Nine albums later and the jubilant record producer known as DJ Khaled hasn’t changed one bit; It’s been eleven years since his first album, and he’s still a meme. Except now what he’s doing on his ninth studio album, Grateful, is flat out annoying and just unbearable to hear at points. Unlike Calvin Harris’s recently released project, Khaled is really all over the place with his sound, and frankly as a full length project, this is sometimes pretty chaotic.
I was a little skeptical of this record when the track list initially came out due to the fact that it contained twenty-three songs, and it was well over an hour long. I did think to myself however that maybe it won’t be too bad because there are so many different artists, which therefore means there may never be a lag during the album. Well, I was wrong.
You could probably pick out seven or eight songs that are competent enough to really jam to, but even then, Khaled finds the need to ruin the listening experience with his ridiculous ad-libs, and laughable references about his son. I respect the fact that he wants to be as good of a father as possible but, you don’t need to jam that thought and idea in people’s minds over and over again. It’s not even funny anymore, it’s just irritating.
Unlike with Harris, Khaled doesn’t give any of his artists time to adapt to the sound that he’s going for, which is already way too scattered in the first place. Drake was absent on his track “To the Max,” where he was rapping about whatever on this very lazily put together electronic beat. While I’m not as angry about the Santana guitar riff on “Wild Thoughts,” Rhianna and Bryson Tiller really drop the ball and bring nothing interesting to the table.
Every huge artist was just so poorly utilized here, especially Chance and Travis Scott. Scott sounds like a shitty pop artist on “Don’t Quit” and even “Down For Life,” and his vocals on “On Everything” are astronomically bad. The most dreadful track on this record though is definitely the Chance the Rapper single, “I Love You So Much.” Boy, what a waste of talent. For some reason Chance was sucked in to the meme ways of DJ Khaled, and made an entire song where he sings the alphabet while Khaled sings “I love you so such, I love you so much” repeatedly. It’s basically five minutes of a cheap ode to both of their kids. Damn Khaled, for a guy who loves your child so much, it’s a shame you couldn’t make a better song about him.
Although few, there were some highlights on Grateful. I really enjoyed the “Shining” song with Beyonce and Jay-Z. Jay brings a phenomenal verse where he isn’t afraid to brag about his accolades including “12 solo albums that went platinum.” I also don’t mind the track with Justin Bieber, Chance, Quavo, and Lil Wayne, “Im the One.” While simplistic, Khaled doesn’t yell as much here, and Bieber’s vocals weren’t all that bad. It’s definitely a summer jam for most.
Nicki Minaj probably had her best verse in awhile on “Nobody” with Alicia Keys where she raps about more socially conscious things. Keys was sadly mediocre here, though.
Even though a lot of these songs that I considered bad were actually really bad, I kind of enjoyed the latter half of this album. Future’s song “I Can’t Even Lie” had a nice nocturnal dark vibe in which I really liked. Pusha T and Jadakiss probably had the best single on this entire record with “Good Man.” The hard bass on this thing is fantastic, and Push and Jada bring their killer instincts together. Kodak Black actually kills it on “Pull a Caper,” and Future, Migos, 21 Savage, and T.I. hold their own on “Iced Out My Arms.”
The album also closes out with a much lighter mood with tracks like “Interlude” with Belly, and “Unchanging Love”, where Mavado incorporates some nice R&B vocals.
Another element to note is Big Sean took some subliminal shots back at Kendrick on the song, “On Everything” (which probably doesn’t matter because K-Dot is better anyway, but hey it’s fun to watch rappers fight).
All in all, I think the reason why the second half of the project improved a tiny bit was because, Khaled had less to do with it. He wasn’t adding his normal catchphrases inside of some of the better tunes, and I think others definitely helped him with the production on those songs. Khaled for sure wanted his voice on the tracks with Rhianna, Drake, Beyonce, and Jay-Z, because those are bigger names that he wants to promote. Sadly, some of those songs could have been better if he hadn’t been a part of the process of making them. At the end of the day, I don’t want to say Khaled is talentless, but I wonder how much better Grateful could have been if he had stopped back, and let others produce it.