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Despite every living rapper seemingly being just a phone call away, Miami radio personality/record executive/professional shouter DJ Khaled has never once put out a good album. He’s been 0-for-5 (yes, DJ Khaled has released five albums), and Kiss the Ring, his sixth record, is on the horizon.
Khaled’s albums have two main problems. The first: They’re never fun, which can largely be attributed to Khaled’s obsession with grandiose proclamations of kingship and immortality. Almost every song on his albums is weighed down by Khaled’s false and self-inflated belief that history is being made in his presence, when it certainly is not. The result is a distinct air of obligation; every star on his albums sounds like a contract killer who would rather just turn the gun on himself. The second problem is that, at least since his first album, Khaled mostly just throws rappers and singers on tracks without any regard for how they might sound together. It’s almost easier to believe that he was literally just picking names out of a hat when figuring out who should be on which track. Soulja Boy, Birdman and Bun B? Sure! Trey Songz, Fat Joe and Ray J? Okay! (By the way, Khaled has been the president of Def Jam South since 2009.)
That brings us to Kiss the Ring. Like every Khaled album, enough spaghetti has been thrown on the wall to feed a family of four, which means there will be a lot of spaghetti sliding onto the floor. It’s always more fun to imagine Khaled’s songs than it is to listen to them, so this is a ranking of every song on his upcoming album, ordered from least repulsive-sounding to most repulsive-sounding. Three of these songs are already out, but we can still imagine which songs may be better or worse.
12. Lil Wayne, T.I. & Future, “Bitches & Bottles (Let’s Get It Started)” (produced by Mike Will)
If the most hyped song on a rap album involves the 2012 versions of T.I. and Lil Wayne, the game is over before it’s even started. Lil Wayne is bored by rapping now, which is such a non-revelation that it was barely news a few weeks ago. Unlike Wayne, T.I. can show up on a track without embarrassing himself, but there’s no real reason to get excited by his presence anymore. Future and Mike Will have been one of the best rapper/producer combos in Southern rap over the last few years, and even something off their collective scrap heap would be better than anything else on here.
11. Scarface, Nas & DJ Premier, “Hip Hop” (produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League)
As is custom on DJ Khaled albums, this collaboration between Nas and Scarface doesn’t live up to what it could or wants to be. This is a standard “girl as hip-hop” extended metaphor track, with the added bonus of Nas mentioning menstruation and saying the phrase “middle-aged cougar.” But it does have Scarface and Nas, so it’s up here by default.
10. Meek Mill, Ace Hood & Plies, “Shout Out to the Real” (produced by Jahlil Beats)
If there’s anyone who can bring levity to just about any situation, it’s Plies. An album that’s so stuffy with power could use a little unbridled outlandishness, and Plies is usually good for at least that. He and Meek Mill should make a decent team, while Ace Hood will only be rapping for 30 seconds or so. (Though I’ve heard enough of these albums to know that he’ll probably be inexplicably handling the chorus, too.)
9. Rick Ross, Meek Mill, Frenck Montana & Jadakiss, “I Did It For My Dawgz” (produced by Beat (produced by Beat Bully)
You might think this sounds like a leftover from Maybach Music Group’s compilation album from this year, and it probably is. Rick Ross, Meek Mill and French Montana have been on so many songs together in some form that it’s really hard to imagine this song transcending itself, but it will at worst be largely inoffensive. That’s progress around these parts.
8. Birdman, Ace Hood & 2 Chainz, “I Don’t See ‘Em” (produced by Detail)
More Ace Hood! (Don’t worry, he still shows up two more times.) This will be more boilerplate, completely average Southern rap, with the slightly bizarre personas of 2 Chainz and Birdman bringing the potential for something a bit more.
7. Mavado, “Suicidal Thoughts” (produced by Boi-1da)
Mavado is one of the best dancehall vocalists of his era, but teaming him up with well-scraping pop-rap producer Boi-1da exemplifies Khaled’s nonsensical approach to his albums. This track may end up being the most relatable, though—if I had to spend hours recording over a Boi-1da instrumental, I’d probably name my song “Suicidal Thoughts,” too.
6. Kanye West & Rick Ross, “I Wish You Would” (produced by Hit-Boy)
“I Wish You Would” is a remake of “Go Hard,” a Kanye/T-Pain single off of Khaled’s 2008 album We Global, which itself was a remake of Kanye’s Autotune-soaked verse on Young Jeezy’s “Put On.” Spoiler alert: the returns have diminished.
5. Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj & Chris Brown, “Take It to the Head” (produced by The Runners)
Putting together a group of hot rappers, an R&B singer, and The Runners is a timeless DJ Khaled recipe. It worked the first time (“I’m So Hood”) but has become more and more stale ever since. The 2012 version naturally features Chris Brown, but the song is just boring and forgettable in a rather ordinary way. They did sort of make up for it with the video, though, where Brown sings from inside an electric cage (?) on the premises of some sort of malfunctioning water treatment plant (??). You know, typical stuff.
4. Ace Hood, “Outro (They Don’t Want War)” (produced by DJ Toomp)
Yeah, this is about where any Ace Hood solo track ranks in the hierarchy of contemporary rap. DJ Toomp is a genius who has more or less disappeared from popular rap in the last two years, but the fact that his beat here is being wasted on merely Ace Hood just drives this song further down the list. On the bright side, at least it’s not Wale.
3. Wale, Tyga, Mack Maine & Kirko Bangz, “Don’t Pay 4 It” (produced by The Runners)
Oh, hey, it’s Wale! This song is notable for having quite possibly the most hilarious selection of rappers on any Khaled song. (Kirko Bangz especially did well to make it on a Khaled album before his slide into irrelevancy.) But what really drives this up the list is the presence of The Runners, whose incessant bigness is a really awful match with this foursome.
2. J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T. & Kendrick Lamar, “They Ready” (produced by J. Cole)
These three guys are touted as some of the most exciting young talents in popular rap, and in each case that proclamation has at least some degree of truth. But putting them together is just an incredibly obvious and pandering move, a late, out-of-touch MTV segment or Rolling Stone sidebar brought to life. As boring as Khaled’s collections of major starpower can be, they at least bring together well-known people. The grouping of Cole, K.R.I.T. and Lamar is undoubtedly supposed to mean something, but it just looks really minor.
1. Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa, Ace Hood & T-Pain, “I’m So Blessed” (produced by K.E.)
On its face, this is a standard collection of average and/or obnoxious rappers who have no reason to be on a track together aside from their fame. (Plus, of course, T-Pain.) But, man, a track where Big Sean (I repeat: Big Sean) and Wiz Khalifa get to slip into a false humility to rap about how “blessed” they are? That’s a special, new circle of hell, even in the world of DJ Khaled.