In an era when artists look to maximize on the way streaming affects the charts, lengthy albums seem to be the norm — and DJ Khaled delivers just that with the tiring 22-track listening experience of new album Grateful. The record was intended to include Drake's "To the Max," making it 23 tracks, but it's nowhere to be found on Canadian streams.
While the project is not nearly as inspiring as his previous release Major Key, it is more ambitious. Khaled curates some of hip-hop and R&B's greatest talents here, facilitating unconventional collaborations like Pusha T and Jadakiss, or Nas and Travis Scott. The diversity he curates quickly turns messy, though, as a surplus of talent doesn't guarantee musical versatility.
One of the distinctive qualities of a good album is its ability to capture a main idea, theme, or aesthetic and explore it to its depths; what Khaled provides here is a playlist of new music, which after More Life, might be the new paradigm for music releases. Khaled meanders around an island sound with Sizzla's chaotic intro and the summery, yet insipid beat on "I'm the One," but by the time Mavado closes out the album, the listener forgets Khaled was even attempting the Caribbean vibe in the first place.
With the exceptions of "It's Secured" and "Billy Ocean," which sound about 15 years outdated, the production on Grateful is generally impressive. The standout records are "On Everything," which in addition to having an incredibly energetic beat features powerful vocal performances from Travis Scott, Rick Ross and Big Sean; elsewhere, "Nobody" is a near-perfect collaboration between Nicki Minaj and Alicia Keys and "Good Man" includes the album's best verse — by Pusha T, who beats out Nas, Jay-Z and Raekwon.
DJ Khaled has made a career out of making anthems with hip-hop's biggest names. When listening to a Khaled project, it's not going to be political or insightful; he wants to create moments. In the new paradigm of streaming, perhaps making single-heavy albums is the right move. Unfortunately, for album enthusiasts, density simply won't cut it. (Epic)