What, exactly, is a DJ Khaled album? It’s a fair question. He doesn’t make the beats and he doesn’t lay the vocals, but with his extensive Rolodex and ear for which artists can fit well together, the Southern veteran has released five albums and a slew of hits. With his sixth effort, Kiss The Ring, the We The Best Music Group honcho reminds that for whatever it’s not, a DJ Khaled album is something worth its namesake’s incessant gloating.
Meek Mill’s fiery flow sets the album off with his opening verse on the Jahlil Beats-produced “Shout Out to the Real,” with Ace Hood and Plies on deck. Then comes “Bitches & Bottles (Let’s Get It Started),” which could neither be more cliché nor more addictive, as Future’s hook sandwiches verses from T.I. and Lil Wayne over Mike Will’s seasoned production.
Khaled must be a die-hard rap fan. That’s the only thing that can explain some of the pairings he comes up with for his album anthems. This time around, there are masterful pairings a plenty. The most notable of these may be Scarface and Nas, not for the actual logistics of the collab—the two have worked together before, so this isn’t groundbreaking—but for the content and conception of the record. On “Hip Hop,” on top of J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League production and furnished by DJ Premier’s patented scratches, the two rap vets pen passionate letters to their beloved culture. Just a few tracks prior, J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T. and Kendrick Lamar form the potential-of-mainstream-success-without-sacrificing-content Voltron on “They Ready.” These kind of cuts show Khaled’s wider vision—or, at least, his willingness to give a platform to those who have one—beyond his magnificent smash hits.
Even the records that wind up a bit underwhelming as compared to how they look on paper—like “I Wish You Would,” where Kanye grabs the song from Rick Ross, or “Take It To The Head,” with Rozay, Nicki Minaj, Tunechi and Chris Brown incapable of recapturing the magic of last album’s lead single, “I’m On One”—are better than today’s average radio record, and appreciate in listening value over time.
The second half of the album falters as compared to the first, but that’s more a validation of the opening act than an indictment of its second. At just 12 tracks (including a not-to-be-skipped outro where Khaled himself raps), Kiss The Ring is brief and overrun with enough proven formulas and artists that the opportunity for a miss barely exists. Like Khaled boasts at the beginning of “Take It To The Head”: “Another one!” —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)