It has been quite a year for Drake. Back in February, the Canadian rapper pulled a Beyoncé and dropped a surprise mixtape called “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.” In July, Drake was pulled into a beef with rapper Meek Mill after Mill tweeted, as most musical disagreements tend to begin, that Drake doesn’t write his own rap lyrics. The ongoing feud was quickly resolved after Drake released multiple diss tracks against Mill, including “Back to Back.”
Now Drake has collaborated with Future on a mixtape titled “What a Time to Be Alive,” a fitting title considering Drake’s continued success this year. The joint effort is much more Future’s than Drake’s, a somewhat concerning sentiment considering the media buzz painting it as a Drake-first collaboration.
It’s concerning for a few reasons. At a time when Drake seems to be at the top of his game, at least in the eyes of record sales and headlines, a surprise collaborative mixtape with another rapper he used to feud with is the last thing we expect, especially when keeping in mind that Drake still has to release a planned full-length album this year.
The power of Drake’s ongoing stardom outshines most of what it touches. Future’s efforts on the tape are overshadowed, at least leading up to a first listen-through. After listening, it’s apparent Drake’s contribution is minimal at best, with verses that never land anywhere of importance.
Surprise albums have been the trend lately, with Beyoncé, U2, Miley Cyrus and now Drake himself following along. It worked for Beyonce—the pop queen went on to be nominated for best album at this past year’s Grammys. U2 saw a slightly different reaction as it was a different circumstance. The band’s album was uploaded to everyone’s iTunes library without much say from, well, anyone.
Drake’s “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” is still the only release this year to sell a million copies. But the main concern is that if artists continue to follow this trend, that’s all it will become—a trend, with little substance behind it.
That’s how “What A Time to Be Alive” feels. Future and Drake are an odd mix, and while Drake can rap around Future’s typical hypnotic, upbeat sounds, the differences are definitely apparent, especially on the final two tracks where they each get their own song. The upside is that both tracks showcase each artist’s individual talent better than the rest of the mixtape.
On other collaborative albums, such as Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “Watch the Throne,” the lyrical chemistry is always there as the two bounce off of each other with ease. Drake and Future don’t have that and the final result is well intentioned, but ultimately feels like something is missing.
Jams like “Big Rings” will almost definitely be popular among college residence halls, blasting at the highest possible level. It’s with good cause—it’s a stellar track—but in the end, “What a Time to Be Alive” is an average time.