djkhaled.jpgIf nothing else, DJ Khaled is a great host. After a successful mixtape run, the Miami-based jock made sure to include all his MC buddies on last year’s Listennn: The Album. For his follow-up effort, We the Best, the rotund producer/DJ continues to play the back while his lyrically inclined friends feast on a new batch of synth-funk and soulful grooves.

Surprisingly, Khaled, a fine beatmaker in his own right, only produces the intro track, and the majority of the rhythms are supplied by regional favorites. The Diaz Brothers paint a vivid backdrop of thudding drums for the 305 posse cut “Bitch I’m From Dade County.” On the anthemic “Hit ’Em Up,” Orlando neighbors the Runners cook up a bevy of sounds for Bun B, Paul Wall and Pitbull to drop bombs on. Anchoring the album, however, is the majestic leadoff single, “We Takin’ Over,” featuring T.I., Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Baby and Akon over Danja’s synthesized bed of sound.

While all the main ingredients for a great compilation are in place, Khaled’s lack of direction hinders the project’s overall potential. Despite a notable bravado-filled verse from Cassidy (“I just beat a murder, so what is niggas tellin’ me”), “No Hook” is an exercise in patience, waiting for Jim Jones to finish yet another ballin’ manifesto. Khaled also mistakenly enlists Jadakiss, Fat Joe and Ja Rule to reconvene on a hollow organ-filled track for “New York,” which pales in comparison to the 2004 original.

Even Lil Wayne, who appears four times, provides weak moments. The 808-stocked “S on My Chest” finds Weezy spittin’ aimlessly: “Real thick women, I adore/I’m a whore/You know that I’m a whore.” Young Money regains his swag on the soulful “Let’s Talk,” where he professes his love for a scorned lover: “Five carats on her ring, got her hand smitten/But everyone get a ring, even Scottie Pippen.” Well, not everyone. Although Khaled corrals an all-star lineup, the lack of team chemistry makes We the Best fall just short of a championship run. —JESÚS TRIVIÑO ALARCÓN