Time freezes in the music world whenever there is a clash of titans. In the hierarchy of today’s biggest hip-hop superstars, Drake and Future are monoliths. Two of a genre’s biggest artists coming together to release a collaborative project is not something you see every day.
What a Time to Be Alive is a mixtape in album’s clothing; a $10 price tag on something that’s typically free, it’s something that only Drake and Future can pull off.
Coming fresh off of his last ‘commercial mixtape’ If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, released in February, Drake has transcended rap stardom by building a dynasty upon the fusion of hip-hop and R&B.
Future is a fundamentally different artist than his counterpart—syrup-soaked sing-rapping over trap beats is the Atlanta emcee’s habitat. His last solo album DS2, released in July, was a critical and commercial success, a sonic exploration that only Future does best.
Let’s get one thing straight—the majority of this mixtape sounds like Future featuring Drake. One man is in his element, while the other is experimenting outside of what made him one of the most famous rappers in the world. What a Time to Be Alive is consistent and cohesive, it’s slightly subdued, but also flexes it’s muscles when it needs to.
Metro Boomin handles the bulk of the production, providing the necessary ethereal trap sounds that tie the project together. Content-wise, Future is wrestling with his success and dealing with all the changing faces in his life, knowing the only person he trusts, and is most afraid of, is himself.
“All this passion I got all I ever needed/ For me to move on and succeed/ For me to move on and succeed/ Jealousy, envy, and greed/ Too much of this shit I don’t need,” he raps on “Scholarships,” aware of his personal struggle.
It’s not until the final track on the mixtape that Drake truly returns to his zone. “30 for 30 Freestyle” is produced by Noah “40” Shebib, Drake’s long-time best friend and musical partner. The muffled jazzy sounds allows for a compelling and personal four minutes.
“Kids are losing’ lives, got me scared of losing mine/And if I hold my tongue about it, I get crucified/Wrote this shit on a bumpy flight on a summer night/Flying over Chattanooga, out here trying to spread the movement,” raps Drake, providing a shot of his reality to the listener.
In the end, What a Time to Be Alive is not perfect, but it gets the job done. It’s amusing and exhilarating but not overly lengthy, it grips your attention and doesn’t let go, something that only superstars can achieve.