These days, Khaled Mohamed Khaled, the 41-year-old producer better known as DJ Khaled, is so much more than a musician. You’re just as likely to see a Snapchat video of Khaled riding a Jet Ski or a commercial of him promoting Ciroc as you are to hear one of his songs. So, despite its whopping 87-minute runtime and packed guest list — which includes Beyoncé, JAY-Z, Justin Bieber, Drake, and Rihanna, just to name a few — Khaled’s 10th album, Grateful, feels like something of an afterthought.
Like last year’s Major Key, Grateful does have its moments. For starters, there’s “I’m the One,” the Bieber-Chance-Quavo-Weezy cut that topped the Hot 100 before the album even dropped. And “Wild Thoughts,” Khaled’s Santana-sampling team-up with Rihanna, has the summery swagger to dominate the airwaves. (It debuted at No. 4 on the Hot 100 this week.) Alicia Keys beautifully duets with a sample of gospel singer Pastor T.L. Barrett on “Nobody,” while Nicki Minaj brings flashy attitude to “I Can’t Lie.” (“Yes, I am iconic, bitch,” she raps in one memorable line. “P—- get ’em hooked like phonics, sis.”) Still, even these album highlights don’t transcend in a substantive way like Key‘s Kendrick Lamar vehicle “Holy Key.”
Generally, Grateful‘s major guests sound like they’re mailing it in. Migos sound weary on the inert “Major Bag Alert” — are there pop songs without Migos on them these days? — and Chance the Rapper’s rendition of the alphabet song on “I Love You So Much” won’t have much of an audience beyond the pre-K set. (In fact, the latter song is aimed at Chance’s young daughter and Khaled’s 8-month-old son, who executive-produced Grateful and, according to the DJ, is “the reason all of this magic is happening.”) The second disc, which Khaled loaded with posse cuts featuring Southern trap artists like Future, 2 Chainz, and Gucci Mane, is a slog where none of the MCs tap into the excellence of their recent releases. On many of Grateful’s tracks, Khaled seems to have expended significant effort in recruiting talent and relatively little on soliciting creative performances.
Khaled’s ability to summon music’s Avengers remains unrivaled — Grateful‘s roster easily outstrips the ones Mike Will Made-It and 2 Chainz assembled for their 2017 albums. With his industry connections and cachet, he’s able to unite voices who otherwise might not appear on wax together. But with so much talent and so much content, it’s frustrating that he couldn’t deliver a higher-quality product.
Rihanna’s latest cut has the makings of a Song of the Summer — and ups anticipation for her follow-up to last year’s ANTI.
Alicia Keys and Nicki Minaj team on this uplifting anthem, which deploys a Pastor T.L. Barrett sample masterfully.