Updated: Apr 4, 2020
By: Anthony Ragler
When DJ Khaled released his “Wise Words with DJ Khaled” video, I thought there was no way this would catch on to be such a movement — rather a phase of something we’d laugh at and keep it moving. Then, almost as instantly as the video died down from its hype, we were treated to Khaled’s snapchat account, where he does the same thing every day— ride jet skis, eat healthy courtesy of Chef Dee, drink Green Apple Ciroc in a hammock, all while giving us his “Major Keys” to success, and somehow neither him, nor his followers grows bored of this routine. Once again, I am SURE there is no way this large of a following of people could actually be interested in his antics, right? The rest of the music industry has to be seeing this and thinking he’s lost his mind, right? WRONG! And in what arguably may have been one of the most mind blowing (Welcome home Gucci) moments ever, Khaled released the 14 track list set for his album, Major Key. Upon seeing the artists that contributed to this album, my previous skepticism morphed into anticipation for what could be the hottest album on the year. Friday, July 29th arrived and Khaled delivered quite a solid album. While it may not be as massive as I initially expected, it did provide some epic moments, and potentially some classics to walk away from this amazing year in music with. Without further ado, here’s my track by track review of “Major Key” by DJ Khaled.
1) “I Got The Keys” (ft. Jay Z & Future)
There are many artists I didn’t expect to so willingly support Khaled and his Major Key movement, but here we have the legendary Jay Z giving us a track where he’s the main vocal artist. A much more upbeat track, with multiple references to Khaled’s different catch phrases such as “Cloth Talk” and “Major Bag Alert”, Hov and Future give us more kingpin related lyrics, With Jay reminding us of his elevated status where he isn’t fazed by anything that comes his way. On the heels of Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” album, he says on the track “My wife’s Beyoncé, I brag different.” Indeed he does, and overall a solid track to start off the album. Rate: 7.5/10
2) “For Free” (ft. Drake)
Shout out Too $hort Drake for this amazing AMAZING track. Drake doing what Drake does best here, in giving us a catchy tune, recycling a legendary verse and breathing it a life into our current times with “For Free”. I just don’t see anything wrong with this track, besides the glaring fact that he really just used the entirety of someone else’s track. But if you look beyond that, this song is stellar from top to bottom: the production, the delivery, and this may be a personal bias, but the reference to Kendrick Lamar in saying “Like ya boy from Compton said: You know this dick ain’t free.” Drake wins this round. Rate: 9/10
3) “Nas Album Done” (ft. Nas)
Undoubtedly the best part of the album: we not only see Nas (HOW THE HELL DID KHALED GET HIM ON THE ALBUM!!!!!!!!!!) return to his “Nasty” form, but we get one of the most ridiculous lyrical showcases in recent memory.
“To every baby on the album cover existin’ This trend I was settin’ came to fruition I’m assistin’ to push the culture forward To all my go supporters, go support us Like a local black-owned grocery store Cause in the hood shit ain’t passed down through blood It’s a dub on that We get government aid Spend it at their stores, sendin’ their kids through college We need balance, so we can lease and own Ds in our projects So I’m askin’ Gs to go in their pockets The racial economic inequality, let’s try to solve it”
That, coupled with a phenomenal flip on Ms. Lauryn Hill’s “oh la la” riff sample are the ingredients to an absolute classic. Of course Nas dropped a couple plugs for Khaled’s infamous “you smart, you loyal” bit, but even still, he used it as the hook, which was a good balance of giving Khaled his presence on the track, while still displaying absolute lyrical acrobatics. Rate 10/10
4) “Holy Key” (ft. Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar, & Betty Wright)
Okay, there’s a lot to unpack here. First off number 3 on my “How did Khaled get you on his album?” And number 1 on my “How did y’all even meet?”: Betty Wright. The lady who gave us “Clean Up Woman” otherwise known as all of my great aunt’s favorite song/favorite moment in any Madea play, absolutely went bezerk on her singing here. Straight solo part in the Choir for “First Ebenzer Baptist Chuch (no R on purpose) of God in Christ AME”, type of ridiculous. Come on Betty. More of this. (Sidenote: Lil Wayne first gifted us with Betty Wright on a rap song with “Playing With Fire”)
Secondly: Big Sean. Bro, I’m convinced you’re the JR Smith of the rap game. Most times you give us smh moments where we don’t understand why we loved you in the first place, but then every once in a while (usually when you’re on a song with Meek Mill, idk why this is your preference, but I digress) you snap on the verse and remind us that you can actually do some damage. This may be your best verse of your career.
Kendrick was average Kendrick here, that goes with saying that average Kendrick is still better than most rappers on their A game.
The production on this track was a slight miss: while the beat is quite epic, there are a few moments where the voice of the artists and the instrumentals clash in a less than pleasing way, and also Betty Wright goes a bit over the top in her ending vocals, however this is a song both strong enough to get multiple replays outside of the full listen through of the album.
If “Nas Album Done” is ranked 1, “For Free” and “Holy Key” have to be ranked 2a and 2b.
