Album Review: DJ Khaled — Grateful

This is DJ Khaled’s 10th album, and the guest stars get brighter every time around. Last year’s Major Key was his first to hit #1 on the Billboard 200, and featured 20 artists that have their own #1 albums. It’s a similar story here, with 18 of the 35 guest stars coming in with #1 albums already under their belt. Grateful gives a wide sampling of the current pop rap scene, and Khaled is ever-present with his signature ad-libs. His newborn son, Asahd, is featured on the cover and within the general album theme of gratitude. He even inspires some sweet, heartfelt moments, a new wrinkle for DJ Khaled.

Disc 1

  1. (Intro) I’m So Grateful (Sizzla) — Sizzla sets the tone, expressing gratitude on this introduction. Khaled jumps in to welcome the listener while underlining the theme in a pretty epic way.
  2. Shining (Beyonce & Jay-Z) — Beyonce & Jay just had twins, making them a perfect fit conceptually. Both do their thing on this energetic, upbeat track. Hopefully we get that joint album at some point. Yes, Jay-Z actually has 21 Grammys. Wow.
  3. To The Max (Drake) — Drake continues his mission to be totally unconstrained by genre. A definite pick-up-the-party jam.
  4. Wild Thoughts (Rihanna & Bryson Tiller) — I love “Maria Maria”. For that reason alone, this song’s existence annoyed me at first. It has been 18 years, though, so I guess I can’t be too mad. It’s a good song, and I will add it back to my playlist after deleting it because my wife was playing it too much. Rihanna is amazing as always.
  5. I’m The One (Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance & Lil Wayne) — This is a proper pop song, complete with the Bieb on the hook. It went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It might make a hiphop purist puke, but it’s a pop rap masterpiece.
  6. On Everything (Travis Scott, Rick Ross & Big Sean) — This is the first of Travis Scott & Rick Ross‘s 4 appearances each. Big Sean, like most of the guests, only shows up once. He’s apparently throwing some (very) subliminal shots at Kendrick Lamar on his verse. Kung Fu Kenny isn’t on this album, but shared the track “Holy Key” with Big Sean on Khaled’s last album. So…yeah.
  7. It’s Secured (Nas & Travis Scott) — Nas is the best rapper alive as far as I’m concerned. I love that he’s collaborating with Travis, who’s brilliant, but also a totally different type of artist. They’ve got a better song than this in them, and should keep working together. This one’s still pretty good. Khaled jumps in at the end to emphasize the proper Arabic pronunciation of his name. The Arabic “kh” sound doesn’t exist in English. Why he chose to do that on this particular track is unclear, but still cool to hear.
  8. Interlude (Hallelujah) (Betty Wright) — A beautifully sung gospel interlude to cleanse the spirit after 2 songs of Travis Scott’s debauchery.
  9. Nobody (Alicia Keys & Nicki Minaj) — Alicia Keys is a powerhouse. The choir sample makes things even more epic. Nicki does her thing with a quick verse too, but this is really Alicia’s song. Ms Minaj is one of 4 artists with 2 guest appearances, and we’ll hear from her again later.
  10. I Love You So Much (Chance) — I’m not the biggest Chance fan, and while this is a sweet, heartfelt track, it’s not very good. That kind of sums up how I feel about Chance in general. The best parts here are Khaled’s over-the-top speeches to Asahd. The worst is when Chance sings the alphabet.
  11. Don’t Quit (Calvin Harris, Travis Scott & Jeremih) — A straight pop track for the summer. It’s pleasant enough. Sounds like a day at the beach.

Disc 2

  1. I Can’t Even Lie (Future & Nicki Minaj) — Future wasn’t on the first disc, but this is his first of 5 guest appearances. Only Travis & Ross come close with 4, nobody else shows up more than twice. Travis might be gaining, but Future is still the king of autotune rap. Nicki is once again overshadowed by her co-star, but there’s no shame in that. Her verses are stellar. Future is just at the top of his game.
  2. Down For Life (PartyNextDoor, Future, Travis Scott, Rick Ross & Kodak Black) — The tempo slows to a crawl. The chemistry level is low. Future spelling things is the highlight. This one’s a miss to me.
  3. Major Bag Alert (Migos) — Migos spit about riches in typical fashion. If you like the Migos, you’ll like this.
  4. Good Man (Pusha T & Jadakiss) — This is a blast from the early 2000’s, complete with the soul sample. The strongest members of The Lox & Clipse do what they do best.
  5. Billy Ocean (Fat Joe & Raekwon) – Like “Wild Thoughts”, this song shares a beat with a late ‘90's classic. In this case, it’s Jay-Z’s “A Week Ago”. Both sample the Isley Brothers’ “Ballad For A Fallen Soldier”. Once again, the new song is good enough to justify the familiarity.
  6. Pull A Caper (Kodak Black, Gucci Mane & Rick Ross) — After a couple of throwback tracks, we’re back to the new school with a really good song. Kodak brings the melody on the hook, while Gucci & Ross contribute solid verses. This is everything “Down For Life” wanted to be.
  7. That Range Rover Came With Steps (Future & Yo Gotti) — This is alright. Future does his thing, but Yo Gotti’s verse drags a bit.
  8. Iced Out My Arms (Future, Migos, 21 Savage & T.I.) — An ode to high-end watches. Mumble rap, extreme materialism and a slightly out-of-place T.I. highlight this all-Atlanta posse cut.
  9. Whatever (Future, Young Thug, Rick Ross & 2 Chainz) — Future delivers a great hook on his third straight appearance. That hook elevates an otherwise mediocre song.
  10. Interlude (Belly) — Khaled’s parents were born in Palestine. So was Belly. He touches on this connection and gets political with a quick verse.
  11. Unchanging Love (Mavado) — A beautiful dedication to the Most High from Jamaican singer Mavado closes out the music.
  12. Asahd Talk (Thank You Asahd) — A sweet 15-second outro from the grateful new dad. Khaled expresses his gratitude to Asahd, who makes some baby noises since that’s all he can do. This will be great for Asahd to hear when he grows up.

DJ Khaled does a good job of displaying a cross-section of what’s popular in hiphop. That’s for better and for worse, but in general the quality is there. I didn’t love Chance and Young Thug’s contributions, but those are popular artists that I’m generally not a fan of. Perhaps their fans will like those songs more. Khaled’s open displays of love and gratitude after becoming a father are a nice thematic touch and bring positive vibes to the album. This is definitely worth a listen for any fan of hiphop.