Image Courtesy of OVO Sound
On Sept. 20, 2015, the unexpected happened: Drake released another unannounced mixtape. Earlier this year, Drake released If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late without much warning. Eight months later, he has taken the same course of action, but this time he has released a project with previous collaborator (“Where Ya At”), Future. Drake and Future have released two top hip-hop/rap albums of 2015, with Drake’s album going platinum and Future claiming his first number one spot on the U.S. Billboard charts. Despite the success they have already achieved this year, they still decided to deliver something more: What A Time to Be Alive.
What A Time To Be Alive has only been released for three weeks and has already began claiming wide commercial success. Although the duo’s mixtape has been claiming the number one spot on iTunes, the Billboard Top 200 and the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop charts, something seems to be missing from this latest release.
The critical success of this album doesn’t quite make a splash, in comparison to the tracks Drake has been releasing (“Hotline Bling,” “Know Yourself”) and the success of Future’s DS2 record. The collaboration of each artist on nine out of eleven tracks makes it clear that these two are striving for something more.
The album opens with “Digital Dash.” Just from an initial listening to the song, one thing resonates more than anything: Future. Throughout the course of the four-minute song, Drake makes one appearance. The production, rhymes and beat of the track all deliver, but it does not necessarily deliver the product you expect on a Drake and Future album.
This same pattern of Drake disappearing into the background of Future’s verses is seen multiple times throughout the record, such as in “Live From the Gutter” and “I’m the Plug.” In this album, Drake’s signature emotional lyrics and style barely shine through. For the majority of What A Time To Be Alive, Drake and Future seem to be disconnected. The listener almost begins to question whose record this really is. But luckily, some “diamonds” were planted deeper within this album.
Tracks like “Diamonds Dancing,” “Jumpman,” “Scholarships,” and “Big Rings” revive hope for What A Time To Be Alive. Upon hearing these tracks, the listener doesn’t have to try and guess whose record this is — they know it’s a Drake and Future album. “Big Rings” is a classic Drake sounding song that brings back some nostalgic sounds from his 2010 album Headlines. “Diamonds Dancing,” as the fourth track on the album, provides reassurance that Drake and Future really can collaborate on a something lyrically and artistically special.
The perfect blend of Drake and Future is heard in “Scholarships.” Future brings his identifiable dark lyrics and rhymes about the disdain of addiction, while Drake brings his usual emotion-filled timbre to the table. In this track, the two prove they are an unbeatable combination.
Nothing more can be said about “Jumpman” other than the word “banger.” Drake and Future conclude their collaborative work on this record with an infectious repetition of the word “jumpman” throughout every verse they spit. Shaking this tune out of your head is not going to be easy.
The album ends with individual tracks by both artists. “Jersey” by Future and “30 For 30 Freestyle” by Drake each deliver what you’d expect out of a song done by each of the respective artists. With the sorrowful, troubling lyrics stated by Future, Drake follows up with an equally melancholic, emotional track. Although, the rhythm of the song is not as auditorily pleasing as a typical Drake song, it still suffices for those looking for a raw, stirring listen.
Despite the minimal chemistry between both hip-hop stars on several of the tracks, you can never underestimate the power of surprise. The acclaim that Drake and Future have had this year single-handedly drew people to want to listen to their latest record. The future of the unconventional album release is yet to be determined, but it is clear that Drake and Future have stumbled upon something special. So Drake and Future might be right — maybe this is quite “a time to be alive.”