DJ Khaled’s tenth studio album is a collection of hits and misses. It’s like eating a bag of Revels. One minute you’re enjoying Maltesers, Galaxy Counters and even chocolates with toffee centres, but the next you’re sticking your tongue out in disgust having picked up a coffee creme. There's no questioning Khaled’s ear when it comes to making hits, the problem however is that he doesn’t know trim the fat when it comes to an album. The result? A 23-track offering that plays more like a disposable Now That’s What I Call Music compilation than a carefully constructed rap album that’ll garner respect for years to come.
Showing his cards way too quickly, Khaled drops all four of his recent hit singles in a row straight from the jump. It’s a smart move in terms of drawing the listener in and leading them to believe the same momentum will continue throughout, but like Paul Walker in the first Fast and Furious movie he drops the NOS too early and struggles to cross the finish line, let alone win the race. So while it’s fun hearing ‘Shining’ (featuring Beyonce and Jay Z), ‘To the Max’ (Drake), ‘Wild Thoughts’ (Rihanna and Bryson Tiller), and ‘I’m the One’ (Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, Lil Wayne) one after another it’s at this point that creativity exits the building for the most part.
Even with a dope Big Sean verse that includes the line: “Rocafella chain but you can still get ethered,” ‘On Everything’ is messy to say the least. The beat feels like it has too many components and Travis Scott’s inclusion was uncalled for — he takes away from it more than he adds to it. Then there’s ‘It’s Secured’ featuring Nas. Again, Travis Scott appears and it’s just not needed. Whoever thought that Nas and Travis Scott would sound great together on wax seriously needs the wax cleaned out of their ears. If it was in fact solely Khaled’s decision then he’s losing his touch. The record is noisy, it has no soul to it — which is surprising as it’s produced by Cool & Dre — and if Nas’ much-anticipated upcoming album sounds anything like this then there’s going to be a lot of backlash aimed in the legendary MC’s direction.
Other misfires include ‘Major Bag Alert’ with Migos, which lacks originality and sounds like every other trap record out right now, ‘Iced Out My Arms’ (Future, Migos, 21 Savage and T.I.), and ‘Whatever’ (Future, Young Thug, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz). Overall there’s just no enjoyment whatsoever when listening to these particular records, even though they’re decorated with all-star guests.
There is, however, a run of excellence from tracks 15 to 18. Starting off with ‘Good Man’, fans were excited to hear this particular record before it was even released knowing that it brought together two raps titans in Pusha T and Jadakiss. Redeeming themselves after the lacklustre ‘It’s Secured’, Cool & Dre lay down an epic backdrop for King Push and Kiss that samples Them Two’s ‘Am I a Good Man’. Then continuing the lyrical onslaught, Fat Joe and Raekwon bring the pain on the braggadocios ‘Billy Ocean’, which hears Khaled flip The Isley Brothers classic ‘Ballad for the Fallen Soldier’. Rounding off the run, ‘Pull a Caper’ (Kodak Black, Gucci Mane and Rick Ross), and ‘That Range Rover Came With Steps’ (Future and Yo Gotti) are both great examples of how to put on for the south.
Another notable moment comes when Alicia Keys and Nicki Minaj collaborate on ‘Nobody’. Sounding incredibly New York, the uplifting soundscape produced by Danja and made up of boom bap drums and a sample of Pastor T. L. Barrett’s ‘Nobody Knows’ makes way for Nicki to hush any doubters who claim she’d rather sing a pop ballad than get her bars off.
Flourishing in today’s single-driven market, DJ Khaled is king when it comes to constructing a top 40 hit. However, the more success he achieves, the worse his albums become. The majority of ‘Grateful’ is forgettable at best, but with enough hits to keep his streaming numbers high he’ll continue to make ‘another one’, and ‘another one’, and ‘another one’ until he no longer has the keys, the keys, the keys.
Words: Will Lavin
– – –
– – –