I don’t know how it happened but DJ Khaled got huge. Sure, Major Key is his 9th studio album, and at 40 years old, he’s been in the music industry since he met Birdman & Lil Wayne while working in a record store in New Orleans back in 1993, but it was only until about a year or two ago that DJ Khaled became a household name. Mostly due to the app Snapchat, where DJ Khaled turned himself into a meme sensation through inspirational “you can do it” speeches and getting lost on a jet ski, Khaled put a face to the name of that guy who did something on “All I Do Is Win” back in 2010.
Having given the vocals of “All I Do Is Win” to T-Pain, Ludacris, Rick Ross and Snoop Dogg, one might have thought that he was at least the producer, but that’s also wrong, as the beat was produced by DJ Nasty, with DJ Khaled listed as an “additional producer” for the entirety of the album. So what did DJ Khaled do? His “Words of Wisdom” Youtube videos about opening metaphorical doors to self-improvement so far that you rip the hinges off and hand them to the next generation are equally hilarious in his seriousness and following workout video tape for when you’re “doing push-ups or sit-up’s or whatever, let’s get it,” but the question regarding his music still remains the same… what does DJ Khaled actually do?
Here on Majot Key, DJ Khaled still has little to no hands in the actual material of the record aside from some more “additional production” and vocals throughout declaring “we the best” or signaling “another one” before the next track (a meme of his from the “Words of Wisdom” video). With everyone doing the work for him, it seems odd for DJ Khaled to have his name on this at all. It’s nothing new, as he’s done this for the past five albums or so, but it’s an interesting thing to credit yourself for everyone else’s talents.
The credits here are insane too, dare I list them: Jay-Z, Future, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, Nas, Southside, YG, Big Sean, J. Cole, Chris Brown, Rick Ross, Jeezy, French Montana, Yo Gotti, Gucci Mane, 2Chainz, Jadakiss, Fabolous, Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes, Travis Scott, Lil Wayne, Meghan Trainor, Wiz Khalifa, Wale, Betty Wright, Kodak Black, August Alsina & Jeremih. It’s a list to make any musical festival lineup seem like weeknight dad bands at Applebees.
To me, I see DJ Khaled as a musical curator. Like a playlist on Spotify or a mixtape that anyone can make of their favorite songs, DJ Khaled acquires all of his favorite artists and friends and releases a quote-unquote playlist of original material. The same kind of topic came up with Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010, the same year as “All I Do Is Win,” where the idea that Kanye’s features are always amazing because he hand selects his featured artists like they were just instruments or a type of sound at his disposal. DJ Khaled does a similar kind of artist curation, except unlike with Kanye, Khaled doesn’t really take part in any of the material produced. Sure, he says things here and there before and after the song, and most of the topics like “I Got the Keys” or “Holy Key” revolve around DJ Khaled’s inspirational meme-ism’s, where people tell his “story” for him, but overall it’s just a regular story of success which is something any artist on here can talk about it.
Major Key reminds me a lot of Dr. Dre’s latest record last year which he titled Compton: a soundtrack by Dr. Dre, meant to act as a representation of where he’s from, and showcases his musical empire and immense artist roster. Like Dr. Dre’s Compton, Major Key is DJ Khaled’s success story celebration record, and all of his friends are here to celebrate too. If anything, it’s a celebration of today’s rap music and how far it’s come, even if it might be “radio-rap.” Not every moment is great on Major Key, with some verses *cough cough Kodak Black cough* being just horrible, but there actually are some great tracks and especially fantastic verses.
I’m not looking for anything deep here on Major Key, but there’s some verses like J. Cole on “Jermaine’s Interlude” and Big Sean on “Holy Key” that are some of the best moments of their careers. It’s just a light and celebratory record, with even lackluster Jay-Z and Drake verses coming off as enjoyable. Jay-Z sounds good even though his material is old and just regurgitated info we already know like who his family is, and Drake sounds great passively on an upbeat track with predictable lyrics, but there’s also featuring’s from Kendrick Lamar and Nicki Minaj, who not just really show why they’re on top, but bring a smile. Their presence just really add to the celebratory rap nature of Major Key. I think the record kind of drops in its ability to be a good song for the second half, but I can still appreciate the whole sentiment of the album.
“Start a label, run it, sign yourself, that’s a major key,” says Nas on “Nas Album Done.” It’s a track like this where it just shows that DJ Khaled just wants to celebrate radio-ready rap, and how far people like him and Nas have come. The track is really just an announcement that Nas’ next record is finished, and DJ Khaled just wants everyone to see how excited he is for it. As weird as DJ Khaled might be, he’s just like all of us. He’s a rap fan. Further, he’s a likeable personality and high-up music curator.
Whether the songs are great or not, it really doesn’t matter. It’s nice that Major Key holds some of the best ones yet, but it’s all in the celebration and love of rap music that makes this record good even when it’s not. With every recent rap release standing for something politically or socially huge, it’s nice to step back and just enjoy making music for the sake of making music. Bring on another one.