Drake and Future’s new mixtape/album/viral content What A Time to Be Alive is all the rage, and it capitalizes on the music industry’s biggest current currency: hype. Regardless of how good or bad the product is, all they had to do was deliver something. In 2015, the bar for excitement is that low.
Collaborations of this magnitude are often underwhelming, for whatever reason. Best Of Both Worlds was a major disappointment, Lil Wayne and Juelz Santana were never really that great together, and every song Drake and Future have made sounds somewhat stiff and forced, though “Love Me” was superb. Watch The Throne aside, artists with such well-defined sounds don’t usually do well in ceding sonic ground to one another. Each artist’s direction is already so individual; they compromise by sharing the track with someone of equal enormity. Thus What A Time To Be Alive works best when each guy is allowed to breath at his own tempo without being inhibited by the other – Drake on “30 For 30 Freestyle,” Future on “Digital Dash” and “Jumpman.”
Those caught in the hype will give more credit to Future than Drake on the tape because it’s cool to love the former now, but truthfully he isn’t doing anything too special on this either. “Diamonds Dancing” is the most experimental record on the project, but the true star of the tape is Metro Boomin, who produces on seven out of the tape’s 11 tracks and serves as executive producer of the tape. He also executive produced DS2 and Monster, the latter of which was the best tape of the trilogy that included Beast Mode and 56 Nights. Metro’s daring, electronic zombie beats give the music a bold, cutting edge that no other rapper has at their disposal. Shit, Metro and Future just threw Uncle Murda a leftover hit. These guys are shaping new sounds in their sleep, and it feels like we have Metro to thank for many of Future’s most daring new songs. Ever since Metro did “Karate Chop” with Future in 2012, they’ve stretched their sound to all sorts of different boundaries, from lullabies (“I Won”) to acid rain (“I Serve the Base”).
More than anything, the tape is simply a sign of the times. The title says as much, capitalizing on the hype of the moment by recording a throwaway tape in just six days. We won’t be talking about this project in six months. We’re barely even talking about Drake’s IYRTITL after six months, but that’s more an effect of something 9th Wonder told us: visibility is a talent in 2015, however fleeting. On paper, Drake and Future coming together is monumental for hip-hop. In reality, it’s an almost embarrassing admission that rappers love to be the center of ephemeral conversations, even if the result is mediocre music. What a time to be alive.