Arts, Music

Drake and Future Trade Swings on ‘What a Time to Be Alive’

3.5 stars

Drake and Future’s What a Time To Be Alive feels like a pipe dream for many hip-hop fans, as it unites two of the hip-hop genre’s most prolific artists in a consolidated effort while both still sit at the pinnacle of their respective careers. It feels like a new Watch the Throne.

The self-acclaimed “Future Hendrix” of our generation and supreme master of what he calls “astronaut music,” the mixtape maestro Future has put his mark on the industry with a quick succession of trap album jabs followed by the bombastic uppercut that was his 3rd studio release DS2.

Drake has not only recently weathered the barrage of insults hurled his way by Meek Mill splendidly, effectively asserting his place as musical royalty regardless of what old-school fanatics might say. During this time he also released one of the most successful albums of the year: If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late. He represents the quintessential rags to riches story, at least in the terms of musical success.

The new collaboration serves as a victory lap for both artists and represents an outlet for their contagious energy. The effort emerged as the product of a heavily condensed 9 day studio schedule where the two actually recorded the tracks in the presence of each other, unlike other partnerships where both artist came together only after heavy editing.

Future brings back his trusted producer/associate Metro Boomin, and unsurprisingly, the work contains many of his distinct sounds including the evolving trap rhythms he is famous for. His autotuned rap voice is also heavily present and works, no matter what T-Pain says. Drake’s striking content, when combined with a spoken-word-like delivery, generates an entrancing experience.

What a Time to Be Alive features the pair’s distinct qualities and characteristics, jelled together with a refreshing level of chemistry between the two. Both engage in what seems to be soliloquies of anguish and desperation emanating from the difficulties of their respective lifestyles, of which they have fewer control than would be expected.

Filled with exposition about their drug use, alcohol consumption, and intimate, although superficial, relations with women, it puts “the life” into perspective.

The work feels almost as a split effort. Drake and Future never engage the same content wavelength until “Plastic Bag,” where they both level about the emptiness they feel when engaging with groupies, whom the artists think keep their feelings inside of the same plastic bag they keep their dope in. The trap rhythm coupled with the catchy-like-gum-stuck-to-your-shoe hook sees the two at their finest. It is the double-edged type of song that both quenches the thirst of fans but leaves the throat dry clamoring for more where more may not truly exist.

“Jumpman” is the most energetic song of the bunch. It heavily relies on Drake’s fast but emotion packing delivery to catalyze and enthrall all of the senses. It is the type of song that makes you jump to your feet without knowing why, but it is not as if you care, as you are too caught up in the vibe to actually stop to think.

The mixtape ends with two solo efforts: “Jersey” and “30 for 30 Freestyle” by Future and Drake respectively. The former feels like a continuation of DS2 while the latter reeks of Drake but Future’s spaced-out influence still manages to seep to the surface.

The album’s existence is an achievement in and of itself—its rapid production points to the undeniable work ethic of both parties. It manages to capture with alacrity the essence of both superstars as they continue to transcend the accepted boundaries of the genre: Drake with his “emotion as art” and Future with his trap infused search for gratification to cover his inner demons. The collaboration does not reach the heights of their previous works but it does something neither had done before: it exposes to the industry one undeniable fact—they are winning.

Featured Image Courtesy of Cash Money Records

September 28, 2015