A Track-By-Track Review of My First Listen to DJ Khaled’s New Album
So it’s finally here: the new DJ Khaled album. Grateful has been “soon come” for a while now, and it arrived today, with a lot of fanfare. So, as soon as I could, I decided to listen through and record my thoughts as it goes. Let’s go:
1. (Intro) I’m So Grateful [feat. Sizzla]
For a second I wasn’t sure if I’d actually pressed play properly to the album, because this one took its time building up. I’m going to come clean and say I don’t know who Sizzla is (@ me if I should do), but this is sort of a weird cinematic song with a Caribbean-ish vibe. I am excited for the amount of DJ Khaled talking over the tracks in an inspirational way that I am going to get throughout this listen, if this one is anything to go by. The song is way too long for what it is. It’s almost 5 minutes long, but it only needed 2 minutes. Then again, there are 22 songs in this album and it comes only about 6 months after the last one, so no one can say that DJ Khaled is a very minimalist musician who makes lots of edits and cuts.
2. Shining (feat. Beyoncé & Jay-Z)
I don’t know when the last time Beyoncé and Jay-Z made a song together was, but I think they are a great musical team, Lemonade-related issues aside. I still can’t get over Khaled’s insistence at shouting over real vocalists. Beyoncé delivers this awesome vocal track, and Khaled is just yelling ad-libs over it the whole damn time. Another very long song — DJ Khaled, why do you feel like all your songs have to be so long? I know I would feel a little bit bad cutting any of these two’s vocals down, but come on man. None of the real songs on this album are less than 3:30 long. That’s a problem for me. For me, the perfect album should be about 50 minutes, and this one is 1hr 24minutes. It would be ok if all the songs were Kendrick style lengthy masterpieces, but a lot of it is just copy and pasting.
3. Wild Thoughts (feat. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller)
People have loved this song since it was released, and while I’m definitely bopping my head throughout, it doesn’t really blow my mind like it does for others. DJ Khaled is, though, an unparalleled collector of very good artists to feature on his tracks, and this is a lot better than the Kendrick song that Rihanna features on. It even puts Bryson to pretty good use, even though that guy is far from a great artist. An enjoyable track for the background, but not like a crazy banger or anything.
4. I’m The One (feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper & Lil Wayne)
This song was so disappointing to me when it dropped. This is perhaps the greatest combination of people currently making music that has been assembled in a while, and the song is just kinda… meh? The Chance verse is corny and uninteresting, which (like Kendrick features often are) is so disappointing when you know what he’s capable of. Same goes for the Lil Wayne and Quavo verses, but that’s less surprising because those guys pump out a feature-a-minute and can pop out a good-enough verse while they sleep. I wanted this one to be so good, and it just fell short.
5. On Everything (feat. Travis Scott, Rick Ross & Big Sean)
Another song that is just kind of nothing. I have no doubt that it’ll be a hit, and it’s another star-studded cast, but the song isn’t anything new or mind-blowing. A pretty good beat with some above-average rhymes on top. I’m starting to come around on Travis Scott, who I didn’t really like until recently, but his weird auto-tune thing is growing on me, and is probably the best part of this very uninteresting song.
6. It’s Secured (feat. Nas & Travis Scott)
Good thing that I’m coming around on Travis, because just like that, here is another song with him on. It really seems like DJ Khaled has never thrown out a beat or hook he’s ever made, because it’s all just a little unpolished. Nas is good as always, but I also wish that they could switch up the topic from basically “money, women, how great DJ Khaled is, how great [insert featured artist] is”. That’s probably a bit much to ask though.
7. Interlude (Hallelujah)
A nice little gospel palate cleanser courtesy of Betty Wright. I have no idea how it fits into the rest of the album, but cool, I guess.
8. Nobody (feat. Alicia Keys and Nicki Minaj)
Now I get the gospel thing, I think, as the beat in this song has a very strong vocal component. At this point, this album feels more like a chance to show off how DJ Khaled can get whoever he wants on a song rather than any sort of artistic product. I respect that, but I’m so conscious that I have 14 whole more songs to go through until I’m at the end. This is a cool enough song, which is a phrase I could have written about any of the songs thus far.
9. I Love You so Much (feat. Chance the Rapper)
From the sound of Chance’s tweets of this song, he got to produce and write this song himself, and you can tell. It feels weird that this song is on a DJ Khaled album and not a Chance project, but I’m just glad it exists. Probably the best thing I’ve heard from Chance since Coloring Book, and almost certainly the most enjoyable song on the album so fun. I love hearing musicians just be in love with their family, and that’s what this song is. Chance at his best makes being genuine and loving cool, and that is one of the best things about him. Kind of a Jackson 5 vibe on the beat as well, which I dig a lot. Like the other songs, this one is very indulgent, but this one earns it by being actually pretty good.
10. Don’t Quit (feat. Travis Scott & Jeremih)
Khaled calls an audible and gets Calvin Harris to help with the beat in this one, and you can tell. Calvin’s new stuff has been super cool and funky in a great way, and this song is that. Why this one wasn’t a single before the album came out I will never know, because this is a great song. More Travis, he must not have had anything better to do while this album was being recorded. I could jam out to this one all night, and maybe I will once I put this blog out.
