Fighter: DJ Khaled
Trainer (Gym): Asahad Khaled (Epic, We The Best Music Group)
Cut Men: DJ Khaled, DJ Nasty & LVM, JayO, Lee on the Beats, Metro Boomin, Nic Nac, Quavo, Southside, Schife Karbeen, StreetRunner, Tarik Azzouz, The Beat Bully,, Troyton Music, 808-Ray, Ben Billions, Calvin Harris, Cool & Dre, Danja, DannyBoyStyles, DJ Durel
Weight Class: Superstar DJ
Notable Fire: Good Man Feat. Pusha T & Jadakiss, I Can’t Even Lie Feat. Future & Nicki Minaj, On Everything Feat. Travis Scott, Rick Ross & Big Sean, Don’t Quit Feat. Travis Scott & Jeremih
Notable Trash: None
Tale Of The Tape: Whether it be the soundtrack to the summer or to his popular Snapchat account, DJ Khaled’s Grateful has something for everyone and has to be considered one of the hottest albums of the 2017. Although it could be too much of a good thing.
Allow me to show my age a little bit with an analogy: If hip-hop was a music label instead of a genre, DJ Khaled would be the executive producer on the annual compilation album. Grateful is the tenth solo album for Khaled and he’s recruited every emcee with an “MVP award” on their résumé. At this point, being on a DJ Khaled album is both a rite of passage and a certifying stamp of rap relevancy.
The world may never know exactly what Khaled does or how be became the harbinger of hip-hop’s heroes, but if an artist has owned a year or might own a future year, there is a 99% chance they appear on this album. Swipe left on the intro and you’ll get four straight radio smash hits. “Shining” featuring the Knowles-Carters, “To the Max” featuring Drake, “Wild Thoughts” featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller and “I’m The One” featuring Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne, Chance The Rapper and Quavo. There are many potential hit singles on this playlist but if I had to pick one to blow next it would be the super-DJ-crossover summertime jam”Don’t Quit”, which sees Khaled meet with Calvin Harris to mash-up Travis Scott and Jeremih. A close second would be “On Everything” which features Travis Scott, Rick Ross and Big Sean, who may or may not have (but probably did) throw a dart at Kendrick Lamar.
Sidebar: Quavo vs. Sway Lee vs. Travis Scott in an auto-tune sing-rap triple threat— who wins?
One factor that jumps out on this album is that because there is no overarching theme every artist is allowed to stay “on brand” and not be shoehorned into a vibe to which they may not be accustomed. It’s quite possible that Khaled’s secret talent is only getting a producer and two artists together to do what they all do best, making him the overweight Lonzo Ball of rap.
Sidebar: The Khaled chart on his wiki page is low key fascinating. It’s largely congruent with the popularity arc of a given artist’s career.
For example, on “It’s Secured” the paint was cleared out for Nas while Travis Scott hung out in the corner and carried the hook. No one looks weak on the song compared to “God’s Son” because no one else is getting a verse. The Migos linked with Khaled to make a spiritual sequel to “Bad and Boujee” with “Major Bag Alert”. Alicia Keys performed admirably on “Nobody”, while Nicki Minaj performed at her current efficiency in what is probably the weakest song on the album but the production value out of Cool & Dre and 808-Ray was exemplary.
DJ Khaled gifted Future Hendrix basically an EP with four features on Grateful and they sound like every Future track ever; unimpressive lyrically but they absolutely bang. “I Can’t Even Lie” is standard fare Future as is Nicki Minaj’s second appearance. “Down for Life” is a Future love song dragged down by incredibly too much spelling and droning on by Travis Scott. Rick Ross and Kodak Black make their Grateful premiers and are the best parts of this track. Future then, along with Yo Gotti, aggressively aims at the haters on the infectiously intoxicating “That Range Rover Came With Steps“. The third Future track is the lean induced “Iced Out My Arms” that includes Migos, 21 Savage and T.I (for some reason). His fourth and final performance is a mix of the “love” and “lean” Future and he’s joined with Young Thug, Rick Rozay and 2 Chainz.
DJ Khaled paid homage to the birthplace of hip-hop and its old heads with back-to-back songs; “Good Man”, featuring Pusha T and Jadakiss and “Billy Ocean”, laced with a familiar Isley Brother’s sample that owned as much of the track as Fat Joe and Raekwon. These records are out-of-place on this album, but are not without their charm. One could question how younger fans will connect with these two tracks, but we’ve touched on previously how 70’s samples add soul that resonates with the over 30 crowd.
When DJ Khaled wanted to make a track to walk across the stage when he graduated from the LaVar Ball school of fatherhood, he went to the perfect partner in Chance The Rapper. On his own mixtape, Coloring Book, Chance regularly rhymed about his own experience as a father, merging this with the beautiful gospel inspired stylings for which he’s become known. I’ll never downplay a father pouring out their love for their child, but this too was a weaker song on this album.
Therein lies the difficulty with reviewing this album. None of these songs are trash but with a track list with basically 18+ radio ready singles, a weaker song only means that it wouldn’t get much burn in the club or on the radio.
Fight Night: Winner by Majority Decision
Grateful is too long, clocking in at an hour and 27 minutes, but there’s a steady stream of consistency within this double CD (since CDs are practically obsolete these days, what happens to the term “double CD”?). The biggest compliment I can give would be that each artist would’ve been well served having their song on one of their own albums. If you have a pulse, there are five to six songs here for you, which is an achievement in it’s own right. As mentioned, there is no theme here other than “DJ Khaled presents:”, unless you count giving his infant son an executive producer credit. Still, this is a fun outing that lacks much replay value as a project in spite of many songs appearing on playlists well into the future.