OK, I did not expect that. Two of the biggest artists in the game collaborating on a mixtape sounds like something you read rumors about that never comes to fruition (cough Drake/The Weeknd mixtape cough). Yet here we are, superstars Drake and Future have followed through and surprised us with a mixtape.
Albums and mixtapes have become synonymous in the past few years, and I enjoy the new age of music where we get projects like this, even if they are slightly unfinished, Drake/Future embrace the mixtape format on WATTBA to make something raw and unpolished. It’s not as unleashed as Chance the Rapper and Lil B’s latest freestyle tape, but its a small step outside the comfort zones of both artists. Metro Boomin’s down south production are more suited to Future’s abstract ATL flow, and although Drake sounds like a guest star at times, he provides a much needed contrast to Future Hendrix.
The album is best at its most boisterous. “Big Rings”, “I’m the Plug” and “Jumpman” are examples of when the partnership shines. The braggadocious rhymes and oversized personalities compliment each other and meld together into something cohesive rather than battling for space. The lyrical content is as standard as can be, but matches the overall atmosphere that permeates the music.
The album starts to falter when it slows down, and Future nestles into his groove. “live from the gutter”, “Diamonds Dancing”, and “Change Locations” are uneven songs that would work better as stand alone Future music. When Future takes control, the music follows, and the song doesn’t have any room left for Drake. Things end up sounding uneven, like they recorded the album in different countries.
Despite a few missteps, Drake sounds energized by the lack of structure, displaying unexpected styles and rhyme schemes His recent feud with Meek Mill could have been the best thing to happen to him. He sounds like a man whose rediscovered his passion, evidenced by the exclamation point and album ender, “30 for 30 Freestyle”. A self-reflective, introspective piece of storytelling with a Noah “40” Shebib beat that sounds like an exciting preview of things to come.
The partnership mostly works, I think part of the problem is two personalities this size have trouble sharing the stage. Drake’s strength is still on features when he has a chance to steal the show, not collaborating on a full album. Future’s style is more suited to working with others, and you can hear the dynamic through the music.
When they find the chemistry the results are innovative and refreshing. When they don’t, it can sound like songs spliced from two different albums. I’m tempted to review this as an album. I mean, shit, it sold 375,000 copies its first week. But they approached is as a mixtape, and the creativity on display makes up for the album’s sometimes uneven pacing.