What If I Told You Drake Told Us?
That first listen, with the shots and Jimmy John’s, man that shit got weird.
The Drake and Future pick-and-roll on What A Time To Be Alive exudes luxury, but not one nearly as remote as its too-convenient collaborative counterpart, Watch The Throne. Lavish and extravagant, sure, but closer to M&M’s than Margiela. Premium, not alien. And this thread of proximity stirs something as you listen to the 11-track mixtape. You’re motivated to move while you gawk. “Big Rings” isn’t about flexing the definitive symbol of athletic achievement, but smashing that championship jewelry through the nearest mandible. Metaphorically, of course.
It was at some point during this call to ice-encrusted arms that our listening party located the nearest handle of liquor and our sandwiches became carbohydrate-laden chasers. “Big Rings” is, of course, the second song on What A Time. We lasted approximately five minutes before reverting to a primal collection of testosteronic woo-girls.
Meanwhile, Drake’s presence bubbles under the surface, simmering in spots — the scathing outro on “Diamonds Dancing,” a mid-verse flow switch on “Scholarships,” and the buoyant hook on “Change Locations” — but ultimately yields to Future’s. What A Time’s penultimate song, “Jersey,” sees Future, alone, lead the project into the sunset. But “30 for 30,” on which Drake’s only interaction with Future is his utter lack thereof, lies beyond the horizon.
The project sees Drake, inarguably, concede direction to Future’s muddied aesthetic on a macro level. It’s a conscious concession exemplified in Drake’s decision to fly in from Toronto to record What A Time in Atlanta. The fruit of this concession, though, is not yet another Future mixtape — this time featuring Drake! — but Drake playing spoiler to the expectation that has been acutely established through Future’s recent string of releases. In such context, Drake’s contributions are interruptions, jarring enough in the eyes of the #FutureHive to warrant a Drake-less edit of What A Time. Which is to say, Drake makes shit weird.
“30 for 30” is the culmination of this open invitation for Drake to tag his measured pettiness across Future’s already-completed easel. Here, Drake has caked the canvas in primer, obscuring the muddied for the sake of poignancy. The result is a song from the future of 2008. And, in a way, it is. As such a direct response to “Closer,” a track that resides on one of Drake’s early mixtapes, Comeback Season, the two feel like contemporaries. It’s quintessential Drake to not construct or relent to his legacy, but to converse with it. He fires shots at Jay-Z — “And your absence is very concerning/It’s like you went on vacation with no plan of returning … Banners are ready in case we need to retire your jersey” — in the same inflection he reminisces about Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree. The triumphant bravado exhibited on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late coalesces with the smatterings of sweet nothings that have been both Drake’s hallmark and his punchline to this point.
The play on the word “closer” is most vital though. Yes, “30 for 30” samples and references “Closer,” acting as a direct descendent or, perhaps, an evolution, and yes, it “closes” out What A Time. But it’s also a statement on the immediacy of Drake’s immortality through his music. He’s not close. He’s already there.
Originally published at www.couchface.com.