Its always about the money, its always about the power, and its always about the respect. Thats DJ Khaled on Outro (They Dont Want War) from his new Kiss the Ring LP. No ones ever depicted Khaled as any kind of aural auteur after all, he cameos just three or four times on his own albums while producing just a handful of tracks but statements like those are why hes been infuriating rap fans (read: HipHopDX comments-sections) for years. Khaled is, quite transparently, much more concerned with his own image and wealth than his product. It remains to be seen whether hes really the biggest mogul in the game, as he claims he is on the albums Bitches and Bottles (Lets Get It Started), but hes almost certainly its most artless megalomaniac.
Like Khaleds five previous albums, Kiss the Ring is absolutely covered in big names: Kanye, Wayne, T.I., Ross, Nicki, Chris Brown, Nas, Scarface, et al. But while some of these are or once were creative forces, they all sound thwarted when imbued with Khaleds all-too-familiar formula. The most obvious example of this is the woefully uneven pop excess of Bitches and Bottles, which employs a sorta-catchy-but-really-pretty-annoying Auto-Tuned Future hook between hellaciously run-of-the-mill verses from Tip and Weezy (also: Dick stay up like it got insomnia). And worse, Bottles is one of a handful of songs whose lineup was probably configured by Khaled solely for star power; if you take a step back and think about it, a Tip/Tunechi/Future track doesnt seem like a good idea in the first place.
Apart from the setups, though, there are little things all over the album that doom its results. J. Coles verse on They Ready, for example, stands as one of the most exciting on the album, but its still full of brags so trite that its a wonder that they didnt somehow get edited out: Thats your dream car? Nigga thats my old whip! / Thats your dream girl? Nigga thats my old bitch! And on Nas and Scarfaces Hip Hop, we get the rap-as-woman shtick, which simply hasnt been fresh or interesting since 94. (I realize I havent even mentioned the beats yet most of them are so characterless that they hardly bear mentioning.)
Maybe the worst thing about this album and Khaleds albums in general, with a slight exception being made for last years We the Best Forever is how far its quality is from what some of its guests are capable of. Unfortunately, Kiss the Ring often sounds like it was made just to vault the celebrity-status and net worth of the man on its cover. And thats a pretty awful thing all around.
Essential Tracks: N/A