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Drake (even more) introspective on ‘What a Time to Be Alive’

| Monday, September 28, 2015

Drake_Banner_WebLucy Du | The Observer

Last week, the two leading rappers of the “new school,” Drake and Future, linked up for the collaborative mixtape “What a Time to Be Alive.” While the pair aren’t the first artists people naturally expect to link up for a project, sometimes it is indeed true the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Future, best known for his simplistic — albeit infectious — songs laced with an Auto-Tuned, hit-making voice, seemed to find a niche with Drake’s versatile delivery, as the two churned out multiple “party banger” songs thanks in large part to producer Metro Boomin (who might be best known for his work on ILOVEMAKONNEN and Drake’s “Tuesday”).

However, Future was far from the true star of the mixtape. I’m still a fan of his work — as I said, he keeps putting out hits that get stuck in my head for days at a time (especially because they’re easy to remember). But Drake was the one who truly stood out to me on this project, especially on the song “30 for 30 Freestyle.”

No, it did not use the “30 for 30” theme song on repeat like I hoped it would, but the song still embodied the essence of the award-winning sports documentary series, to the point that I almost expected Drake to begin his verse with the series’ trademark “What if I told you … ” opening.

On the track, Drake reflects on his nearly 15-year music career, starting by doing what rappers do and puffing out his musical chest. “Conspiracies to end my run and send me a message / 40, did you get the message? / Cause I just checked my phone and I didn’t get it.” Yes, it’s a typical rapper’s material (and, for that matter, atypical Drake material), but it does underline a bit of the progress Drake has undergone, from angsty, emotional teenage rapper to a man confident in his place atop today’s music industry.

“Wrote this [expletive] on a bumpy flight on a summer night / Flying over Chattanooga, out here trying to spread the movement.” No longer “Wheelchair Jimmy,” dependent on his role in “Degrassi” to get a buzz, Drake has expanded his own fame and pull to firmly establish his own “OVO” brand. Safe to say, that brand has indeed taken off — just take a look at the kind of pull he has with NBA franchise Toronto Raptors. As he boasts, “I got a club in the Raptors arena / Championships, celebrations during regular seasons.”

But this track isn’t simply Drake rattling off his accomplishments. Anyone who has seen one of the “30 for 30” documentaries knows the most interesting parts of each one are when they profile the lows along with the highs of that sports team/figure. Drake also opens up (in more typical Drake fashion) about himself, specifically to the very beginning of his own rapping career with a reflection of his song “Closer to My Dreams” from his first project, “Comeback Season.” He contemplates, “I just listened to ‘Closer to My Dreams’ / Wide eyed and uneducated at 19 / I can’t rap like that, all young and naive / Not after all of the [expletive] I’ve seen and the things I believe.”

It’s simply interesting to see the growth and transformation Drake has undergone through a 15-year music career that still somehow feels young. Because of his seeming omnipresence in the current musical landscape, it is easy to lose sight of the overall transformation Drake has undergone: from “Degrassi” child star to musical superstar on top of the rapping world. What a time to be alive, indeed.

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About Miko Malabute

Senior student at the University of Notre Dame, majoring in Biochemistry. From Tujunga, CA.

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