11. I Can’t Even Lie (feat. Future and Nicki Minaj)
If I was doing some sort of a feature bingo, Future would be yet another one ticked off. I generally don’t get down with Future tracks, and this one is no different. Super repetitive rhymes from him, and just generally not a great track. The beat uses samples of what sound like monkeys screaming? I don’t like that one bit. Nicki Minaj manages to rhyme the word “bitch” with itself over and over again over about a minute, in what must be one of the most awkward verses I can imagine listening to with my grandparents.
12. Down For Life (feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR, Future, Travis Scott, Rick Ross & Kodak Black)
I’m not gonna lie, I spent most of this song typing out all of the features, and trying to work out which auto-tune-mumble-rapper was which. I didn’t succeed. At one point it sounded like Lil Yachty, but I don’t think it was him. Lil Yachty wouldn’t have been out of place on this album, though. Pretty good track though, good to put on in the background while you do other stuff. Not offensively bad or distractingly good.
13. Major Bag Alert (feat. Migos)
I have serious Migos fatigue at this point in the year. I think we all need a collective break from them, but the industry keeps shoving them down my throat. On an unrelated note, I cannot get over the name of this track to sufficiently review this track. I went away to regain my composure, checked Twitter etc., came back and this song is STILL GOING. This song is not good enough to be nearly 5 whole minutes long. They literally could have looped the first minute 5 times and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
14. Good Man (feat. Pusha T & Jadakiss)
Jadakiss is only the second feature that I haven’t heard of, and almost every song has had 2+ of them. That goes to show Khaled’s skill at having his fingers on the pulse. He knows who the people know, what they want, and how to give it to them. This song is like a more old-school rap track, with a variation on an 808 beat, it feels like I’ve heard this song before even though it came out today.
15. Billy Ocean (feat. Fat Joe & Raekwon)
DJ Khaled must have used up his superstar cards early in this album, and now he’s hitting the classic notes with his features. This is a good enough song, but when the central conceit of your song is that “Billy” is both a name and also a shortened version of “billion”, maybe think a little harder? I dunno, this kind of music just isn’t that interesting or compelling for me.
16. Pull A Caper (feat. Kodak Black, Gucci Mane, & Rick Ross)
This song started way slower, and I was hoping that it would be a poppy change of pace for the album, but this song just ended up to be much the same as all the other tracks on the album. DJ Khaled has shown me thus far that he makes a passable rap beat and can yell his name very loudly, but there’s nothing here that tells me that he’s anything more than a genius businessman and great network-builder.
17. That Range Rover Came With Steps (feat. Future & Yo Gotti)
Ok, the titles of these songs are becoming a parody of themselves at this point. Yo Gotti is remarkably bad.
18. Iced Out My Arms (feat. Future, Migos, 21 Savage & T.I.)
Refer above. The songs are also just all blending into one now that I’m this deep into the tracklist. Khaled is really trying to make fetch happen with some of these features. Future isn’t good enough to have him on every second song. At this point, I’m glad I didn’t listen to any of those Future albums because I have now listened to enough of him for multiple lifetimes. The songs just keep going, I can’t stress that enough at this point.
19. Whatever (feat. Future, Young Thug, Rick Ross, & 2 Chainz)
Oh for goodness sake. ANOTHER ONE of these damn songs that sound the same and are not very enjoyable. This one is probably the best of the Future features, but I just wish that there were a few more from the people that were on the songs at the start. I feel like I was lured in by Chance, Justin and Bey, and then just got clobbered over the head by all these Future songs that sound the same.
This interlude comes courtesy of someone called Belly. I’m confused as to why he chose Belly as his stage name, there are so many other, better options. Weird stage names aside, this interlude is actually pretty good and maybe Belly should have been on more of the songs. A much-needed pick-me-up this deep into the album.
21. Unchanging Love
At this point in the album, DJ Khaled has gone through all of his very famous friends, his quite famous friends, and is now just passing whole songs off to other artists. This one is by Mavado, and it’s pretty nice. Kind of a patois vibe, innoffensive and at least it sounds different to all of the other songs that came before.
22. Asahd Talk (Thank You Asahd)
This was very cute and altogether too short. I would have taken DJ Khaled being cute with his song over pretty much every song from 11–19. Thank goodness this is over.
That album was a battle to get through. DJ Khaled is a groundbreaking social media presence, and an amazing and fascinating character. Unfortunately, his music doesn’t live up to that hype. He’s great at finding what the hot sound is at the moment and exploiting it, and that’s what he does on this album. Every song fits in a groove already made by someone else’s music, and there is a very long stretch of boring mumble rap that I was not about at all. Some gems, but not many.
The album was too long for how good it was, and could have done with maybe a second person in the room to leave a couple more things on the cutting room floor. If you want to listen to an album that sounds like what music is now, then this is a solid enough option, but not one I would recommend. If, though, you want to hear something that is unlike anything that is playing on the radio or being made by anyone else, then I recommend Lorde’s new album Melodrama, which needs no introduction at this point, Vince Staples’ new album Big Fish Theory, which just came out today as well and sounds like it came from the future to school us on how to make rap music, and SZA’s new album Ctrl, which is just awesome start to finish.
PS I think it is awesome that Asahd Khaled gets an executive producer credit for this album, that is a great dad move on DJ Khaled’s part.
Alright, that’s it for this time. I hope you enjoyed coming with me on this journey as I battled my way through this album, and if you want to see more like this then let me know on Twitter. Hit the heart button to let other people know you liked this piece, and to help me spread the word about this stuff I’m doing. See you next time :)