DJ Khaled is a hugely famous music producer and has been for a number of years but in the past 12 months he has soared to absolute superstardom thanks to his motivational outlook on life, something which he publishes all over Snapchat every single day. His following has become larger than ever and it’s allowed for him to become a regular feature in the public eye, hence why the feature list and thus anticipation of this album is so impressive. With some of the biggest names rap has to offer in modern terms, such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar and J Cole on here, as well as some returning legends of the game such as Nas and Busta Rhymes, this album has been spoke about for a long time to see how Khaled would approach this incredible list of talent. I’m super excited for this album so let’s get straight into it.
I Got The Keys (feat. Jay Z & Future) – 8.5/10
Absolutely filthy beat on this one, it is an incredible tone setter to what many expect to be a high octane hype album. This is helped by the King of modern day hype Future putting his usual energy on the track not only in his verse but in that infectious hook. The beat itself is bizarre but has real banger potential in its approach and I love it. Jay Z really shows up here, it’s a nice change because in recent times he’s put a couple of half hearted attempts into his verses but his first verse on here is fantastic. His second verse is a bit stagnated and contains lyrics of the same ilk we’ve heard many a time from Jay Z involving the bragging element of being married to Beyoncé. I really like the DJ Khaled catchphrases being implemented into the song too such as “major cloth talk” or this element of having “the keys to success”. In summary, it’s a huge hype track with a great beat, if this is the level we are getting throughout the album then we are in for a treat. The features would suggest this wave is going to continue.
For Free (feat. Drake) – 6.5/10
Cool, smooth jam from Khaled who tries his best to drown it out with his own voice which is very annoying but the beat is quite cool so I’ll let him off. When Drake starts he oozes that typical arrogance and swagger rapping about how great he is and mainly what he’s like sexually. The song does drain on me a bit as it just seems to have no sign of transition at all, just the same old thing from start to finish. The boring sex fuelled lyrics don’t help this either, Drake is better than this, he’s a very very good lyricist he doesn’t need to resort to this dull and self indulgent style of rapping. It is a relief that this song is only two verses given the irritant that is Drake’s lyrics but obviously he flows well and the beat is great so it’s a dilemma as to how to rate this song. It is a cool track but the lyrics are so cringeworthy I can’t rate it as a classic at all.
Nas Album Done (feat. Nas) – 10/10
This song was always going to be huge let’s be honest. Having a top 5 all time MC on a song is a fairly big pull to a track especially when he’s appearing to make a triumphant return. What Nas provides us on this song is not only the best verse on this album, but the best verse I’ve heard in over a year, I haven’t heard someone destroy the beat like Nas does here since Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly album. Racial inequality, war and conflict, as always Nas isn’t afraid of the big issues and will turn them into verses of pure fire, what a rapper. Verses like this made him untouchable, and now he’s back and my word I can’t wait for what’s next. Khaled, thank you so much for offering this to us, it’s truly a blessing to hear a master at work like this. What’s even more incredible about this is that Khaled’s catchphrases are still prominent and the theme remains.
Holy Key (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean & Betty Wright) – 11/10
This is probably the best beat on this album, it’s absolutely red hot and gives Big Sean and King Kendrick a brilliant opportunity to stamp their authority and boy do they deliver. Big Sean has had an absolutely brilliant 18 months with the release of his commercial smash album Dark Sky Paradise and consistently fantastic feature verses and this is no different. He goes off on the beat with his typical swagger and confidence and has a few really memorable lines in there, like the one about knowing he’s on fire because he’s been to hell and back which is a great line. Betty Wright on that chorus makes the song, she has an absolutely stunning vocal range and dominates the track, wow. She offers a gospel aspect with Whitney Houston delivery, it’s brilliant. Then just as you thought it couldn’t get any better, the best in the game shows himself and drops the icing on this delicious cake. Kendrick Lamar starts well and maintains his speed and rhythm but the verse only turns truly memorable when he provides us with that now iconic switch up in his voice and puts energy, passion and a strain to his tones but his flow is just incredible on it. Near impossible to fault this song, will be an anthem for years in my opinion, absolutely phenomenal track.
