‘What A Time To Be Alive:’ Drake and Future’s banging victory lap

Michael Ossurguine, Staff Reporter

Hip-hop artists Future and Drake’s collaborative mixtape is as dazzling as the diamonds in the cover art.

“What A Time To Be Alive” is, in many ways, another money-trip from a power duo of two hip-hop kings. Comparisons can be drawn between this project and Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Watch the Throne.” While the latter took months to create, however, “WATTBA” took a mere six days in Atlanta: a remarkable feat. The result is some really entertaining hip-hop that relies heavily on the superb production from beats producer Metro Boomin. It is a mixed bag of some real bangers, with only a few duds.

Every single instrumental on this album drives the song along with unrelenting force. The vast synths dance through chord progressions and melodies with soft and subtle cadence. They seem otherworldly. Meanwhile the 808 snares, high hats, and powerful sub-basses underscore the ambient synths, giving the beat life and energy. The opening track, “Digital Dash” is a great example: the screaming synth creates an immersive soundscape that sounds as drugged-out and lavish as the lyrical content, while Future and Drake literally dash through their verses with great attention to rhythm.

If you’re looking for something profound on this record, you are looking in the wrong place. This is the kind of hip-hop to be taken at face value. Future and Drake talk about the same topics popular hip-hop has always thrived in discussing: wealth, women and drugs. Future fans can get past that, but hardcore trap is generally new territory for Drake, and it shows.

Future dominates this tape. His voice is commanding and warbles along the beats with the use of autotune and the finesse of a bonafide trapper. Future’s verses appear more frequently than Drake’s and he makes great use of his mic, finding ways to be braggadocios while rarely coming off as cliche. After the critical and commercial success of his sophomore album “Dirty Sprite 2,” this mixtape comes at a perfect time for the Atlanta MC. Over the glossy production, he’s on his own turf on “WATTBA” and knows his way around a trap song.

Drake’s flow is more syncopated and jumps around the beats with an equal amount of urgency, but sometimes he feels out of place. On “Big Rings,” his chorus sounds corny. On the outro “Diamonds Dancing,” he goes off on a crooning rant at a girl (rumored to be Nicki Minaj), asking “how can you live with yourself?” The line comes out of nowhere on a song that should have remained one portraying the colorful nightlife of the two rappers.

Still, on songs like “Jumpman,” easily the most fun and hyped-up track on the album, Drake does more than pull his weight. He and Future work with perfect chemistry on this track to create a true club hit. On the final track “30 for 30 Freestyle,” over a soulful beat from Noah “40” Shebib, Drake steps into his zone, smoothly delivering bars about the dangers of the industry he works in and the recent ghostwriting scandal he was the center of.

This victory lap of an album turns out well and definitely gives fans some material to play loudly in dorm rooms and on car stereos. “What A Time To Be Alive” is currently available exclusively to stream on Apple Music or purchase on the iTunes Store.

*Update: The album is now available on Spotify as well and can be streamed below.

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