NEW YORK (AFP) - Rapper Drake, whose unexpected mixtape earlier this year became a top-seller, has dropped another surprise release - to an enthusiastic commercial response.
The Toronto rapper teamed up with Atlanta-based rapper Future to release a mixtape on Sunday, titled What A Time To Be Alive. They had been known to be collaborating, but they released the mixtape at short notice late Sunday on Apple Music, where Drake is a key player.
It features a cover of glittering diamonds and has references to precious gems as the rappers address their recent successes. "Man, what a time to be alive," each rapper says separately on Big Rings.
Drake starts the song by asking for a cash advance, despite his recent success. "I got a really big team/And they need some really big rings," he raps, an allusion to sports teams' jewellery for winning championships.
"I do not chase girls, but they run a mile for me," he boasts.
He also uses a sports analogy to take on his critics - presumably including Meek Mills, a rapper who sparked controversy by charging that Drake did not write his own songs.
"Are we talking teams?... This game is different, you only get one shot," Drake raps.
Last February, he put out a mixtape on his own, If You're Reading This It's Too Late, that has been the only album released this year to go platinum, defined as selling more than one million copies, in the United States.
Like his previous release, What A Time To Be Alive is described by Drake as a mixtape rather than as a full-fledged album of new material. In a still unusual commercial tactic, he put out both mixtapes first on Apple.
What A Time To Be Alive was available on Monday for streaming on Apple Music and download on iTunes, but not on rivals such as Spotify or on CD or vinyl.
Still, Billboard predicted that it was on course to debut on the next weekly chart at No. 1 and to be the top-selling new release since Drake's previous work.
Previously, Billboard had forecast a No. 1 debut for Honeymoon, the highly anticipated fourth album by the gloomily introspective singer Lana Del Rey.
Drake's celebrity has grown with a series of headlining performance at major festivals, including Coachella in California in April.