Jermaine’s Interlude (feat. J Cole) – 9.5/10
EVERYBODY, J COLE IS ALIVE AND HE IS BACK, STAY CALM IF YOU CAN. When I saw the track list I was expecting 30 seconds of smooth Jermaine vocals as a true interlude but no, we have been truly blessed from above with a full song, a full J Cole feature everybody. Call me biased but I’m shook, this song doesn’t have enough superlatives for it, it’s just a magical time to be alive. Why I hear you ask? Because J Cole is on a song, J Cole is alive and kicking. The smooth jazz beat is so cool and fits that chorus and hook perfectly which Cole makes his own. The switch up from singing to rapping as the first verse starts is enough to snap your neck, I felt a genuine whiplash from the explosion of energy Cole provides us. Although I didn’t appreciate the retirement line but I’ll let it slide because I know he’s not done yet. “K-KHALED”. What a song, what a return for Hollywood Cole. This song would be 10/10 if we had 2 verses from Cole but 1 long verse is fine with me for now.
Ima Be Alright (feat. Bryson Tiller & Future) – 7/10
Bryson does his thing on here, his influence is so apparent on this song and his vocals on the hook are just so cool. It matches the beat brilliantly in that faded sway style before Future grabs the track and makes it his own, adding those snares to the beat and picking up the pace with his typically high octane performance and delivery. The first sign of a slow jam style hit on this album in the chorus but it does pick up with the appearance of Future and the snares on the hook. Future’s verse contains his typical energetic bars about alcohol, women and his lavish lifestyle and it works quite well with the track. If I’m honest, Bryson Tiller’s verse isn’t anything special and I much prefer him on the chorus, his delivery just seems a lot crisper there and much more memorable. It is a good song but it drags on a little bit towards the end and hopefully it doesn’t see this album fall off.
Do You Mind (feat. Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, August Alsina, Jeremih, Future & Rick Ross) – 6/10
More of a ballad style, really slow piano beat so Khaled’s “we the best music” catchphrases seem a bit out of place. Nicki Minaj comes onto the beat with authority and does a calm and collected verse, nothing special and nothing out of the ordinary but certainly not a flop. Chris Brown is a big part of this song, his R&B harmonies are hugely important to the flow of the track and he doesn’t miss a note in this very sexually driven song. I do also think Jeremih provides a nice change to the vocals and puts on a decent performance albeit very limited. Here’s the puzzling part, what are Future and Rick Ross doing on this song? Like at all? Neither of them suit this style AT ALL and they can be spotted a mile off, they really alter and almost ruin the style of the song. Both of them try to do their usual thing but with a stripped back mellow side note and it just flops massively. The song itself doesn’t blow you away necessarily and brings the whole atmosphere down, there’s not really a stand out feature unfortunately.
Pick These Hoes Apart (feat. Kodak Black, Jeezy & French Montana) – 4/10
This song starts with that underground trap vibe and follows suit with the faint beat with snares covering it. This song will be difficult for me to rate kindly, however, because I despise Kodak Black’s vocals in anything he does, let alone this. It’s like Lil Wayne inhaled about 17 helium balloons and hopped on a verse, tragically bad. The lyrics are stupid as well, typical self obsessed rapper who knows nothing better than sex, yawn. In fact, all of these verses have the yawn factor, nobody really takes over this track which is a shame because I expected a big verse from French Montana here especially given the beat which allowed the opportunity to set alight. Instead, everyone is snoozing on the beat and put half hearted efforts in. For me, the worst song on the whole album, it’s a serious struggle to listen to.
F**k Up The Club (feat. Future, Rick Ross, YG & Yo Gotti) – 7.5/10
The hype track to end all hype tracks, but then again are we really surprised when we see the Future feature? That beat is filthy and I love the work Future does on it, his voice is even more auto tuned than usual and has that hype bounce to it. We then move into Rick Ross’ verse which is okay, nothing more and nothing less. There are a few inaccuracies in his verse such as how he’s “never stumbled” in terms of his discography and his rap career which isn’t strictly true. There has been quite a few occasions where Rozay has been a bit weak compared to other rappers, he’s extremely hit and miss in that regard. In the end you are quite glad that YG’s verse comes in due to his very impressive year so far and there’s an intrigue as to what he has for us. It’s safe to say he delivers here with a stellar verse and without a doubt the best verse on this song. Great flow and energy which links with the track perfectly. Yo Gotti is dull on his verse and just doesn’t speed up at all, it’s a relief he has a short verse. Good song which would’ve been a great song if Yo Gotti and Rick Ross showed up a bit more. Either way it’s a colossal turn up track.
