roll though, the shine was already off, which was easy to predict.
There’s a fine line between striking while the iron is hot and playing yourself. In addition to running the risk of generating listener fatigue, over-saturation can easily lead to a perception of desperation. “Is Future doing this because he needs to pay for his legal fees?” Or, “Future gotta go on tour again…you know he needs to make them child support payments!” Getting money is cool, but doing anything in hip-hop out of desperation isn’t.
Putting out music at a breakneck pace gives off an impression your process doesn’t require any effort. While this doesn’t apply to all emcees (like Curren$y), many rappers who engage in this practice are trash (and we’ve wondered about Future). Lil Wayne popularized this method of recording in the mid-to-late 2000’s, but saw a sharp decline in the quality of his work. Maybe this fits with Future’s brand; if so, the question then becomes, is he comfortable with his brand (even more than the average artist) hinging heavily on whether or not the music is dope?
Sidebar: For example, if Lupe Fiasco puts out a record that seems weak initially, fans are more likely to give him the benefit of the doubt because they know the intricacies of his music requires more time to create, and therefore a deeper examination.
The early returns on Future’s eponymous album released on February 17 were not good; the opposite was true for HNDRXX (if you ask Twitter anyway). Future can easily squash any of these potential concerns IF the music is still fire. But if not, this tactic of releasing back-to-back LPs — along with the rampant speculation that a third album could be coming in a matter of days — can backfire just as easily.