Listening to a DJ Khaled album is a trying experience. His latest release Khaled Khaled is no exception. Khaled’s only verbal contributions are almost exclusively one of his key phrases “We The Best Music,” “DJ Khaled,” and “Another One.” They are frequent and they are annoying. Aside from these incessant, repetitive reminders (because otherwise you wouldn’t have a clue he was involved), it’s not clear what his creative contributions are. He certainly has a hand in wrangling all these artists together, but that doesn’t earn a writer and producer credit on nearly every song on the album. Maybe he’s counting all those ad libs.
Beyond Khaled’s overbearing ab libs, Khaled Khaled is a par for the course Khaled LP. Bloated with guests and the occasional unique or exciting-looking pairing, it’s another mediocre album that fails to innovate, and far from classifies as a body of work. It rarely prompts strong performances out of the legends and up-and-coming stars Khaled lines up to perform around his vocal drops.
One of the most anticipated records on the LP reunites Nas and Jay Z. “Sorry Not Sorry” is a slow burner that evokes the immaculate “Song Cry.” But “Song Cry” this is not. Instead, the two legends drone on and deliver tepid lyrics that don’t stick. Okay, they’re getting older and it’s time to stop talking about the pre-fame days. But do they have to make middle age sound so boring? These are two artists who once hurled some of the most legendary diss records at one another. And this is the best they’ve got? No one will even remember this record by the end of 2021. Beyoncé buzzes through to drop some harmonies and ad libs under the pseudonym “Harmonies by The Hive,” but even she can’t save this snoozefest. Sorry not sorry.
Cardi B’s contribution “Big Paper” got added to the track list less than a day before the album’s release. It sounds like it too. For all her bars her delivery isn’t quite on-beat; at least not for the first or second listen. During initial listens it lands harshly on the ears and detracts from the punch her rhymes could pack. Best guess: someone edited the record incorrectly. By the third listen it starts to make sense, but no record should take 3 listens just to sound relatively on-beat, especially coming from someone who can ride a beat like this.
As has been the case with other recent Khaled successes, the album relies on weaving in familiar melodies to a fresh beat to evoke nostalgia. Opener “Thankful”’s use of “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” executes this well and exudes a triumphant energy, but the song itself is tepid. “I Did It”’s incorporation of the universally known “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos fares better. With a familiar sample and cast of Megan Thee Stallion, Post Malone, Da Baby and Lil’ Baby, it certainly has hit potential.
Diddy (returning to his initial “Puff Daddy” moniker because sure) pops up on “This Is My Year” to play the hype-man role he began nearly 3 decades ago. Big Sean delivers some strong bars with a strong flow “My momma pray to God and she got me; She pray to god and I was the reply; I’m my only enemy if I don’t win it’s self-sabotage. You chasin’ the hoes that chase money that chase me.” But Rick Ross steals the show here. Gliding in over a percussion-free break in the beat, Ross delivers a barrage of bars flexing as only he can. It feels like his song and his year. Then Puff yells for longer than anyone cares to pay attention, for reasons that are still unclear. This is not his record.
One of the album’s strongest performances comes late though. Academy Award winner H.E.R.’s appearance on “I Can Have It All” (her second feature on the LP), hits all the right notes. She compliments and elevates the sample-laden beat. H.E.R.’s performance epitomizes putting a track in the hands of a capable and complimentary voice. The rest of the album could take notes.
Khaled Khaled neither breaks new ground nor leaves a lasting impression. It’ll likely launch another hit or two (Drake’s two solo lead singles “Popstar” and “Greece” both cracked the top 10 over the summer), and fade from memory. And that’s exactly what the album’s feature-bloated track list is supposed to do: generate hits. Unfortunately it doesn’t leave anything that has the potential to linger beyond one season, aside from the nails-on-a-chalkboard sound of DJ Khaled yelling an oversaturated catchphrase over an otherwise fine set of songs.
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