In the ’90s, Funkmaster Flex and DJ Clue proved that a star-studded Rolodex was all a successful jock needed to make the transition from spinning records to making them. So with his Terror Squad affiliation and on-air gig at Miami’s 99 Jamz in tow, DJ Khaled gathered a cluster of stars for his debut, Listennn…The Album. Although rappers don’t typically bring their A game for compilation appearances, the Florida spinner manages to coerce a few winning performances.
Take Kanye West and Consequence, who churn out the collar-poppin’ “Grammy Family.” Then Game and Black Wall Street show and prove over the frantic organs and moody keys of “On Top of the World.” Rappin’ with surprising candor, Chuck Taylor spits, “Next time I drop, if I flop, I flop/I got a mil tucked and a $100,000 watch.”
Oddly, Khaled—who produces under the alias Beat Novacane—only contributes three of the album’s 19 tracks. Instead, he enlists Cool & Dre for a bulk of the cuts. Their use of Latin-infused drums spice up Twista and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “Destroy You.” And on the lead single, “Holla at Me Baby,” they beef up the Soul Sonic Force sample that Jermaine Dupri merely lifted for LL Cool J’s “Control Myself.”
While the production duo brings cohesiveness to the album, they’re also responsible for Dre’s solo farce “Movement,” where the budding MC weakly boasts, “I got a crib out of state, on the side of a mountain/Tell her to fix a plate of the finest salmon.” Equally disappointing are Nas’ pedestrian “What They Gon’ Do” and Lil Wayne’s B-level performance on “M.I.A.”
Thankfully, inspired collaborations like the Miami anthem “Born N Raised,” featuring Trick Daddy, Rick Ross and Pitbull, and Baby’s ultracatchy “Still Fly” save the project from further mediocrity. While Khaled’s debut doesn’t always boost his A&R rep, it’s still worth a good listennn.—THOMAS GOLIANOPOULOS