Work For It (feat. Big Sean, Gucci Mane & 2 Chainz) – 6/10
After Big Sean’s huge showing on Holy Key I was full of high hopes for this one, not to mention the features of fellow G.O.O.D Music artists Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz. Metro Boomin being on this beat is also cool but in reality it’s quite an understated instrumental and places more emphasis on the howls and whistles in the background, therefore giving the rappers more of a platform to take over. Big Sean does his thing again and I really like his piece on the hook, what I don’t like is Gucci Mane’s verse, at all. I understand he’s a relevant name now that he’s been released from prison and he has some big hits but his recent showings on features have been really poor and this one is no different. 2 Chainz really isn’t much better but let’s be honest here, when has he ever been the dominant rapper on a song? He does seem like more of an added bonus for a hype track rather than a world class MC. Let me put it this way, if everyone on this track rapped like Big Sean does, the rating would be much higher but that twinned with a fairly understated and far from memorable beat/hook means this song won’t be getting rave reviews any time soon.
Don’t Ever Play Yourself (feat. Jadakiss, Fabolous, Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes & Kent Jones) – 8.5/10
The feature listing on this song is impressive to say the least. Old school classic rappers and producers all coming together on a Khaled anthem to hopefully provide us with some new fire. It’s a seriously hard beat I love the suiting of it with the era of prominence for all of these artists so it was the perfect chance for them all to roll back the years. They sure do that, it’s hard to think of any of the rappers who actually flop on this one, Jadakiss is hard at the start and sets it up perfectly for everyone else. The New York references are a big aspect of this song, particularly the mentioning of Odell Beckham, the American Footballer who has gained huge media attention in the past couple of years and I think it’s quite cool to refer back to those local areas. Busta Rhymes has such an aggressive and powerful tone to his voice and so when he’s really spitting on a beat, it sounds amazing. So yes, it sounds amazing and so does this song, a great throwback for old school hip hop fans to enjoy with a real east coast grimey beat behind it.
Tourist (feat. Travis Scott & Lil Wayne) – 7/10
A very odd pairing on paper it’s full of intrigue and something which could either go horribly wrong or work an absolute treat. Either way, pairing Travis Scott with Lil Wayne was a huge move from Khaled and I respect him for that. I absolutely love Travis Scott, I always have and I always will and this feature is strong from him, I think his infamous “straight up” catchphrase really owns this beat along with his auto tuned rap/singing vocal which alters speed to maximum effect. The hook is catchy and has the sound of a classic Travis anthem. So far so good, we just need to hear Wayne now and see if he can show us his best side. Lil Wayne is one of the most hit and miss feature rappers there is, he can either school every single rapper going or be an absolute joke, to the extent of becoming a meme. This song, however, is a decent feature, it’s not a very long feature but it’s decent nonetheless. I still think that both have a bit more to give on this track even though they both supply good features but there does just feel like there’s something missing from the song and I’m not sure what. Either way it’s a decent track and could be a lot worse.
Forgive Me Father (feat. Wiz Khalifa, Meghan Trainor & Wale) – 5.5/10
Scrap what I said about the last song, this is the weirdest combination of features I’ve ever seen. I’m fairly confident that Meghan Trainor and Wale didn’t know who each other were before recording this song and you can sort of tell in the flow of the song. It all sounds a bit stop/start from verse to chorus, almost as if there is two different songs playing. The chorus is cool though and Meghan Trainor provides a good vocal on it. I am absolutely shocked to report to you also that Wiz Khalifa does actually offer up a really good verse, it has great pace on it at the start but when he starts to sing its god awful and borderline ruins all his good work at the beginning of the verse. It also completely ruins the flow and the momentum of the song it all just seems so pointless. Wale’s feature is quite good in fairness, at least he doesn’t try and sing… However, he overlaps with Meghan Trainor at the end of his verse and it really bugs me because it just sounds so shoddy. This is a rollercoaster of hit and miss unfortunately as the good aspects are really good, it’s just a shame that the bad ones are really really bad.
Progress – 3/10
Why is this even here? The only song on the whole album with no features and you can tell the lacking of quality. I’m not meaning to disrespect Khaled here because I’m aware he’s a very talented producer but I’m genuinely baffled as to why he’s decided to randomly throw a dancehall anthem at the end, and it’s not even a decent dancehall hit either. If it was on One Dance’s level I would understand but this is just dreary from start to finish. A yawn fest to end the album which is a shame really.
Overall – 7.5/10
If this album followed the suit of the first half, it’s comfortably album of the year. From track 1-6 it sounds like a compilation album of the year’s best tracks (apart from For Free obviously) and I really like that. Any album which features Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Jay Z and J Cole within that close a time period is going to be banging and it is, right up until the second half, where we have a colossal nose dive. There are good songs in that second half, such as Tourist and the great Don’t Ever Play Yourself but there’s also some diabolical songs which I need to erase from my memory. Overall I want to thank DJ Khaled for bringing all of these exceptional artists together, but I also feel there was a lot of wasted potential on songs in the second half which could have made this record an instant classic.