January 31, 2017

JAIN | Why DJ Khaled?

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This past Friday, hypebeasts all around the world (including myself) collectively celebrated the much-anticipated release of Migos’ latest album, Culture. I could sit here and type up a description of Migos, but I’m sure you already have an idea. They bring life to your pregames and are probably the reason dabbing is still kind of cool. As their album title suggests, Migos have created a new culture in hip-hop and they’ll be the first to tell you that. Practically every major rapper has adapted the Migos flow in some way or another, but this column isn’t about how formally interesting Migos’ music is. This is about DJ Khaled.

I’ve always placed high value on the first listen to an album. You can never listen to the album for the first time again. You can revisit an album and feel certain sounds with a fresh ear, but ultimately that is just an exercise in memory. The unknown of the next song, of the next note, cannot be recreated, and I think there’s something really special about that. That being said, the opposite is also true. After hearing something, it sticks with you regardless of quality, and no level of memory can take away that feeling of expectation.

I remember exactly where I was I first pressed play on Culture. It was a cold Ithaca morning in my shitty Collegetown house. I put on my Bose QC35’s — the greatest impulse purchase I’ve ever made — and opened Apple Music. I pressed play and the album began. The voice of DJ Khaled, everyone’s favorite Snapchat celebrity for a month, rang through my eardrums. For whatever reason, Migos chose to begin Culture with the most unnecessary feature I have ever heard.

To begin the song, Khaled blurts out a bunch of incoherent bullshit about fuckboys and playing yourself before Takeoff begins his verse. Takeoff, one of the more lyrical members of Migos, constructs a clever narrative in his 8 bar verse, rhyming the words cocoon, raccoon and Cancun, among others. I almost forgot about Khaled’s introduction during these sweet 15 seconds. As Takeoff ends his verse Khaled comes in again, this time with his trademark phrase, “Another one.” Khaled makes two more appearances towards the end of the track, with a full outro that is just as cringeworthy as his intro.

I’m no DJ Khaled hater. The guy essentially went  from a B-list producer to an A-list hip-hop personality solely as a result of his social media charisma, and I completely respect that. Khaled flipped a meme into a certified gold album that’s also somehow nominated for the Best Rap Album Grammy. I wish I were DJ Khaled. But I also wish he hadn’t ruined the first song on Migos’ album. What bothers me even more is that the song was otherwise fantastic. All three members of Migos deliver creative verses that slap over the 808 Mafia production. Removing Khaled from the song completely would result in a single that arguably rivals both “Bad and Boujee” and “T-Shirt.”

The question remains: why DJ Khaled? I like to think all three members of Migos were finalizing their album when Quavo got a late-night text from Khaled saying he was at the front door. Confused, Quavo went to let him in and I assume Khaled burst through the door with the same irritating tenacity that he began the album with. Khaled probably hopped right in the booth after confusing Takeoff with Offset, and started yelling things. As his incoherent ramblings were collected digitally, I assume Takeoff and Offset looked to their leader Quavo for counsel. Quavo, being the kindhearted man he is, most likely felt some pity for Khaled and told his producers to make his words into an intro and outro.

Or maybe Migos just figured Khaled was still popular with the youth. Who knows? Regardless, Migos found a way to recover from Khaled’s contributions and deliver a very solid album, an accomplishment nearly as improbable as Khaled’s A-list status.

 

Akshay Jain is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at ajain@cornellsun.com.College Stuff appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

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