Review: DJ Khaled’s “KHALED KHALED” (2021)
DJ Khaled makes music for the radio. He makes music so that people can actually hear it. You know you’re driving down the highway and someone’s playing it in their car. You know you’re at the barbershop and you hear it playing. It’s called good music. It’s music that you actually hear. Not no mysterious shit and you never hear it. Remember these words when you hear this albums hits forced down your throat for the next several months.
DJ Khaled has had a rough couple of years in the eyes of the public, because in his own words he’s never taken an L. I recall back to that Hot Ones interview he did in 2015 where he declared just that before calling it quits on the hot wings after just three bites. It had to be the first recorded evidence of DJ Khaled taking an L we saw and since then we’ve seen him become the butt of many jokes. He’s more known now for taking his L’s quite poorly than for his successes in life.
While one of the first reported L’s I recall Khaled taking was when he stated in an interview with The Breakfast Club that he doesn’t perform oral sex on his wife (god bless her soul) but expects it from her because as he said “I’m the king.” When his last album Father of Asahd didn’t make it to number one on the Billboard charts when it dropped in 2019, beat out by Tyler, The Creator’s IGOR, Khaled went off on a rant similar to the one I introduced this review with. I’ve also heard that he stormed into some executives office with his posse in tow. The public was finally seeing Khaled break a sweat and it was honestly kind of funny to watch. It was also around this time everyone started bringing into question Khaled’s contributions to his own albums.
For anyone here who may not be familiar with Khaled’s albums the main thing you have to understand is that despite his name being slapped on the album DJ Khaled doesn’t contribute any verses to his albums. He doesn’t write them for the artists he features either. His role is that of a financier and handling the arrangement of his songs. He buys the beats, he pays the artists to do their verses, yells “We the best music!” “Another one” and who could forget “DJ Khaled!” on almost all of the songs. He’s not a producer in the sense of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic where Dre actually produced the tracks, had rappers featured on them and even rapped himself. Khaled’s what you get if the director of a movie stepped in the frame multiple times during the flick and said “I’m the director of this movie” then walked away.
So now it’s 2021 and we have another DJ Khaled album. I can’t say I was really looking forward to this album but I was interested in writing about it. DJ Khaled intrigues me to no end I must admit, he makes commercial ready music that just gets torn apart by every publication and he does so with a certain grandeur that can only be described as self-obsessed. It’s a bold ass stake to claim by calling your own label We The Best, you really gotta live up to that title and not once have I heard something he’s put out and agreed with that statement. Do I feel like I’m biased in my review? Possibly but I’ve mostly thought these statements after listening to the album, it just adds to how I’ve felt about it after hearing it.
Starting off the album is the very jubilant sounding “THANKFUL” which starts off with the same Bobby Blue Band sample of “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” starting with the trumpets that immediately made me think back to Jay-Z’s classic track “Heart Of The City.” This sample is pretty weak and if Khaled was trying to pay homage to that classic track, he probably only knows the Jay-Z version, he did it poorly.
The opening song also features harmonizing from Jeremih and the whole time he’s being backed with a group of gospel singers and it’s honestly distracting as all hell. The only relief that comes from this song is when Lil Wayne finally steps in and starts his verse, the only complaint I have about it is it starts super slow and his voice is almost unrecognizable. Weezy’s always had one of the most distinct voices in the rap game! Yet here on this track I barely knew it was him. It was honestly sad to hear.
This trend of artists sounding… off on this album does not stop with Wayne either. As the album carried forward I couldn’t help but notice so many of the songs the artists sound like they either don’t want to be there or they simply shouldn’t be there. The verses they deliver over the beats and hooks just don’t seem to fit and it’s incredibly hard to listen to.
One of the most notable moments where this is apparent was Cardi B’s verse on “Big Paper.” While Cardi delivers another confrontational and hard-hitting verse about getting money and one-upping her rivals the beat behind her sounds like it’s miles away, her delivery sounds uncomfortable on this beat. Without a doubt she delivers on the song but she sounds held back by the production. I have heard that her contribution was delivered a few hours before the albums completion so I wouldn’t be surprised if this was rushed in post production.
This subpar production, which I’d describe as “safe for radio” plagues the album all the way to later cuts, some of which have the worst mashups of artists I’ve ever seen. The Justin Bieber and 21 Savage is a particular offender on this album as the two go about as well together as an open wound and a jar full of lemon juice. Justin Bieber, no matter how hard he tries to fit into the trap music fold has no place hanging around 21 Savage and the basic ass trap beat provided to them. It’s boring and as much as I think 21 Savage has improved over the years it’s not enough to resuscitate this track.
Probably the most “commercial friendly” song I’ve heard on this album has to be “Body In Motion” which features the third and final Lil Baby feature on KHALED KHALED. It sounds like it’s trying to be a dancehall song but the problem is it falls so flat, I don’t think it would really get a party going anytime soon. The only performance I can commend on this track is Bryson Tiller’s as he sings over the chorus and even delivers his own verse, he goes above and beyond for this track and certainly earned his paycheck. I cannot say the same for Lil Baby and especially not Roddy Rich as their verses both come and go like a fart in the wind, the only noticeable part is Lil Baby’s slurred verse being unintelligible towards the end. He started off quite strong but by the end it sounded like he ran out of steam.
Other stinkers on the album are the Drake featured “Greece” in which we see Drake deliver some vocals that eerily sound like him doing a bad Weeknd impression. It’s just another step, possibly even two steps backwards for champagne papi. I had a lot of hope for the Buju Banton and Bounty Killer featured “Where You Come From” but boy does that song just draaaaag on, the beat really hinders the dancehall titans deliveries. A disappointing finale to a fairly neutral album.
I’ve had a lot to say about this album and I think it’s time to wrap it up here. Overall I think DJ Khaled made a safe for radio album, one that will not stand out but we’ll hear songs from for a little bit of time to come until the next one. It’s interesting to me that an “artist” would want such music to be so temporary when DJ Khaled seems to have such a high opinion of himself. I think in the long run we’ll see how much this really lives up to his word.