DJ Khaled’s work is incredibly transparent. His albums function like a label sampler or movie soundtrack; they’re compilations by nature with coherency not being a priority. The formula is rather crude: butcher a pop sample, assemble the hottest artists in the game, drench the results in ad-libs and hope for the best. Cuz we the best and we deserve the best. Major Key was the only one to strike gold and all credit goes to the guests and the context, not so much the host. Khaled’s luxurious, star-studded brand of trap was a welcome addition to genre. Three albums and many “another one”s later, Khaled fatigue is rampant. Some of us are still recovering from wreckage “Wild Thoughts” left behind. All that considered, DJ Khaled’s twelfth album Khaled Khaled powers forward, business as usual.
The resulting record is uneven, rarely successful, but still a nice snapshot of who’s on top of the mountain right now. Some people are just stupid talented and will shine no matter what. This is the unfortunate, inconvenient truth about Khaled’s work. It’s highly frustrating when it doesn’t land and even worse when it does. Khaled Khaled isn’t exceptional, or spectacular, but it contains moments that are undeniably rich. Again, context has weighed the odds very much in Khaled’s favor, as many of the artists included are in their prime. Lil Baby’s frequent appearances are a highlight and Jeremih’s portion on “Thankful feat. Jeremih and Lil Wayne” utilizes the artist’s real-life trauma as inspiration. It’s actually kind of beautiful hearing from a Covid survivor at the start of everything. This first cut, however, is too clumsy in execution to properly digest. Thin production plagues Khaled Khaled, souring moments that could legitimately be triumphant. Beyond some choice minutes these songs don’t feel like songs.
Khaled Khaled skirts by on small victories. H.E.R. breathes some much-needed life into the tracks she’s on and Justin Bieber finds success in holding back on “Let it Go feat. Justin Bieber and 21 Savage”. “Every Chance I Get feat. Lil Baby and Lil Durk” is exactly the kind of song Khaled is perfect at crafting, and one where his ad-libs don’t feel forced. It’s probably more appropriate to credit Tay Keith’s production, but if Khaled’s the glue, then so be it. Unfortunately, for every high there’s a lower low. The butchering of “Layla” on “I Did It feat. Post Malone, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Baby and DaBaby” is a crucial moment where your musical integrity will be tested. Jay-Z and Nas are Hip-hop titans, but hearing them rap about cryptocurrencies and intermitted fasting is just boring. Justin Timberlake’s “Just Be” also comes across like an arrogant, empty sentiment–one that arrives after backlash but makes zero attempt to address it. There lies the core issue, these records are mere glimpses of artists and Khaled’s contribution feels more like an interruption than a feature.