DJ Khaled :: Grateful :: We the Best/Epic Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Grateful] This didn't need to be a double album. Before DJ Khaled fans take exception and fly off the handle, let me clarify that I'm referring to the packaging and NOT to the quality of the music. Disc one is 42 minutes long, disc two is 44 minutes long, and current CD manufacturing tolerances allow between 80-85 minutes of music on a disc. Cutting just ONE track from either disc would have enabled this entire double album to fit onto one disc alone. I nominate "I'm So Grateful (Intro)." It's five minutes long, it features some singing from Sizzla I doubt rap fans care about (I don't), and we already know DJ Khaled is "Grateful" for the blessings in his life just from the album title and the fact he put his son Asahd on the cover. In fact he's so "Grateful" for Asahd that he even made him the executive producer, which means his young son is already earning revenue off royalty points while he's still in diapers. That's dope. Khaled might be getting even more royalties from a double disc though, so I suspect that's why nothing got trimmed before this one went into production.

Anyway you're no doubt already familiar with the first single "Shining." Co-produced by DJ Khaled and Danja, the song features samples of "Walk the Way You Talk" by Dionne Warwick and coincidentally enough Osunlade's "Dionne." It's a thumping piece of dance club material right in the Khaled wheelhouse that features guest appearances from Beyonce and hubby Jay-Z (congratulations to both on their own recent newborn twins joining daughter Blue Ivy). It's a hot reminder that Shawn Carter is planning a new album for summer 2017.

Jay-Z: "One ain't enough, I need two
That night, I mixed the Ace with the D'US'
Hit a triple-double in the Garden
I dunk my left wrist like I'm Harden (swish)
Ran to the dealer, bought twin Mercedes'
The European trucks for the twin babies
Don't let me have a son, I'm a fool (haha)
Send him to school in all my jewels (haha)
I want a boy and girl to fight for truth
Whatever God give me, I'm cool
I've been winnin' so long it's like alchemy
I've been playin' cards with the house money"

That was a good start to promoting "Grateful" but it quickly got blown out of the water by the Nic Nac laced "I'm the One" featuring an incredibly overloaded line-up -- Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Lil Wayne and Quavo (Migos). An eye popping video which featured just about as much eye candy as possible (including an extra endowed woman jiggling as she rides a white horse) has done about 400 million views as of this writing. That's right. Nearly half a billion. Even in 2017 sex still sells.

The only single from the album to have done anywhere close to that amount of video spins is the just released "Wild Thoughts" featuring Bryson Tiller and Rihanna, which is already at 55 million and counting. Thanks to the Wyclef and Santana samples from "Maria Maria" it's easily the best of the songs we've discussed so far. Speaking of "sex sells" who can argue with watching the sultry Rihanna shake, sing and snake to the beat of what appears to figuratively and literally be the hottest party in the Caribbean?

If you're noticing a trend here it's probably the same one you've noticed on previous DJ Khaled releases. Even though he's gone out of his way to take a co-production credit on a majority of the songs on the two discs, there's one thing that Mr. Khaled Mohamed Khaled has always relied on, and that's his ability to RECRUIT. Khaled brings in the hottest producers and the hardest artists, and then he puts his "We the Best" branding and trademark vocal shoutouts on the results. What does that make Khaled exactly? He's a "producer" of an entirely different variety - he produces RESULTS. Undoubtedly he can and does produce his own beats at times, but he purposefully blurs the lines as to who does what and lets the audience decide whether or not that really matters. Listening to "Good Man" featuring Jadakiss and Pusha T though, I'm giving the credit to his co-producers considering the legendary Cool & Dre get billing along with with 808-Ray. They made it a hot track and the rappers made it a hot song.

That's a Khaled album (or double album) in a nutshell. They're a modern day version of mixtapes not labelled as such, with Khaled using all the connections he's made over the last two decades in the music business to compile together a bunch of hits. In the old days rappers and producers would contribute to a street deejay's mixtape for the buzz and the exposure. Khaled's grind is more refined where everybody (including Asahd) is going to get paid. It's a self-feeding cycle because the DJ Khaled brand has become associated with hits, so artists in turn want to be associated with DJ Khaled, and until something comes along to break that cycle (say a major scandal) people will keep hopping on the bandwagon and Khaled will keep dropping albums where he's so "Grateful" for their support. It's virtually "Secured."

There us a downside -- virtually no new artists can break into the DJ Khaled line-up at this point, which is one advantage the old school cassette mixtapes of the 1980's and 90's had. In fact it was on one of those mixtapes that I first heard "Flavor for the Non Believes" by the Poetical Prophets, who would later change their name to Mobb Deep (R.I.P. Prodigy). Nobody is getting that kind of exposure on Khaled's albums these days. This is a star studded line-up with Drake ("To the Max"), Future ("I Can't Even Lie"), Nicki Minaj ("Nobody"), and a few of your "grimy" favorites like Fat Joe and Raekwon ("Billy Ocean"). So are you going to enjoy all 80+ minutes of this double album that COULD have been a single disc? Unless you're not a fan of Migos and Travis Scott, yes.

Still if it's innovating, exposing unsigned hype to your ears for the first time, and giving producers unfettered credit for their work when they drop hot beats that you want DJ Khaled is not the guy for you. He's got a hit machine that just keeps on rolling though and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10

Originally posted: June 27, 2017