Album Review: DJ Khaled – ‘Khaled Khaled’

DJ Khaled has always been the one to get a list of who’s who in music to collaborate on his albums, making them major moments in music whenever he drops an album. For his self-titled twelfth studio effort, he’s keeping the family legacy going set up for his two sons on Khaled Khaled.

Teased for an original 2020 release preceded by the Drake-assisted dual singles “Popstar” and “Greece,” the 45 year-old mega personality and DJ pushed back the release from an already crazy year filled with shutdowns and COVID-19 to this week with only a 48 hour notice. Months leading up to the release recently, Khaled screamed in excitement and jumped into his lavish pool whenever new vocals were in from all artists involved. 

“And I know that somebody been praying for me/Head above ground and I could’ve been six feet deep,” sings Jeremih, who went through a trying battle with coronavirus last year but made it out alive, on the opening number “THANKFUL.” The soulful collaboration with Lil Wayne is a choir-filled take on Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City,” which was sampled as “Heart of the City” on Jay-Z’s classic 2001 album, The Blueprint. In fact, the album is filled with a number of samples from classic hip hop records of the nineties and early/mid ‘00s. 

The Bryson Tiller/H.E.R./Meek Mill-assisted “I Can Have It All” samples “Whole Lotta Something Going On” by jazz musician Raphael Ravenscroft , which was then sampled on the 2005 Heavy D-produced “Feel It In the Air” by Beanie Sigel. Another H.E.R. collaboration, this time unexpectedly-yet-fitting with Migos, finds the GRAMMY-and now-Oscar-award winning singer talk her talk over the reggae-infused “WE GOING CRAZY,” which samples Mandrill’s “Children of the Sun,” later used by Shawty Lo on his 2007 hit “Dey Know.”

One surprise highlight is the literal last minute addition of the Cardi B-featured “Big Paper,” where the rapper brings some NYC energy to the album with only 48 hours to submit her vocals and already a topic of conversation on who some lines could be about. Speaking of New York, another highlight is the teaming up of two kings of Hip Hop – Jay-Z and Nas on the soulful “SORRY NOT SORRY,” which also has vocals from singer-songwriter James Fauntleroy on the hook and Beyoncé on background vocals under the pseudonym “Harmonies by The Hive.” It’s a moment where we realize that 20 years after the two MCs verbally assaulted each other on diss tracks, Hov and Nasty Nas have been proving enemies can make up and keep positive energies moving forward. 

The two Justin’s of Pop/R&B – Bieber and Timberlake – have their moments on Khaled’s album, on the tracks “LET IT GO” (also featuring 21 Savage) and the Jackson 5-sampled “JUST BE” respectively. Then you have a few artists pulling multiple track-duties on Khaled Khaled. Leading the pack is Lil Baby, who jumped on three records including the rock-influenced and self-hype record “I DID IT,,” also featuring clean vocals from Post Malone, Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby. Mr. “Hide and Go Seek from Music” himself, Bryson Tiller, finds his way on two tracks, including the Lil Baby and Roddy Ricch collaboration “BODY IN MOTION,” which sounds like a cousin to his previous collab with Khaled and Rihanna on the smash “Wild Thoughts.” “THIS IS MY YEAR” has a standout hook courtesy of A Boogie wit da Hoodie along with Big Sean, Rick Ross and Puff Daddy (as expected) talking his ish. “EVERY CHANCE I GET” featuring Lil Baby and Lil Durk is one ready for the streets with the hook and IG-caption ready “I’ma turn up on a hater every chance that I get.” A Khaled release wouldn’t be complete without a reggae record with dancehall’s best artists. So for the closer “WHERE I COME FROM,” he enlists the best of the best Buju Banton, Capleton, Bounty Killer and Barrington Levy for the 9th Wonder-produced cut. 

Executive produced by his two sons, oldest Ashad and thirteen-month-old Aalam, as well as Allah himself, DJ Khaled has made it known he wants his legacy to continue with his kids and Khaled Khaled is another solid project from him. There are some moments, collaborations and vocals that seem rushed and forced, but in a way still works out because he teamed artists with others you wouldn’t necessarily expect to work together on a song. It’s been about fifteen years since Khaled released his debut album Listennn… the Album and has gotten more bolder and grander with his albums since then. Khaled makes it mission to top himself every album he releases. With the recently released videos for “SORRY NOT SORRY” and “WHERE I COME FROM” with more videos shot and being released, Khaled is making this album a movie! While he has had stronger albums before, Khaled Khaled finds its way into the top five albums of his long discography. 

Khaled Khaled is now available on all streaming platforms and digital music retailers via We The Best, Roc Nation and Epic Records.