Drake and Future are two established hip-hop artists who have had massively successful years. Both released critically acclaimed albums earlier this year, with Drake cementing his position in the upper echelon of rap with his platinum album If You’re Reading This it’s Too Late. Both artists also provide a similar mixture of sentimentality and grit, which is what makes the release of their first collaboration, What A Time To Be Alive so exciting.
Before the album was released, there were rumors that the 11-song project was produced in only six days, and after listening to the finished product it’s not hard to believe. While there are very interesting and exciting pieces to this mixtape, none of it is particularly cohesive. The tracks often feel awkward and unseemly, as if they were created separately and forced together with Gorilla Glue. Furthermore, from an artistic standpoint, the project lacks any sort of conceptual arc as the common themes of codeine and strippers become somewhat tiresome and unoriginal towards the seventh or eighth track. Listening to the album in its entirety becomes a tedious task as a lack of artistic development and cohesion between Future and Drake often hampers the listening experience.
Despite this, there are moments on this album where things get fun. At their collective best, Drake and Future can make really captivating music. The album reaches it peak when catchy hooks meet with gritty beats to top off Drake’s sentimentally melodic riffs, which perfectly complement Future’s syrup-thick voice. “Scholarships,” “Change Locations,” and the highlight of the album, “Diamond’s Dancing” all follow this formula. While their lyrics don’t go any deeper than grandiose boasts and opioid infused strip club visits, nothing is lost either.
From a lyrical standpoint, the album isn’t very impressive with “30 for 30 Freestyle” functioning as the only song that does justice to Drake’s lyrical ability. But this album isn’t supposed to be a cerebral, well-thought-out artistic piece. If that was the mixtape’s intention, it wouldn’t have been produced in six days. Instead, it works as a project that emphasizes fun over all else.
What A Time To Be Alive frankly pales in artistic comparison to either artist’s solo work. With such an intentionally rushed production, the piece becomes fun and fleeting rather than deep and meaningful. The album doesn’t make you think, but it will make you want to dance.