June 6 marked the 10 year anniversary of DJ Khaled’s debut album, Listennn… The Album. 10 years since Kanye and Consequence teamed up for the classic “Grammy Family,” a decade has gone by since the Cool & Dre-produced “Holla At Me” was burning up radio towers. It wasn’t a perfect album, but Khaled’s first offering presented the world with a collection of music by a collective of artists that all came together for one man. Album after album, artists continued to show up for Khaled - new faces, bigger names, with the purpose of making records bigger than the last. Major Key is his latest project to take the same simple strategy, but compared to 10 years ago, Khaled’s name is the one that's bigger than ever.
Through Snapchat virality he has reached the pinnacle of his fame, a level of celebrity I never imagined he could have acquired as a DJ/producer/motivational speaker. From first shouting, “We the best!” to Major Key the evolution of DJ Khaled is nothing short of astounding. He’s made for the era of memes and hashtags, and now he has more power and influence than ever before. Khaled rarely reaches out beyond his usual suspects, he has his own team of Avengers that get called for every album, but now the pressure is on even more than before. People are actually looking at Khaled to supply an album of bangers, the promises he’s made these last few months aren’t falling on deaf ears. With a voice louder than ever, expectations are high for Khaled to deliver.
That’s what I expect from Khaled - hits with a mix of his obnoxious positive reinforcement that would be perfect for a self-help book. He’s a walking meme, a talking guidance counselor, a Rolodex of industry connections, and has an ear for artistic harmony. These are the strengths that have allowed him a decade worth of relevance. In many ways, this is the celebration album. He has reached the heavens, and Major Key could determine how long he can live in the clouds. If he can give me an album stronger than the ones in his past, than I believe his position is solidified for another summer. To drop the ball could be what sends him tumbling back down to earth. Success or failure, we will watch it all via his Snapchat.
Like past 1-Listen reviews I’m glued to my seat from beginning to end. I must listen and give my gut reaction to each song without stopping, pausing, or rewinding.
1. "I Got the Keys" (ft. Jay Z & Future)
It's only fitting the album starts with the Jay Z verse Khaled pretty much stalked him for in New York. 808 Mafia and Jay Z, what a time to be alive. This is a thumper, a real trap banger. Hearing so much Deiisgner makes you appreciate Future’s actual voice. I really love all the Jay Z references about not sleeping. The hustler still keeping one eye up. I like Jay on this, he actually sounds comfortable. In the past, the older Jay gets, the more it felt like his flow was strained. Like a muscle that locks up if not exercised. This is definitely a Future song featuring Jay though. The "brag different" line is a trick if I ever heard one. This is a banger, but I don’t know if it will live longer than 2016. It doesn’t push the envelop, a glimpse into the future, it fits right in with the times. I like Jay here but I wouldn't mine if 808 and Future did a solo for the culture.
2. "For Free" (ft. Drake)
Drake really decided that dance hall-esque vibes would dominate the entire summer. For those keeping up, the Too Short lyric interpolation is definitely a trick too. Who doesn't know "Blow The Whistle"? Drop this song live and the crowd is going to lose their whistle blowing minds. Drake’s ability to implement tricks in his verses is the clear influence of Jay Z. He really is Hov's son. I didn’t like this song at first, and I’m not completely sold on it, but it completes the “One Dance” x “Controlla” trifecta. Just like Joe Budden, I love rapping Drake, but he has been consistent with delivering a sound for the summer. I personally feel like he’s been plotting on summer sixteen for a while now. Wonder how Khaled ended up with this record? Khaled is talking about playing yourself and I don’t know what that means. Khaled has found his swag when it comes to shouting on intros and outros. Another one…
3. "Nas Album Done" (ft. Nas)
“Classic shit,” a soulful loop. I like this already. Nas picking good beats in 2016!? The world could be ending. God Son is currently blessing my ear drums. Nas as a rapper might be aging better than Pharrell as a person, and Pharrell still looks like he could be 28. Super crazy that Nas gave a nod to starting the baby album cover fad. Word to Lupe. This is really good. Nas talking major keys. The beat, the flow, the wordplay, this is exactly what I want from a Nas album. “Khaled called me when I was in album mode,” we need this Nas album today! Right this minute! This is a keeper. Not for a banger but a good damn rap record.
