Another year, another DJ Khaled album. Everyone’s favorite disc jockey has blessed us with his twelfth studio album, the self-titled Khaled Khaled that sports several of the industry’s hottest rappers amid a mixture of musical moods.
Khaled starts the record off right with “Thankful,” a resounding collaboration between Jeremih and Lil Wayne over a soulful beat. Jeremih sings about his revitalization after a brush with death due to COVID-19, declaring, “And I know that somebody been praying for me / Head above ground and I could’ve been six feet deep.” The soothing choir vocals and lack of percussion in the beat bring out the artist’s voices, framed over a triumphant melody recognizable from Jay-Z’s “Heart of the City.” Lil Wayne’s verse echoes Jeremih’s sentiments, as he urges listeners to stay true to themselves and seize their own destinies. The intro’s potent context and uplifting lyrics make it a standout track.
After a couple generic trap anthems, the album arrives at an interesting place with a pair of bombastically produced songs in “We Going Crazy” and “I Did It.” The former has no glaring weaknesses — H.E.R. delivers with a soaring hook seasoned with Migos ad-libs (“Yeah, we on and we goin’ crazy”). The trio’s verse, featuring the members trading bars on money and success, fits well with the vibe.
On the other hand, “I Did It” almost feels like a discount “All I Do Is Win,” with Post Malone providing an underwhelming hook. Lil Baby and DaBaby are on autopilot, though Megan Thee Stallion shows up with some hard-hitting lines (“How my name in your mouth more than your spit? / I really encourage my haters to talk / Throwin’ that shade only keepin’ me lit, huh”).
“Body in Motion ” sees Bryson Tiller come together with Lil Baby and Roddy Ricch to form the blueprint for a melodic trap love song. Tiller is the best part — his chorus is urgent with a satisfying crescendo into an emotional high (“And I’m getting impatient / Reach out and take it”). Meanwhile, Lil Baby’s verse is decent enough, but Roddy Ricch decides to get a bit too staccato with his flow and interrupts the smooth vibe the others established.
The following track is the lead single “Popstar,” where Drake finds the perfect combination of memorable lines and ambient production that define some of his best songs. The flow switch-up in the first verse is ear candy, and the hook is buoyed by an energetic beat drop and crisp delivery from Drake (“I’m a popstar, not a doctor”). The song may be a standard rap banger, but it’s executed so well that it’s easily in the mix for the album’s best cut.
The second half of the album has one of its strongest tracks in “Sorry Not Sorry,” a collaboration between former rivals Nas and Jay-Z that serves as Khaled Khaled’s token lyrical jam. Producer Streetrunner samples Jay-Z’s early 2000s hit “Song Cry” to weave a pensive beat that sits under a soft James Fauntleroy chorus; Nas begins with a verse that’s slightly weak by his standards but still contains gems like “I’m coin-based, basically cryptocurrency Scarface.” Jay-Z starts off a bit rough with some start-and-stop wordplay, but he rights the ship later on (“Unprecedented run / Everybody’s gettin’ bands, we just dance to different drums”). As industry veterans, the two rappers discuss their rises to the top and the wealth they’ve generated along the way.
The album then enters its final stretch, reinforced by a couple pop-based songs in “Just Be” and “I Can Have It All.” “Just Be” is full of positive energy: Justin Timberlake delivers a well-sung hook between verses about living life for the moment, worry-free. This cut wouldn’t be out of a place on a playlist of feel-good music for the summer.
“I Can Have It All” is all about pushing for one’s dreams, as H.E.R. puts on a strong vocal performance that carries the song alongside a motivational, high-octane Meek Mill verse. The beat’s dreamy saxophone coalesces seamlessly with the self-confident hook and wistful outro (“I could feel it in the air…”).
DJ Khaled saves his most unorthodox track for last in “Where You Come From.” After a fading outro on “Greece” where Drake gets in his feelings, the album explodes into a full-on Jamaican banger featuring several dancehall artists. It’s a ridiculously fun track, with bouncy rhythms from 9th Wonder and intense flows from Capleton, Bounty Killer and Buju Banton. It’s almost a tradition for Khaled albums to end with a Jamaican-inspired outro, and Khaled Khaled is no different, closing with one of Khaled’s finest finales.
Khaled Khaled is the mediocre assortment of jams that is pretty much exactly what one would expect out of a 2021 DJ Khaled album. It may not reach the highs of 2016’s Major Key, though it’s definitely far from the worst product he has put out — and like any DJ Khaled release, its best songs can crack your playlist rotations, but likely won’t reach your best-of-the-year lists.
Nihar Hegde is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]