In 2015, there were a lot of dope rappers doing their thing. From Kendrick Lamar dropping his highly anticipated follow-up to 2012’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City to A$AP Rocky’s genre-bending At. Long. Last. ASAP, it was a great year for hip hop.
But if you want have a conversation about the hottest rappers in the game in 2015, there are only two names worthy of that debate: Drake and Future.
After 2013’s Nothing Was the Same, Drake spent most of 2014 running the rap game without even dropping a project; going on a features blitz “Believe Me”, “Who Do You Love?”, “Tuesday”) and putting up SoundCloud loosies that would eventually be nominated for a Grammy (“0 to 100 / The Catch Up”).
While working on his highly-anticipated fourth studio album, Drake would surprise drop If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late as a warm-up to Views. As a testament to Drake’s commercial power, the commercial mixtape sold close to half a million copies in the first week and was one of the highest-selling albums of 2015.
Future, on the other hand, was just beginning to approach his peak – commercially and artistically. After the disappointing response to his sophomore album, Honest, Future would regroup with close collaborators, DJ Esco and Metro Boomin, and embark on a legendary mixtape run that included: Monster, Beast Mode and 56 Nights. This incredible mixtape run would ultimately lead to DS2, which became Future’s first number one album, and is arguably his best project to date.
All of this is to say, there were no other rappers in the game that were hotter than Drake and Future. So, like all great artists (and businessmen) do, they capitalised on their combined momentum and linked up to drop a mixtape together.
“I went to Atlanta for six days a couple weeks ago with the hopes of doing some songs with Future,” Drake recounted on OVO Sound Radio. “When you get around Future, it’s like a vortex, that guy can outwork anybody right now. It’s tough to see someone do four, five songs in one night and not try to match it.”
In a separate interview with Complex, Metro Boomin (who produced on 9 of the album’s 11 tracks) explained how the idea for a Drake and Future mixtape came together during the “Where Ya At” video shoot.
Metro Boomin: We shot the ‘Where Ya At’ video a few months ago. That same year, it was two times before that that I seen Drake. Like, we’d be in the studio and he’d be like, ‘Yo, we gotta do that tape.’ But he’d be laughing. I don’t know he’d be serious. Like, he would just be talking about me and him. I don’t know what he was talking about. Then we got to the ‘Where Ya At’ video, and the conversation came up again. He was telling Future and Esco, ‘Yeah, I’ve been telling Metro let’s do the tape.’ I was like, ‘Oh shit. Alright, this nigga is pretty serious.’ He was like, ‘Fuck it, we gonna come to Atlanta.’ And two weeks later, we had the studio [Tree Sound] rented out for like six days.Metro Boomin Explains How ‘What a Time To Be Alive’ Came Together | Complex
Released on September 20, 2015, What a Time to Be Alive debuted at the top of the Billboard pop charts with 375,000 units sold, earning Drake and Future their second number one album for the year. Future would repeat the feat in 2017 when he became the first artist in history to have two albums top the charts in successive weeks.