Review Summary: The victory lap.
Even despite monumental releases like To Pimp a Butterfly
, it'd be difficult to formulate a cogent argument against 2015 belonging to Future or Drake. Post-Ciara Future has been a veritable workhorse, having released 4 projects thusfar in 2015, with a potential fifth on the way (not to mention, his mixtape Monster
dropped fourth quarter of last year), and if Drake's forthcoming Views From the 6
drops before the year's end, he'll likely be the first artist in history to have three platinum projects from one year - oh, and he still had time to end a career on the road to the 3peat. Furthermore, social media has been a minefield of Drizzy and Fewtch quotes all year long, its memeverse dominated by their clever earworms whose gravitas may even outlast the tracks from which they're gleaned. So it only makes sense that hip-hop's current dual-imperium share the spoils of a year well earned by indulging in the only power move they've yet to make this year: a collab project.
What a Time to Be Alive
isn't the second coming of Watch the Throne
, however; where Ye and Jay's undertaking was an exhaustive exercise in extravagance, mammoth in both scope and ambition, What a Time
is more a capitalization on the moment, a product of the recognition of its makers' dominance over popular culture. Reportedly made in just six days, it's rarely, if ever, sloppy, but it never achieves perfection either. It's merely a strong collection of songs made by two unstoppable forces in their primes. The hooks are instant and undeniable (see standouts "Diamonds Dancing" and "Jumpman"), and the beats, largely produced by frequent Future collaborator Metro Boomin', are colossal thumpers, giving the two a roughly foolproof framework for each song. The only issues that arise are that the chemistry between Future and Drake is only intermittently palpable; it's most conspicuous on the songs that really truly work ("Diamonds" being a great example) and is likely what pushes those tracks over the top, but tracks like "Digital Dash" and "Change Locations" sound more like patchwork songwriting efforts, e-mailed verses pasted to specific points on the beat rather than true collaboration. Furthermore, it's somewhat jarring to hear Future lament his broken relationship mere seconds before a braggadocious Drake pontificates on lavish living and boss shit. That isn't to say that concepts are entirely disjointed, but the two rappers' verses are somewhat incohesive on occasion.
The tape's other fault is that lyrically, Future and Drake seem concerned entirely with perpetuating their streak of memeworthy earworms to keep the year on lock than anything else. And though there's a bountiful profusion of successes in that regard ("60 naked bitches no exaggeration", "Metro gon' make it BOOM on these hoes", diamond, diamond, diamond, diamond emojis everywhere, shit, even the title itself), the quotables themselves are generally surrounded by filler bars and Seussian rhymes, further verification of the idea that the tape was completed in under a week. But ultimately, these minor flaws don't make anything about What a Time to Be Alive
bad, per se, it's still a thoroughly entertaining ride without any truly bad songs ("I'm the Plug," with Future's irritating off-kilter flow being the only skippable jawn) that's sure to make a lasting impression on both internet-heads and radioheads alike. The point is to not look at What a Time to Be Alive
as any sort of triumph of ambition and music, but rather as a solid assortment of irresistable bangers from two artists for whom that shit comes easy. It's not the accomplishment, it's the victory lap.