If you’ve had access to any form of social media in the past month, then you’ve inevitably been privy to the release of Future and Drake’s combined effort, a mixtape entitled What A Time to Be Alive. 2015 has been a hot year for both of them: Future dropped like 65 albums/mixtapes and broke Ciara’s heart, while Drake released a surprise mixtape, had his authenticity questioned by a jealous clown from Philly, and emerged the victor of our generation’s first and only real (?) rap beef.
With all this considered, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that the announcement of this project on Drake’s Instagram set it up to be THE rap happening of an already eventful year for the genre. Unfortunately for Future, Drizzy, and their millions of fans across the world, the tape is just alright.
Let me begin by explicitly detailing my bias: I am a Drake fan. I am not a Future fan. It might even be a bit of an understatement to call myself just a “fan” of Drake; the way my life depends on Drake’s music is akin to the way a stripper’s life depends on her ability to clutch to that pole when she’s climbed all the way to the top. (Slightly unrelated, but in the interest of continuing the stripper analogy, I’d like to mention that if you threw money at me, I’d probably take my clothes off too.)
While I’m not a Future fan, I don’t dislike him at all: “Fuck Up Some Commas” is exactly the kind of incoherent rumbling that I like to bop to when I’m drunk and surrounded by my equally turnt comrades. I just have trouble calling myself a fan of his because I literally can’t understand what he’s saying.
Saying that Future’s music is “a little hard to understand” is like saying that “giraffes are kinda tall” or that Kylie Jenner’s lips “look a little fake.” Giraffes are tall as fuck, Kylie’s lips are about as real as her dad (mom?) (dad?) (ugh) Caitlyn’s boobs, and by the same token, Future is straight up INCOMPREHENSIBLE.
Based solely off of the title, WATTBA appeared to be marketed as a call to my generation, a generation that is slowly usurping the position of our parents’ generations as the leaders and content creators that dictate the flow of international discourse. The time that we’re living in is certainly a unique one. These days (*Drake voice*), I can order a pizza just by texting an emoji to Domino’s – that phrase itself is one that would’ve sounded like gibberish to anyone 100 years ago.
Gone are the days where children actually had to interact with one another in person. Now, 5-year-olds have iPhones and can Snapchat their friends sitting right next to them to talk about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and dirt, the most pressing of 5-year-old issues.
Don’t even get me started about how hard it used to be to cheat on your wife or to have an affair with the milkman (I see you too, ladies). These days, people have the choice of having sex via phone, Skype, text, Snapchat, Google Hangout, Instagram DM’s – the options are endless. What a time to be alive indeed!
Despite all of this potential material, Drake and Future instead chose to discuss topics that we’ve already heard them touch upon ad nauseum: money, women, fame, and Future’s outrageous drug use. Seriously though, someone needs to force this man into a 12-step program because he’s clearly addicted to Robitussin. As if the title of Future’s most recent album, Dirty Sprite 2, wasn’t enough of a cry for help, he spends the majority of WATTBA discussing his affinity for both pills and lean – a drink composed of a mixture of prescription cough medicine and soda. Originating in Houston, the drink is popular amongst rappers and rapists alike.
The album was executive produced by up-and-coming producer Metro Boomin’, who was similarly instrumental in the production of DS2. This is the basis for my biggest criticism of the album: it sounded like a Future mixtape that simply featured Drake heavily, as opposed to being a real collaborative effort. And in the places where they did combine their talents, the execution was monotonously formulaic: Future does a verse, Drake does a verse, then they alternate who sings the chorus for each song. Rinse and repeat.
Don’t get me wrong: “Big Rings” is hype as fuck, and “Scholarships”, “I’m the Plug”, and “Change Locations” are all absolute jams. “Diamonds Dancing” is sure to have black girls bouncing in clubs for much of the foreseeable future. “30 for 30” should serve as Meek Mill’s resignation letter to his managers and producers, because if that horse wasn’t already dead, Drizzy just put 6 (God) more bullets in its head.
The mixtape is undeniably GOOD, and only gets better the more you listen to it. But at this point, I think we’ve come to expect good music from both of these artists, so that no longer suffices. Satisfactory music does not solidify one’s status as a “legend”, and unfortunately this mixtape was composed entirely of 10 satisfactory songs… and “30 for 30”.
For all that it was, WATTBA’s major fault lies in what it was not. It was NOT, Watch the Throne, the collaborative album precedent that may have set the bar impossibly high for future artists’ joint efforts; it was NOT a smooth blending of both artists’ styles, but instead a rough amalgamation of sounds that blatantly catered to Future’s style more than Drake’s; and most importantly, it was NOT Views from the 6, Drake’s yet-to-be-dropped-but-constantly-mentioned fourth studio album for which he has yet to confirm a release date.
WATTBA tried to do what If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late succeeded in doing (if only briefly): pacifying us fans and distracting us from the fact that he hasn’t released a real album in almost two years. As grateful as I’ve been to hear new music from my favorite artist, I can’t pretend I’m not feeling a little let down by The Boy. He’s promised an album for over a year now, and with no release date in sight, all I can think to say at this point is…we’re waiting.