5) “Jermaine’s Interlude” (ft. J. Cole)
Cole gives us standard J. Cole: smooth melody, dope introspective lyrics and a laid back flow. Mostly a coming of age as an artist story, this interlude is a track of its own (actually the same length of “For Free”) with a verse and a repeated hook. Solid track, nothing outstanding or awe inspiring, but a much needed calm transition from the extreme upbeat energy given in the first four tracks. Rate: 7.8/10
6) “Ima Be Alright” (ft. Bryson Tiller & Future)
At the end of 2015, if we had to rank the artists with the most momentum going into the new year, behind Drake would immediately be Tiller and Future, and with their styles and content, a collaboration with the two had to be expected to come sometime soon, and they did not disappoint. Their voices and lyrics came together quite smooth on a beat that could’ve very well been expected for either of them on a solo project. Tiller giving us a memorable hook and a verse addressing his usual two topics, his women and his haters, and Future on the track, dubbing himself the “King of Melodies” while also referencing his strained relationship with Ex-Girlfriend and mother of his child in the line “We used to be best friends until the fallout, now I got the lawyers going all out.” They gonna be alright, and this track is more than alright in its own right. Rate: 8/10
7) “Do Ya Mind” (ft. Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, August Alsina, Jeremih, Future & Rick Ross)
Possibly the sleeper hit of the album — I expect this song to be the single leading into the second half of 2016, sampling the classic “Lovers and Friends” by Usher, Ludacris and Lil Jon, which also leads me to believe that us millennials are beginning to hit that age where we have to explain that the songs coming out now are all samples and remakes from our childhood, but overall this is a very catchy track, with a slick hook from Chris Brown. The only downfall to this song is that it lingers on for too long considering its vibe— 5 1/2 mins to be exact, but definitely an enjoyable song to listen to. Rate: Would be a 9 if not for the length, but 8.5/10 all factors considered
8) “Pick These Hoes Apart” (ft. Kodak Black, Jeezy, & French Montana)
At this part of the album, we really start to see the steam dying down from the stellar first half. Not a bad track, but I also don’t see much happening here that Juicy J couldn’t do. Honestly, if I didn’t know Jeezy’s voice so well, I would’ve swore his verse was Juicy J’s. Kodak Black’s never been impressive to Me, though this is the song that he fits the best on within the album, so his inclusion makes sense here, and French Montana, a poor man’s Fabolous, in the sense that no one outside of New York really rides all that hard for him, all on top of a decent southern bass heavy beat, gives me one of my low points of the album. Rate: 6/10
9) “F**k Up The Club” (ft. Future, Rick Ross, YG, and Yo Gotti)
We get right back into the upbeat trap music (usually to be expected when you put Future and Yo Gotti within arms distance of one another) and this one is a banger. Definitely not the most lyrical outing on the album by far, but if you don’t feel on top of the world while playing this at full blast and the windows down in the car, I’m convinced something is wrong with you. It’s definitely been a while since we’ve seen Ross on a track, and he does well here, as does everyone else, for what’s to be expected of each of these artists. I’m starting to tune back in. Rate: 8.5/10
10) “Work For It” (ft. Big Sean, Gucci Mane, & 2 Chainz)
We’re back to the samples, as the melody to Usher’s “U Make Me Wanna” consistently shows up in this song, especially in Big Sean’s parts. Gucci is consistent again, as he’s been on almost every verse since his release. 2 Chainz is entertaining as always, and gives us the DJ Khaled shoutout that shockingly didn’t appear for a few songs. Production on this track fits quite well with each of these artists and not many weak or aesthetically unpleasant moments. Overall, pretty good, but not in comparison to the first half of the album. Rate: 7.5/10
11) “Don’t Ever Play Yourself” (ft. Jadakiss, Fabolous, Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes, & Kent Jones)
First off, this is the most New York circa 2003 track ever, and I’m here for ALL OF IT! The gritty, horror movie like beat, Jadakiss back on his grizzy “Why you think the streets love me, I ain’t ever leave it.”, Fabolous and his status quo greatness (New Yorker Bias, sue me). I’m now in further anticipation of this Freddy V. Jason mixtape the two plan to release, and then you add in Fat Joe and Busta on the track — in other words, we’re getting solid work across the board. The stand out verse whoever, belongs to Kent Jones, the newcomer who delivers quite a few play on word schemes that was dope, as well as an entire verse where he keeps up with 4 surefire rap legends, if not borderline hall of famers. The track is the longest on the album, however unlike “Do Ya Mind”, the style of song fits for its length and gives ample time to each artist to showcase what they do well within their work. Rate: 8.7/10
12) “Tourist” (ft. Travis Scott & Lil Wayne)
Close to rounding out the album, we get Travis Scott’s usual vocal style, on a generic trap beat. In all honesty, not much out of the ordinary to expect here. Travis does what Travis does here, however Wayne gives us one of his more lackluster verses as he’s done quite often in the past few years. Definitely one of the lesser songs on the album, and possibly my least favorite, unfortunate to say, seeing as how we know where Wayne once was. Rate 5/10
13) “Forgive Me Father” (ft. Meghan Trainor, Wiz Khalifa, & Wale)
One of the underrated songs on the album, Trainor gives a heartfelt melody for the hook above a triumphant beat, a track centered around redemption and overcoming obstacles. The verses are average at best on the songs so it’s definitely Trainor that brings this one full circle. Rate: 7/10
14) “Progress” (ft. Mavado)
Interesting way to close out the album, seems a bit disjointed from the rest of the vibe, but is definitely a smooth vibe that also ties into Khaled’s consistent Caribbean references, so the theme is understandable, even if not as symmetrical with the rest of the album. Rate: 8/10
Album Overall: 8.3/10
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