4. "Holy Key" (ft. Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean & Betty Wright)
Kendrick and Sean, the “Control” team. Production has been pretty strong but I don't like this. When the beat drops it’s like a bomb, but way too destructive. Feels like an off-brand trap record. Big Sean has been growing each album. Ha, Sean is asking for his respect. The beat feels like it's clashing. Flow-switching is one of Sean’s underrated traits. Betty Wright bringing the aggressive soul, like a preacher that’s turnt off the holy sauce. Alien voice Kendrick. Another artist with a flow that is rather unorthodox but it works when he’s rather fluid. Dot will make you feel every word. The rapid, breathless flow as if his face is turning blue is my favorite Kendrick. I need to revisit this one.
5. "Jermaine's Interlude" (ft. J. Cole)
Cole with the…sample. I know this sample... where... from where? EARTH GANG! ATL HOE! These guys are going places. Being on this Cole record is a huge look. Cole sounds sad, his voice is full of sorrow, interesting. “Maybe I’ll be better off in hell,” whoa whoa whoa. Even in his rap, his tone, has a touch painful emotion. Cole's hair isn’t the only thing going through it. Maybe his soul is also in knots. Cole retiring!? Man, rappers really do contemplate the thought, but hearing Cole, this feeling in his voice, maybe he is done with rap. At least the rap industry. I still believe something happened to Cole in Hollywood. He hasn’t been the same. Earthgang and J.I.D. closing it out with some soulful southern singing. Yeah, really good record.
6. "Ima Be Alright" (ft. Bryson Tiller & Future)
Alright Khaled, we're six records strong and I’m not counting sheep yet, but I’m not counting goats either. I really want to like Bryson Tiller, I just can’t get into anything that’s not “Exchange.” Future is floating like a Lil Boat. Couple petty bars, wonder who they could be for *insert appropriate emoji*. Bryson is rapping… he really is a hybrid of a few different Drake songs. He has a good voice, a decent flow, but there’s nothing compelling that makes me want to give him more than a passing glance. Sonically, the song feels more like Trap Soul than DS2. Khaled is back with the motivational speech. We all need a DJ Khaled in our life, just for shallow upliftment.
7. "Do You Mind" (ft. Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, August Alsina, Jeremih, Future & Rick Ross)
Loving these keys. Wow, Nicki Minaj. Haven’t heard her say much since the Drake vs. Meek beef. So strange that she’s dating Meek Mill, now I have to imagine him sucking her toes in the back of Ross' Maybachs. Every Chris Brown and Khaled feature sounds the same. Eh, this bridge is rather bland. Khaled makes the most regular R&B records. I love the “Lovers And Friends” sample, but I'd much rather hear Usher, Lil John, and Ludacris - now that was a collaboration. I don’t think Khaled has ever pulled off an R&B record of that caliber. He should’ve tried to bring the “Yeah!” trifecta back. Future swooped in with the cape. Future could’ve easily owned three records on this album so far. Ross is cool. Nicki’s singing…the song has went on for way too long. Feel like Goku running on Snakeway.
8. "Pick These Hoes Apart" (ft. Kodak Black, Jeezy & French Montana)
Kodak Black has impressed me as of late. Melodic flow, his voice sounds weird. I can’t put my finger on it, but that didn’t seem as crisp as Jeezy. Ha, the Snowman with the melodic flow. I’m already losing interest. There's only so many songs about hoes that can be interesting. Jeezy’s voice is still such a rare one, the perfect amount of rasp, one of the many reasons he’s still relevant to this day. French "Mac N Cheese Isn't Bad" bad Montana. Man rappers love to say fuck the blogs even when they’re in the middle of talking about women. It's almost like an album quota. One fuck the blogs is like seeing a Beats Pill in every music video. I love the dedication. It wouldn’t be a French Montana feature without an impromptu Auto-Tune ramble. These songs are long, can I go back to Nas and J. Cole yet?
9. "Fuck Up the Club" (ft. Future, Rick Ross, YG & Yo Gotti)
Future is racking up the features. This flow. This is a record! High energy, Future’s flow is popping like Orville Redenbacher at AMC, and the beat has the right amount of kick. Rozay is floating like he’s lounging on a floaty in his Olympic size pool. Some major dabs will be hit to this, I can already imagine the viral dancing. YG 400. Cool verse, didn’t match Rozay but still solid. This Future hook is infectious. Yo Gotti always finds a way to be apart of potential big records. Gotti knows how to stay in the clubs. Might be a good time for a new Future album. He gave Khaled some gems.
10. "Work for It" (ft. Big Sean, Gucci Mane & 2 Chainz)
Now this is a trap beat. Of course it’s Metro Boomin. He has found the eerie bounce trap sound. Like walking through a haunted house that’s also a club where the ghost will twerk on you. Okay, Big Sean with another one. Ha, Big Sean with the Usher "You Make Me Wanna" interpolation. Another flow switch. Might have to call Sean 3 Flowz. He does really well on these slow, intimate records. His element. Gucci is back and jumping on everything, he just made the cool pass to Chainz. Marta shoutout. Rappers love foreign cars. Who is driving American made? Lets make American cars great again. Sean sounds great on this hook. Another Sean verse, rapid flow, and another switch. On a technical level we might have to start looking at Sean as a rapper who is giving you something new with each verse. He’s getting better, improving in a few different ways. His next album might be the one.
