Album Review: Drake & Future – What A Time To Be Alive

Despite being hinted at, the immediacy of this project has  caught pundits off guard
Despite being hinted at, the immediacy of this project has caught pundits off guard

Rolling into 2015, Drake was one of hip-hop’s key gatekeepers, but he found a way to push himself further into an upper echelon with If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late– one of the best releases of the year. Since then Drake has teased singles off his next major project Views From The 6, which has waned as a certainty to be released this year.

Enter Future. As his name suggests he’s an up and comer, being one of the most hyped rappers this year on the back of solid mixtape releases and his debut album DS2. Whilst he employed the skills of Drake on that project, his hand in this collaboration comes with much more of an apparent need for exposure than Drake needs. It lends to this mixtape forming as a master and the apprentice dynamic, which ultimately undersells Drake. Nonetheless, the fact that this ‘super-collab’ has materialised has drawn curiosity the world over.

This is one the highest profile extended collaborations since 2011’s Watch The Throne, between Kanye and Jay Z, which was hailed a massive success as there was appeal for fanbases of both rappers. While the fanbases of Future and Drake aren’t mutually exclusive it’s hard to for Drake fans to get a picture of where this stands in his illustrious catalogue. A curious signpost for this album is that the artwork has a very similar design to Watch The Throne, but is silver not gold?

The fact that the whole project was conjured in a 6 day writing burst lends itself either way if you like the album or not. At it’s best there is a raw spontaneity and great chemistry but it also sounds hurried and unpolished at other times.

It doesn’t bode as being a fruitful project on the opening track Digital Dash as Drake only appears after three minutes, the floor being wholly given to Future as he delivers easily the worst beat on the album. But after a weak opener they start to ramp things up.

Whilst it’s not my favourite beat, Big Rings goes hard and has the right qualities to make it as a club hit. After this album headline, they both cruise in third gear for the next handful of tracks before Drizzy wakes you the fuck up with a monster verse on I’m The Plug. Scholarships is one of these more mellow moments and Future not hustling relentlessly is far more tolerable. The hypnotic trance the production leaves you in is the most memorable moment on this project.

Drake productions have a distinctive simplicity and efficiency, because his team know how to do more with less. But with the exception of Scholarships and 30 for 30 Freestyle, those looking for the same kind of production on IFRTITL will find this album lacking.  

What Future is trying to do on this record is clear, but his execution is less than convincing. He is much better suited to the role of hype MC, as he spits a couple of lax lines and repeats them into oblivion. He disguises the fact he’s just repeating himself by making his lines barely decipherable. Drake’s own hooks aren’t as tight as his past work as shown on Change Locations he rolls through the track looping “Me and my friends, we got money to spend” . C’mon Drizzy, you can do better than that. He makes constant references to the quantity of tracks he is pumping out, but one has to wonder when the quality starts to wane. It closes out with both artists doing their own respective solo track which kind of underlines the collaboration as a pointless exercise.

It’s hard to ignore that What a Time To Be Alive feels like a Future album featuring Drake, which you can understand given he is the younger counterpart, but the burning question remains: where’s that album at Drizzy?

6/10

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