Both Future and Drake have had wildly successful 2015s. Future is fresh off of the acclaimed “DS2,” along with two similarly praised mixtapes before that, and Drake is coming off of the hit machine “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” and of course the infamous Meek Mill beef. Needless to say, after “Back to Back” dropped, Drake’s place at the top of hip-hop totem pole in terms mainstream dominance has been completely undisputed and feels more cemented than ever, and Future’s meteoric rise from the “Turn On the Lights” guy to a universally respected rapper has been undisputed as well. And after some collaborations and cosigns, Drake and Future have officially come together for a full length project, and while it doesn’t match up to their best individual works, “What a Time to Be Alive” is undeniably fun.
While Drake’s name appears first on the billing of the project, “What a Time to Be Alive” feels very much Future-centric. Vocally, he doesn’t take over the album, as both of these guys share time on the mic pretty equally, but production wise and aesthetically, this has much more in common with “DS2” than “Nothing Was the Same” or “Take Care.” Produced largely by Metro Boomin, the beats here are hard, lean soaked trap bangers that would land perfectly on Future’s last record, and while this leads to the same problem I had with “DS2” in that the beats get a little repetitive towards the end and lead to a couple of lackluster songs, the beats here are still undeniably good, and are exactly what you’d expect from a Future rapped and Metro produced project.
Rapping wise, these guys play more into Future’s style as well. Obviously, Future is doing his auto tuned, slurred, and drugged out southern raps, and as you’d expect, it goes over with flying colors, and Drake is just kind of supporting that. He’s bringing similar triplet flows (with which he double times his ass off on “I’m the Plug”), and while he’s not exactly rapping about all of the lean he drinks, like Future is, he’s not exactly doing his album Drake stuff either. Besides the gorgeous and bombastic Weeknd-esque ballad “Diamonds Dancing,” there are no relationship or getting back to the basics with my family themed songs, or similarly personal songs, here. I hate to say it, but much of this project is Drake on lyrical autopilot, but within this context, it’s still entertaining. But the closing track here, “30 for 30 Freestyle,” totally diverts from the Future-centric formula of the 10 preceding tracks. Produced by 40, this track features the same kind of ethereal, airy, ambient, atmospheric, and piano based production that was all over “Nothing Was the Same,” and over this Drake does his familiar wordy and verbose flow, and confessional lyrical style. He’s still not getting into the gritty details like he has on tracks like “From Time,” but this song definitely reveals the Drake I came to love after “Nothing Was the Same.” This whole hype-track and somewhat dumbed-down Drake thing has been cool, but it was nice to see him hook up with 40 and deliver an “album Drake” song, and what was hopefully a bit of a preview of “Views from the 6ix.”
“What a Time to be Alive,” for what it is, is very good. It doesn’t represent the best of either artist, but it was nonetheless really entertaining to see them come together and craft some killer songs in the process. For both Future and Drake, the win streaks of 2015 continue, and now we just need “Ape Shit 2” and “Views from the 6ix,” hopefully sooner rather than later.
Standout Tracks: “Digital Dash” “Diamonds Dancing” “Scholarships” “I’m the Plug” “30 for 30 Freestyle”