11. "Don't Ever Play Yourself" (ft. Jadakiss, Fabolous, Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes & Kent Jones)
I hate this song for the title…. WAIT.... CHANGED MY MIND JADAKISS! This is dirty, grimey, Lox music. The Jada laugh needs to be in the Smithsonian. Mr. Top 5 killed. Fab! So far no hashtag bars. This is the Fab I like. There’s bars, and the beat, this feels like New York City. Fat Joe is doing his best to make a resurgence, I’ll lean back in his honor. Fat was making some real Southern tunes a while back, but I like hearing him on something this brutal. Busta Buss, an animated flow that will forever be underrated. He still got it. Kent Jones, a name I’ve seen, but a voice I haven’t heard aside from "Don't Mind." They put him at the end, will he steal the show? Strong flow, okay, okay, okay. This is good. He sounds like Big Sean, interesting. Yeah, this is rewind-worthy. From Jada to Kent there’s a few reasons to take it back.
12. "Tourist" (ft. Travis Scott & Lil Wayne)
Travis Scott and Wayne? Has this happened before? Feels like something that should’ve happened a long time ago. Travis just needs to sign to Mike Will and be the third member of Rae Sremmurd. From the cataclysmic production to Travis’ powerful, Auto-Tune-drenched voice this is a Trav record. Could’ve been on Days Before Rodeo. I’m ready for Wayne. This is either going to be incredible or a disaster. This isn’t his environment. But I've seen Wayne pull some miracles off. High-pitched Wayne voice. He sounds like a Martian. Eh, it wasn’t incredible or a disaster. More of a bunt then a homerun, but he'd at least reach first base. Could’ve let Travis have this one like Cudi on “Creepers.” Lil Wayne with the God is great shout out. He’s staying prayed up.
13. "Forgive Me Father" (ft. Meghan Trainor, Wiz Khalifa & Wale)
This album shouldn’t feel so long. Meghan Trainor and DJ Khaled? How did this happen? I guess stranger things have happened…which is a great reminder to watch Stranger Things on Netflix. Meghan doesn’t sound bad, a good voice, but this still seems off. Cool that Khaled called Wiz for a record with some depth instead of hitting him for a weed song. Not a bad verse, but I don’t like the singing switch. Wiz' voice tends to sound lighter, almost like a cloud. Has Wale been on a Khaled album? He’s not one of the usual suspects. Liking his flow. Interesting. Amy, Kurt, and Robin William's references in Wale’s verse, chilling.
14. "Progress" (ft. Mavado)
The last record could’ve easily closed the album, but Mavado the legend deserves his own record. I don’t know much about reggae, but I’m loving the melody, and his voice. Completely different than everything else on the album, it’s the sore thumb record, but Mavado doesn’t fit in with strictly rap artists. I have to respect the fact that Khaled gave him the toss. It also made me realize I’m at the end of a Khaled album and Ace Hood’s voice is nowhere to be found. Wow.
The shock of a Khaled album without Ace Hood is pretty big, but the biggest shocker to me is that Khaled actually made a pretty good album, period. There’s a few dry moments, a couple songs too long for their own good, but overall this is arguably the best collection of songs he has put together for an album. “J. Cole's Interlude” and “Nas Album Is Done” are songs that truly stand out, strong rap songs, and not potential singles. I expected an album full of “For Free” and “Fuck Up The Club,” but instead there’s far more balance in both structure and style. Khaled seems to have focused on making a well-rounded album, one that could live in headphones and in cars, not just clubs and on the radio.
I also notice that Khaled’s presence isn’t overwhelming on this album. He comes and goes without overstaying - no attempts at rapping, no excessive ad-libbing, he’s in the background of his own album. With his newfound fame, vanity could’ve easily got the best of him and strangled the life out of the album. Future truly shines, he has the most features, delivering a noteworthy performance each time. If he decided to work with Khaled more closely in the future, no complaints from me. Big Sean is another star that seemed to be brighter than usual. If Khaled's album did nothing else, he gave a few artists a platform to remind us that they’re alive, full of vigor, and shouldn’t be counted out. That’s a major key in itself.
By Yoh, aka Another Yoh, aka @Yoh31
Photo Credit: Epic