From being charmingly lost at sea riding his jet ski at night to having the clout to convince Kim Kardashian to join Snapchat, DJ Khaled has become one of the most charming presences on social media. Whether he was opening up for Beyoncé on her Formation World Tour, signing papers with Jay Z’s Roc Nation, or celebrating the fact that amid all this madness he and his fiancée are expecting their first child, 2016 was the Year of Khaled. But all of these little and big victories necessarily affect his new album, Major Key. Might the public be so won over by Khaled that his record’s faults would be overlooked? Is it possible to separate liking the artist from liking the art?
Khaled’s ninth full-length offering could go down as his magnum opus. The momentum from his burgeoning celebrity and connections to the mainstream rap A-list moved the DJ strategically closer to the orbit of the legend that is Hov, hoping for a boost into an even higher echelon. Khaled’s planning and calculated risks proved successful; all the hard work, financial backing, and careful timing left no room for landing at anywhere but number one on iTunes. And so it was. Congrats are in order, props are being given, and the bags are being secured.
The meticulously conceived project is built following the tried-and-true mixtape formula, strengthened by Khaled’s collaborative approach and ear for crafting singles designed for radio play and dance floors alike. At this point in the game, he knows a hit when he hears one, thus garnering his nickname the Don of Anthems — and Major Key lands him another one in “For Free”. The Drake-featuring single’s bouncy production is essentially the 6 God’s playground, Khaled wisely offering the rapper free reign to make the track his own. Khaled utilizes this tactic throughout most of this project, the album becoming the definition of organized chaos.
Major Key was probably an absolute blast to create, a veritable party in the studio. Future‘s four features essentially grant him the co-host title. Other powerhouse collaborators include, but are not limited to — and take a deep breath here — Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, Rick Ross, Busta Rhymes, Nas, Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar, Jeremih, French Montana, YG, Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, Meghan Trainor, J. Cole and Wiz Khalifa. Whether reading that list or actually digesting it, DJ Khaled’s mad scientist skills and endless budget are apparent. Nearly every track holds the potential to do well on its own commercially.
The Future and Jay Z-featuring “I Got the Keys” hits hard but doesn’t have the same staying power as some of Khaled’s past accomplishments. The repetitive lines wear thin and the track gets lost in the playlist. This repetition and occasional flagging energy hinders the album as a whole, much like on most mixtapes; some tracks are worth obsessively going back to, while others can be skipped or even deleted from the playlist. “Nas Album Done” is arguably the album’s biggest non-surprise surprise, the untouchable Nas bodying the track and giving Khaled a hefty dose of cred to bank for the future.
As might be expected from a record this big with a rolodex this wide-ranging, Major Key is an absolutely mixed bag. Khaled utilizes full-speed-ahead intensity, big room trap, and syrupy R&B, all without leaving room to breathe. But then again, Khaled’s presence unifies Major Key, as evidenced by the many interspersed ad-libs familiar to anyone who follows his Snapchat. The “major key” and “special cloth” alerts remind of the social genius capable of pulling these vastly different voices and styles together more smoothly than the call-sheet might suggest.
Essential Tracks: “Nas Album Done”, “For Free”