I’m not going to lie, I signed up for my Apple Music free trial a couple of weeks ago specifically to listen to What A Time To Be Alive, and now that it’s on Spotify there’s no excuse to not give it a spin.
I’ve seen a lot of chatter on the interwebs about how average What A Time is as an album, but how solid it is as a mixtape. I felt the same way about If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late — nit picking at the distinction between albums, which should be more polished and worth paying for, and mixtapes, which should be fun experiments or collaborations and available for free. Drake and company have taken to calling What A Time a mixtape, but made it available for sale exclusively on iTunes where it sold 344K copies for a No. 1 debut — the 5th for Drake (If You’re Reading also debuted at No. 1 back in February), and 2nd for Future (Dirty Sprite 2 being his first, also released in 2015). This week nearly every song hit the Billboard Hot 100, and Drake earned his 100th Hot 100 single.
So, I could either continue to be salty that Drake is finessing these mixtapes into profit, or I could acknowledge that in a time where the rules of music distribution are constantly changing it’s amazing that we get so much good music so often (not to mention the entire history of recorded music), and it’s all available with a few clicks and keystrokes — what a time, indeed.
As for the music itself, What A Time To Be Alive has some must have 10 o’clock turn up tracks and the five or so you’d pick to put on a playlist may vary. The five that made it to my 10 o’clock playlist are “Big Rings”, “Live From The Gutter”, “I’m The Plug”, “Change Locations”, and “Jumpman”. And like all albums, but especially here, the context in which you listen to these tracks matters. Listening at work or on a casual afternoon at the park isn’t ideal, but it’s super effective when getting ready for a night out drinking and without much thinking. Ode to Atlanta institution Magic City “Plastic Bag” is going to be played in 92% of Ubers headed to strip clubs this year, and rightfully so. That’s not to say those are my favorite, but they’re the most effective at getting the people going. “Scholarships” and the Future only “Jersey” are also standouts.
As far as generally inaudible trap rappers go, I can understand what Future’s saying more easily than others (like Young Thug, who I can’t understand at all), and Dirty Sprite 2 is what turned me from a skeptic to a believer. It took a few spins too. I initially didn’t find much more to like on DS2 than I did on his previous Honest, but “Slave Master” changed my whole perspective and now I feel way better about what Future is able to do for one’s mood. Plus, the video for “Kno The Meaning” was neat and the video for “Where Ya At” spawned countless gifs (soft g) like this one. I say all that to say Future’s growing on me and regularly outshines Drake, but he’s much more at home on this project and Drake’s just visiting. Willing to bet we hear from them again with Drake at his best on Views From The 6.
The 40 minute project all came together over six days in an Atlanta studio with Future’s main DJ of choice Metro Boomin handling the bulk of production. Blogger turned soon-to-be author Ernest Baker christened it What A Time To Be Alive and the Internet was teased for about a week to pique everyone’s interests. When it dropped it went viral, inspired memes, people sent Tweets and Instagrams with just emoji for the song titles they were feeling, someone even made a video game, and Drake is one release closer to being out from under Young Money — all according to plan.
Drake closes out Saturday night at ACL Fest over the next two weeks, and Future makes the trip down for Friday of Weekend 2 — though I’m hoping he shows up during Drake’s set this weekend. What A Time To Be Alive and more from both are in my ACL 2015 playlist, but you can give the whole thing a spin below. Turn the volume up as high as you can and JUMPMAN JUMPMAN JUMPMAN JUMPMAN JUMPMAN JUMPMAN.