When two hip-hop superstars step into the ring, there is bound to be some head-butting. “What a Time to Be Alive,” the recent mixtape collaboration from MCs Drake and Future, is no stranger to these clashes. The album, released on Sunday, Sept. 20, is an 11-track, iTunes Store and Apple Music exclusive release. While Drake and Future bring their individual lyrical stylings to the tape, some tracks feel more like guest appearances than outright teamwork. Rather, what really unifies the two rappers is the bombastic production from up-and-coming producer Metro Boomin’.
“Digital Dash” opens the tape with Future’s signature slurred raps and Metro Boomin’s deep bass and shiny synths. Drake’s verse—filled with emotionally-stunted lyrics like “I don’t forget or forgive / told myself never again, I don’t let nobody in”—can easily be lost in this track behind Future’s opening verse and hooks.
“Big Rings” follows up “Digital Dash” with a healthy dose of Drake. With his standard braggadocio, he raps the track’s opening verse and its catchy hook—“Cause I got a really big team / and they need some really big rings / they need some really nice things / better be comin’ with no strings.” Metro Boomin’ continues to deliver what can only be described as a certifiable banger.
While these two tracks effectively set the tone for the rest of the album, there are a few standout tracks. Notably, “Diamonds Dancing” features the duo’s strongest example of synergy. Future opens the track, painting a picture of wealth and bravado—“I’m at a stage in my life where I feel like I can conquer anything and everything / sipping on Dom Pérignon for no reason / popping tags, upper echelon for no reason.” The hook, sung over a blasting bass beat, features a hypnotic harmony from Drake and Future, “Diamonds, diamonds, diamonds on me dancin’.”
Another notable track on the album is “Scholarships,” with its more subdued club beat and further harmonizing. “Jumpman” features Drake and Future sharing their creative space evenly, singing the intro and outro together and alternating verses multiple times. The lyrics on “Jumpman” seem to reflect the duo’s idea of how others view their combined effort—“Jumpman, Jumpman, Jumpman, them boys up to something / they just spent like two or three weeks out the country / them boys up to something they just not just bluffing.”
The mixtape’s final tracks offer a significant departure from the rest of the collaboration. “Jersey,” performed by Future featuring further production from Metro Boomin’, acts as more of a single than another track on the release. The track explores Future’s relationship with money and drugs as well as his passion for athletic jerseys.
Drake’s solo track “30 for 30 Freestyle,” features production from frequent collaborator 40. With lyrics like, “But I got bigger fish to fry / I’m talking bigger shit than you and I / kids are losin’ lives , got me scared of losing mine / and if I hold my tongue about it, I get crucified,” Drake exemplifies his introspective personality and reflects upon the shooting which took place at his OVO after-party in August of this year. A more somber tone than he wields on the rest of the tape.
“What a Time to Be Alive” is an easy-access slice of hip-hop served up by two of the biggest MCs in the game right now. . It’s most fulfilling tracks easily outshine any low-moments on the release, delivering a healthy dose of Drake and Future in the time since their major album releases this year.