DJ Khaled Recruits the Culture’s Most Relevant Voices on ‘Grateful’ Album
What can we truly expect from a DJ Khaled album in 2017? The reputed “king of Snapchat” is now on his 10th studio album and has been following the same formula for these past 11 years. He gathers a long list of hot contemporary producers and artists, and mixes their undeniable talents into one big super rap excellence playlist. One could argue that there are often too many cooks in the kitchen or that his albums have no real structure but in reality, Khaled’s famous friend frenzy formula is exactly what fans are looking for in 2017. With curated playlists and single-driven releases dominating the majority of attention spans, a DJ Khaled star-studded album is exactly what a myriad of rap fans are looking for; Grateful is no exception.
The difference this time around though is that the executive production comes from Asahd, Khaled’s beloved son. How much actual producing the 8-month-old child did remains to be seen but regardless, there is a loosely followed theme of fatherhood—or at least the blessings surrounding fatherhood—here. After the Sizzla-assisted "(Intro) I'm So Grateful," Khaled sets off the blessing ballads with Beyoncé and Jay-Z on “Shining.” Jay and Bey, now with three kids of their own, shine with some slick singing and formidable dad raps from Jay.
“To the Max” featuring Drake, the Rihanna and Bryson Tiller-assisted “Wild Thoughts” and “I’m the One” with Quavo, Lil Wayne, Chance The Rapper and Justin Bieber are the next cuts on the album, which makes sense since Khaled typically stacks the top half of his albums with the biggest and most popular songs. “I’m the One” is incredibly catchy but it’s the Bryson Tiller and Rihanna chemistry on “Wild Thoughts” is what really heats up the album. A very smooth Carlos Santana sample of “Maria Maria” by L.V.M. and DJ Nasty make this track perfect jam for the remainder of the summer.
Then Grateful rolls through various moods as the featured guests and sonic range starts to vary a little more. The more traditional hip-hop fan will appreciate the middle of the LP with the onslaught of lyrically-driven rappers popping up for a hot 16. “On Everything” will emerge as the streets’ favorite thanks to Big Sean’s standout verse and Travis Scott’s high-octane hook. Sean boastfully raps, “Boy, I’m a Caesar, I see shit and seize it/Roc-A-Fella chain, but you can still get Ethered/Yeah, they don’t really fucking feel me man/But when you really run it they try and clip your Achilles/I’m on track to a billi’, I got Khaled fuckin’ with me/That mean I got the Holy Key and the key to the city,” which sounds even sharper over Danja’s vivacious beat.
Nas returns again on “It’s Secured,” which isn’t as potent as “Nas Album Done” but manages to suffice his fans who are still waiting on his completed album. It also wouldn’t be a proper Khaled album without a giant posse cut of R&B crooners singing about holding down the most loyal, smartest and baddest girls. “Down For Life” fills that void seamlessly.
Despite there being almost an hour and a half of music on Grateful, it’s easy to see that Nicki Minaj is in fact the MVP of the album. With a pair of features, the self-titled generous Queen brings wildly fluctuating verses to two different songs. The first is "Nobody," a soulful duet with Alicia Keys in which Nicki puts down the lyrical sword that made jabs at Remy Ma and embraces her conscious side with lines like, “I got something inside of me that can’t be quenched/I’m addicted to winning and I can’t be benched/Go to war for every Black queen that they lynched/And my pockets on chubby but they can’t be pinched/After they use you, then they abuse you/Then they get mad when they lose you.”
On “I Can’t Even Lie” however, Future’s protruding bravado and Danja’s war-ready production brings back the Nicki that would rip your head off if you simply looked at her the wrong way. Flexes include, but are not limited to, “Queen never shuffle, you deal/Just turned down a $4 million dollar shoe deal” and “Yes, I am iconic, bitch/Pussy get ’em hooked like phonics, sis.” Perhaps it’s because of the clout that comes with a Khaled album that caused Nicki to show out with her pen game here or perhaps she's tired of people discrediting her ability to craft strong raps this far along in her career. Whatever it is, Nicki’s verses will definitely be remembered in the sea of lyrics that make up this album.
Khaled sticks to what he knows best throughout this LP and that's creating hits with ease. The 22 songs on Grateful aren't anything out of the ordinary for Khaled or any of his featured guests but they remain hits nonetheless. While every song on the LP won't be a No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit like "I'm the One," there are a handful that have potential (some have already) to climb fairly high. The comforting thing about pressing play on Grateful is that you know exactly what you're going to get: cloth talk, mogul talk, shout outs to Asahd and some good old-fashioned posse cuts.
See Exclusive Photos From DJ Khaled's XXL Magazine Spring 2017 Cover Shoot