DJ Khaled has ranged from summertime hitmaker to self-help guru, but neither are all that interesting on his latest guest-filled album. There are plenty of voices but no clear message or intention.
The rise of positivity in hip-hop culture has been steady and relentless. It has become a dominant modality of Instagram influence and global culture ever since the publication of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret & among its most ardent benefactors (and beneficiaries) is DJ Khaled.
For years, he has blended be-your-best-self mantras with middling music to great fame and, presumably, growing wealth; he even published a book detailing his “keys to success.” In the Snapchat era, Khaled’s vague, emphatic preaching made him an intriguing public figure beyond music. But unfortunately, as in the arena of emotional development, shouting aphorisms does little to prompt significant artistic growth.
Khaled’s new album, Father of Asahd, continues in his tradition of envisioning every song as a posse cut. The project’s 15 tracks feature 29 different performers plus his own signature bellowing. (The absence of Drake, a reliable hitmaker and longtime collaborator, is palpable.)
My top 5 faves on DJ Khaled’s latest album “Father of Asahd”
1.) Top Off
2.). Thank you
4.) Wish Wish
5.) Big Boy Talk
The result is pure chaos. Since assembling Akon, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, and Lil Wayne for “We Takin’ Over” in 2007, Khaled has proven himself adept at project-managing rap and R&B’s biggest stars into contributing verses for transparent plays at song-of-the-summer singles. Along the way, the strategy has produced actual anthems, hit songs with a backseat full of guests that will likely activate nostalgia even when they sound thin and tinny in retrospect.
The Album displays a handful of introspective verses from Meek Mill and Lil Baby; it’s a shame they are not alchemized into effective songs. Cardi B and 21 Savage rapping over a Tay Keith beat on “Wish, Wish” is refreshing and poised for radio play. The clear standout is “Higher,” featuring John Legend and the late Nipsey Hussle. Especially in the context of his death last month, Hussle’s two verses are an eerily on-time reflection on his own life, beginning with his family history and ending with this urgent prophecy: “Homicide, hate, gang banging’ll get you all day/Look at my fate.” It offers a rare moment of depth and vulnerability on an album largely marked by inanity.