DJ Khaled, Grateful | Album Review
DJ Khaled returns with the most star-studded album of his career with ‘Grateful.’ At nearly 90 minutes, it’s jam-packed with hits.
DJ Khaled has been dropping hits for years. Even so, 2016 felt like a big moment for Khaled, debuting at no. 1 on the Billboard 200 with Major Key. It served as a come-up for DJ and producer who’d already experienced a fair share of success. Grateful, which arrives less than a year later, feels more robust. True to its title, Khaled showcases his gratitude through nearly 90 minutes’ worth of hip-hop. More often than not, we’re grateful for what the DJ offers.
Grateful commences with the grateful “Intro (I’m So Grateful)” – that’s a lot of gratitude in one sentence! Sizzla serves as the featured guest, executing in typical, reggae fashion. It’s an enthusiastic, if off-putting start. Regardless, hit after hit follows, atoning for any miscues.
“Shining” is the first star-studded event, featuring Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Is “Shining” poetic or transcendent? No. It isn’t a game changing affair, but “Shining” proves to be an enjoyable, turn-up record. Drake arrives on “To the Max,” contributing his own flex-fest. Like “Shining,” “To the Max” is energetic to the max. Drake doesn’t offer anything new, but it’s hard to deny him and Khaled make an awesome pair. The hyper rhythmic drums stand out if nothing else does.
The best song thus far arrives with “Wild Thoughts,” which pairs Rihanna and Bryson Tiller with Khaled. Brilliantly, “Wild Thoughts” samples the 1999 Santana classic, “Maria, Maria.” Sexy to the nth degree, this is an instant gem without question. Keeping the hits coming and momentum high, no. 1 hit “I’m the One” follows, bringing Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne along for an infectious ride. It’s not particularly innovative, but incredibly catchy and easy on the ears. And admit it whether you want to or not – Justin Bieber sounds great here.
Travis Scott, Rick Ross, and Big Sean make up the crew on “On Everything.” Scott delivers a terrific hook, singing initially in his lower register before ascending to his more boisterous upper register. As for Ross and Sean, they offer respectable verses, nothing groundbreaking. Travis Scott stays onboard for “It’s Secured,” which also adds Nas. Once more, Scott secures the hook, while Nas gets to work on the verses. The production stands out from the jump, packing a mighty punch, anchored by a sick palette of hip-hop drums and respective effects.
Betty Wright lends her legendary soulful pipes on “Interlude (Hallelujah),” which sets the tone for highlight “Nobody.” “Nobody” taps Alicia Keys and Nicki Minaj, who unsurprisingly make a formidable duo. Brilliantly sampling “Nobody Knows,” performed by Pastor T.L. Barret & The Youth Choir, Khaled, Keys, and Minaj take the listeners to church.
Keeping the spirit alive and well, Chance the Rapper returns on “I Love You So Much,” which samples Marvin Sapp and the Jackson 5. It’s all over the place, but the exuberance and ambitiousness are much appreciated. Concluding the first disc is “Don’t Quit,” which returns Travis Scott for a third time, as well as adding Calvin Harris and Jeremih to the mix. It caps off the best disc of Grateful soundly, even if it fails to eclipse the gems. With Harris on the track, you know the groove is “ill.”
“I Can’t Even Lie”
The second disc/part of Grateful still features ample hits. Arguably, it’s not as thrilling as the first, but still worthwhile. “I Can’t Even Lie” serves as a great refresher, tapping Future and Nicki Minaj (again). This is a banger through and through, intact with crazy drums and the idiosyncratic approach of Future. “Down for Life” expands the cast of characters, inviting Future, Rick Ross, and Travis Scott back, as well as welcoming PARTYNEXTDOOR and Kodak Black. PND handles the hook, while rappers drop their bars on respective verses. All in all, it’s a success.
“Major Bag Alert” brings along Migos. A successful joint, it’s also predictable. Migos excel at such records, but we’ve sort of already heard this one. Better is “Good Man,” featuring two of the grimiest, toughest rappers – Pusha T and Jadakiss. Naturally, both are on autopilot. In addition to enthralling rhymes, a sample of “Am I A Good Man,” performed by Them Two, provides the fuel for the fire.
Continuing a change of personnel, Fat Joe and Raekwon arrive for “Billy Ocean.” This east coast joint is sound, but not among the elite. The same can be said of “Pull A Caper,” despite appearances from Kodak Black, Gucci Mane, and Rick Ross. It does serve as another missed opportunity for the Wraith playlist, considering Kodak Black asserts, “I’ma go get that Wraith.” Given the relaxed tempo, both Gucci and Rick excel, unhurried by the pace.
“That Range Rover Came with Steps”
From the Wraith to the Range. That’s about the size of the most fun song title of Grateful, “That Range Rover Came with Steps.” Naturally, Future is the perfect fit to pull it off, assisted by Yo Gotti. Honestly, it sounds like a track that might’ve appeared on the rapper’s recent FUTURE album. The same can be said by its follow up, “Iced Out My Arms.” Future returns, alongside Migos, 21 Savage, and T.I. “Iced Out My Arms” is a solid banger, if not quite a gem. The hook is hypnotic – think of the best songs from DS2.
Future isn’t done! He reappears on “Whatever,” bringing Young Thug, Rick Ross, and 2 Chainz with him. As always, Young Thug is something else… Belly appears on “Interlude,” which arrives right before penultimate joint, “Unchanging Love,” featuring Mavado. None of the three aforementioned represent the crème de la crème. What they do represent is an album that’s went a couple of tracks too long. “Asahd Talk (Thank You Asahd)” concludes Grateful, featuring Khaled’s son, Asahd.
All in all, Grateful is a fine album that is jam-packed with hits. DJ Khaled never struggles to secure the big names, but it seems as if he outdoes himself this time. The biggest issue with Grateful is its length. At 87 minutes, DJ Khaled is showing a little too much gratitude. Still, no listener should be unable to secure a summer jam on this one.
Gems: “Shining,” “Wild Thoughts,” “I’m the One,” “It’s Secured,” “Nobody,” “I Can’t Even Lie” & “Good Man”