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What a time to be alive indeed. If you’re not a corny old-head who thinks the height of rapping is astute grasp lyricism, your favourite rappers right now are probably Future and Drake. With the pair coming off of absolutely massive years in which their only competition has been each other, it makes sense that they’d pool their star power together link up for a full-length project.
Although Drake was effusive in his praise for Future at OVO Fest, no one could have seen this one coming and the internet was thrown into a frenzy by the announcement. Recorded in a week in Atlanta, What A Time To Be Alive bears the marks of its impromptu creation, but still boasts a fair bit of quality.
Whenever Drake has linked up with Future on tracks like “Tony Montana” and “Shit,” the pair’s joint efforts have always seemed a tad disjointed. While getting in the studio together may have brought them closer as friends, it hasn’t helped their scant chemistry in the booth. Certifiable stars in their own respective lanes, when the two get together on a track it can sometimes feel forced.
Take the mixtape opener, “Digital Dash.” Future immediately entrances listeners with some mumbled lyrics and ad-libs, but we’re left waiting for Drake’s verse, which is slotted into the last minute. “Big Rings” is quite awkward at best, with Drake drowning in the swells of the beat and his own shoddy hook.
Things pick up on “Live From The Gutter,” where the two MC’s seem to find their rhythm before they absolutely crush the next song, “Diamonds Dancing.” It’s the first track that seems them working in tandem rather than just tacking on their own bars to the end.
Perhaps an ode to Drake’s deal with Jordan, “Jumpman” is the clear standout of the mixtape and not just because of Metro Boomin’s insane production. The song boasts amazing one-liners like “chicken wings and fries, we don’t go on dates” and “jumpman” is really fun to say consecutively.
WATTBA is not without its flaws, but they are more ideological than technical. Both rappers will remain problematic favourites for their fans, with the pair still degrading women to no end. In many a way, they have both risen to mainstream fame via their misogyny; Drake with the boo-hoo nice-guy simping that has made millions of bros believe the friend zone is a thing, and Future with more rampant hatred like the pettiness found on Monster, the mixtape he made following his very public breakup with Ciara (see “Throw Away” for a brilliantly tortured five-minute summary of their relationship).
We must also must have willingness to listen to the black male experience and attempt to understand where there pain is coming from rather than just critique how it is expressed. Very often, the angst that they are misguidedly dumping upon the women in their lives is motivated by familial and financial loss. One only has to look to “Blow A Bag”, a single from Future’s Dirty Sprite 2 to grasp this. On the anthemic track full of boasting, Future takestime in the first verse to expose some of his personal demons: “I know I came from poverty, I got my name from poverty, I know for sure, for sure, if my granddad was livin’, I know he be proud of me.” That said, one can always hope that artists would find a better place to dump their frustrations than on the backs of women who suffer enough at the hands of patriarchal society.
If you can excuse the cringe-worthy chauvinism, you’ll be able to appreciate the few really good bangers that the tape yielded. Think of it less as an album and more of a stocking stuffer to compliment the massive presents that Future and Drake’s full-length solo projects were to music fans this past year.