Drake, Future. Future, Drake. Those two names have been synonymous with hip-hop music over the past year. While Drake was already a household name, it seems as if 2015 saw Drake enter another stratosphere, more universally popular and appealing than ever before. Future on the other hand, rebounded from a high-profile break-up with a notable singer (Ciara), then saw an ascent rivaled by none; he dropped four well received projects in the span of a year. A combination of strong work ethic, timing, and sheer talent has vaulted Future into a hype frenzy matched by a handful of rappers. Naturally, this tape was not supposed to happen. It usually does not happen. That last time we saw it done was in 2011, with Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Watch The Throne. That album received its fair share of criticism but was noteworthy because of the feat that is the album, even though neither rappers were really at “the top of their game”. Future and Drake on the other hand are currently in their primes, the two hottest rappers of the past year, and operate in two different lanes of rap music. An album with these circumstances, of this magnitude, is groundbreaking, to say the least. What a Time to be Alive is therefore properly named. This sort of project would not have happened 10, 5 years ago. Drake and Future deliver an album aptly named and directed to the internet generation. The album begins with “Digital Dash”, a record that sounds like Future, with Drake sprinkled in, from the Metro Boomin production, to the tempo of the song, the content, and the rapper’s flows. Future is an overwhelmingly dominant influence on the intro as we see Drake, with an admirable verse, attempt to match his co-star. “Big Rings” follows and is easily the worst song on the album. The beat is not favorable, the hook is extremely lazy, and neither rappers have a distinguished sound on the song. On the hook, Drake raps, “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, Better be comin' with no strings, We need some really nice things”. The song finds both rappers out of their element, and presents an over-cast over the rest of the album’s quality. Pitchfork writer Sheldon Pearce says, “the hook on "Big Rings" is terribly bland and awkward. This wasn't created with the care or the dutiful curation we've come to expect from both artists when solo.” So far the album has a hit, and a complete miss. “Live from the Gutter” is next and again, reeks of a Future dominant song. Future is in prime mixtape/Dirty Sprite 2 mode in the song, sounding every bit of savage and introspective with lyrics such as “Wake up in the house I look around see bales everywhere, I see girls everywhere, I see scales everywhere, I see hell everywhere, I get mail everywhere”. Simple yet laced with emotion that has become a trademark of Future’s. Drake plays with his flow on his verse, but delivers another forced attempt to step into Future’s lane. It just seems out of his element to be on a song called “Live from the Gutter”. “Diamonds Dancing” finds the duo beginning to click on all cylinders. The production is top notch, the content favors both artists, and neither seems to overshadow the other, to create the first song on the album where both artists deliver as equals. The theme continues with, in my opinion, the best song on the album, “Scholarships”. The song is minimal in its efforts, from the lyrics and the production, but plays to both rappers strengths, while Drake offers a fun, quirky flowed verse. The album continues its strong mid-album run with “Plastic Bag”. Drake invites Future into his lane, with somber production as both artists manage to execute a distanced spaced out record. Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield views the song favorably, saying “The highlight: "Plastic Bag," a gallant tribute to the stripper who just scooped their hearts off the floor, in the same plastic bag where she stashes their loot.”This song, along with a few others is notably not mixed and mastered fully, evident of the short time frame it was created in. “I’m the Plug” is Future true to his essence, a song that belongs on Monster or Dirty Sprite 2, but fails to connect because of Drake’s presence. Drake finds himself attempting quick paced flows and portraying himself as a savage, similar to his counterpart Future, although one seems like a gimmick, while the other is in his usual zone. The duo rebound with “Change Locations”, another terrific collaboration that find the rapper’s coalescing their strengths fluidly. Nothing seems forced and both bring their respective creative juices to the song. Spin writer Matthew Ramirez says, “the few moments where the two do spark, like the moody “Change Locations,” their chemistry snaps briefly into stunning, clear place.” The album follows with “Jumpman”, a hard-hitting anthem paying homage to Michael Jordan, but does not seem to fit Future’s style. The song is certainly up-tempo and catchy, but this is the rare song on the tape that appears to be Drake ft. Future. The album finishes with two solo efforts by both artists. First up is “Jersey”. This song captures Future’s style in one song and we hear him lament on his recent success: simply “You do what you want when you poppin’”. That is the theme of the tape, that you do what you want when you’re popping and Drake and Future certainly hold claim to being two of the hottest MC’s in rap. Drake closes with “30 for 30 freestyle”, definitely an outlier of a song if there ever was one. The song was clearly not recorded at the WATTBA recording session and has classic production with longtime Drake collaborator, Noah “40” Shebib. This song features gems across the board that leaves hip-hop fans salivating for Views from the 6. Drake is rapping at his best, in a combative zone saying lyrics such as “Never thought I'd be talking from this perspective But I'm not really sure what else you expected When the higher-ups have all come together as a collective With conspiracies to end my run and send me a message”. The song is a fitting end…for a Drake album. It does not fit in the sequence of WATTBA, a Future heavy project, and considering Future’s run in the past year, the outro should have been rightfully his.What a Time to be Alive deserves praise for two rappers at the top of the game joining forces to create a once in a generation moment in music. Whether the album came together for lucrative gains, each rapper capitalizing on the other’s success, or simply a love for the music, a project of that magnitude put together in such a short amount of time is noteworthy. Also the production, handled mostly by Metro Boomin, is top notch. The beats are smooth and compliment Future’s style to a tee. One complaint regarding the sound quality of the album is the obvious rushed recording sessions, with little time to focus on the mixing and mastering of the album, usually a Drake strong-suit. Complex writer Frazier Thorpe says, “If What a Time to Be Alive had been a belabored, pre-announced event album then, yes, it’d be underwhelming.” Most fans tend to agree that the speed at which this album was conceived and recorded gives it a pass for it’s up and down quality. Ultimately, WATTBA is mediocre mixtape level quality, that isn’t great, but isn’t bad. A very in-the-moment record that was cool to listen to for a few days to a week, but lacks quality content to live with. Hats off for the attempt, Drake and Future. 6/10