A confidently understated offering from the hip-hop pair
Way before Drake’s much-publicised beef with Meek Mill (the latter rapper alleged the former employed ghost-writers and the war of words escalated), Drizzy feuded in 2013 with Future, the wilfully weird trap star from Atlanta. Future offered a lukewarm review of Drake’s 2013 album ‘Nothing Was The Same’ in an interview with Billboard and briefly found himself dropped from the Canadian star’s tour.
That spat is now a thing of the past, having been eclipse by the rush-release of this joint mixtape, recorded in six days and unveiled over the weekend via Drake’s OVO Sound radio show on Beats 1 and his Instagram post of its album art, a close-up of a cluster of icy-looking diamonds. The image is indicative of the mixtape’s sound, a chilly concoction of minimalistic beats and casual boasts of untold wealth.
With lyrics such as “I got a really big team/They need some really nice rings”, from the marching, synth-led, ‘Big Rings’, evoking the sense of isolation forged by cold-blooded luxury, ‘What A Time To Be Alive’ often sounds more like a Drake album than the jazzier, busier records that Future usually creates. Yet the Atlanta rapper dominates the record, demonstrating his impressive adaptability (he enjoys the rare distinction of having worked with pop smiler Miley Cyrus and Gucci Mane).
His trademark otherworldy, autotuned vocals float over brittle, crisp production, which is largely the work of 22-year-old wunderkind Metro Bloomin, who’s produced for the likes of Nicki Minaj. The effect is hypnotic, not least on ‘Jersey’, which throbs with quiet regret, gentle piano notes creeping beneath his admission that “I like the smell of that money when it burn”. Elsewhere Drake brings a touch of class to ’30 for 30 Freestyle’, with its tinkle of dinner party piano and louche beats.
But ‘Change Locations’ is the centrepiece, combining Future’s slurry vocal, so sleepy it’s like aural codeine, and Drake’s crystal-clear delivery of the line “Fuck all the opps and the shots that they send,” a rebuff to Meek Mill and any opportunists who’d bring him down. The confidently understated What A Time To Be Alive suggests you’re better with Drake than against him.