Khaled Khaled review: DJ Khaled rounds up the best of pop music for a star-studded album

DJ Khaled's new album includes collaborations with heavyweights like Jay-Z, Nas, Justin Timberlake, Cardi B, Justin Bieber, Drake, Lil Wayne, Megan Thee Stallion, and HER among others.

Anurag Tagat May 11, 2021 17:00:24 IST
Khaled Khaled review: DJ Khaled rounds up the best of pop music for a star-studded album

Nas, DJ Khaled, and Jay-Z

Given American artist and producer DJ Khaled’s insane reach over the last decade or so, it would not be surprising to find out that MBA students and digital marketing executives alike have, at some point, made him the subject of their research and case studies.

It would likely start with the fact that his shout-outs on each and every track he is part of bears a calling card that is so distinct now that it has gone global – “DJ Khaled!” “We The Best Music!” and most famously, “Another One!” Khaled has pretty much been an affable, go-to producer for pop stars and hip-hop heavyweights but also that really annoying guy who relies heavily on these very same calling cards to the point that it is undoubtedly overused. 

The affability has likely helped him make his latest album Khaled Khaled. It is a 14-track record which probably started years ago, and has now received something of a surprise (or at least short-notice) release. Khaled is undoubtedly gunning for the spot of one of the most glitziest, heavyweight collaborative albums of the year with this EP. The featured artists who are rapping and singing on the record range from longstanding titans like Jay-Z, Puff Daddy, Nas, Rick Ross, Justin Timberlake, and Buju Banton to reigning stars like Cardi B, Justin Bieber, Drake, Big Sean, and Lil Wayne, plus the freshest crop of heavy hitters – Post Malone, Megan Thee Stallion, 21 Savage, Migos, HER, Lil Baby, and DaBaby among others.

In a video interview with Lil Baby, Khaled is pretty much his enthusiastic, loud, and excitable self, talking about how he wants to “go harder” and take nothing for granted. “This is the part of my career, where you see the next level of talent. Me taking everything I ever did to the highest level – the music, the business side. The millions’ been fun but I’m going for the billion,” he tells Lil Baby. 

It is one thing to put together this kind of dream team on paper, but it is entirely a heavy undertaking to execute it.

Khaled says he started with the beat and made sure each production was the best fit for each artist he invited to collaborate. Barring the two Drake tracks ‘Popstar’ and ‘Greece,’ which released in July 2020, every track is being consumed for the first time with the release of Khaled Khaled, most likely within the context of this being a star-studded album. 

There is heart-tugging inspiration on ‘Thankful’ with Lil Wayne and Jeremih, and more emboldened but somewhat cliched verses on ‘Every Chance I Get’ featuring Lil Baby and Lil Durk. Khaled gets a bit old school, and keeps the beat straightforward and somewhat unpolished for Cardi B to pop off on ‘Big Paper,' while there is dancey vibes for HER and Migos on ‘We Going Crazy.' Surprisingly, Khaled conjures a guitar-driven sample for ‘I Did It’ with producers Joe Zarrillo, Tay Keith, and DJ 360, which is an album highlight also thanks to the crisp, quickfire vocals from Megan Thee Stallion, Post Malone, Lil Baby, and DaBaby. Where Khaled Khaled succeeds it is always keeping its finger on the pulse of radio-friendly, chart-topping music – ‘Let It Go’ with Justin Bieber and 21 Savage is pretty much the best example of that, a sweet production that fits just right for the artists. 

Khaled Khaled review DJ Khaled rounds up the best of pop music for a starstudded album

DJ Khaled and his children in cover picture of Khaled Khaled

Then again, Khaled also does not want to let go of his roots, as he offers up a glimmering, classic beat for Nas and Jay-Z to run their verses on ‘Sorry Not Sorry.' Counting the rap legends as two of his favorite MCs, Khaled says the track represents “culture of the highest level.” He added in his interview with Lil Baby, “They (collaborators) know my heart is pure, and my soul is clean. It took me a few years to build the courage to actually ask.” It even includes backing vocals and a writing credit for Beyonce, so that is how you know what kind of star power Khaled bears. As much as he gives his artists their space, Khaled’s role as a producer who nudges in the right direction is best heard on ‘Just Be,' a heartfelt, understated pop track led by Timberlake. It is the kind of pop we always loved Timberlake for, and Khaled does well to bring it back. 

The rest of the record sees a few hits (the dancehall-friendly ‘Where You Come From’) and misses but it is all bangers more or less on Khaled Khaled. More importantly, it could not have been made without the DJ himself. He hogs the credit for it very audibly on every track, whether you like it or not. 

Listen to Khaled Khaled here.

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