DJ Khaled has always been a hard person to pinpoint. Is he merely a DJ or is he also a producer and occasional rapper? Even with 2012’s Kiss The Ring (released August 21, 2012), those questions still loom heavily. Regardless of his status or placement within hip hop circles, what is definitive is “he’s kind of a big deal.” According to allmusic.com, Khaled was a member of the Fat Joe/Big Pun fronted group Terror Squad, where the Palestinian-American served as a producer. Since the dissolution of Terror Squad, Khaled seems to have a knack for assembling star-studded collaborations and compilation albums that sell better than expected. On his most recent ‘compilation,’ Khaled serves multiple duties, which include spoken word intros, production/co-production, a songwriting credit on each and every cut, and a legitimate rap on the closing “Outro.” All in all, Kiss The Ring is a well assembled, star-studded affair that rarely misses.
Commentary on the tracks…
- “Shout Out To The Real,” featuresthe ubiquitous Meek Mill, Ace Hood, and Plies. Produced by Jahlil Beats and DJ Khaled, “Shout Out The Real” opens the effort capably, characterized by a dramatic opening and exceptional pummeling kick drums and clapping synthetic snares. “Shout Out To The Real” is anchored down by Meek Mill’s hook: “Shout out to the real n**gas (Shalom)/ and shout out to the real b*tches (say what)/I’m popping bottles with my real n**gas/It’s like a full time job not to kill…” Bold and overt, the hook sets the tone for the cut for sure. Meek Mill also handles the first verse, asserting such notable lines as “…Had my hood hating, now they came up/I don’t know if it’s the money or the fake stuff” as well as “…Cause I get paper reading scripts, you ain’t getting no shows…” Ace Hood takes the reins for the second verse: “…From the bottom to the top, I made it out the gutter/I’m 17 on every scene I need my bread and butter…” The formerly popular Plies (his stock has went down), handles the final verse of the opener, in loud fashion, characterized by repeated and overuse of the n-word. The biggest quibble with “Shout Out…” is that the MC’s seem too concentrated on asserting ‘the hardcore,’ particularly the somewhat washed up Plies.
“B**ches & Bottles (Let’s Get It Started)” video (audio): http://youtu.be/gKn2lYsidaI
- “B**ches & Bottles (Let’s Get It Started)” features an all-star cast of Lil Wayne, T.I. & Future. Produced by hip-hop producer Mike-Will-Made-It who is known for his hardcore-sound (he produces for 2Chainz & Rick Ross),the production is ‘da bomb.’ Future handles the autotune laced hook, adhering to the style he made famous/infamous on his debut Pluto: “Let’s get it started, let’s go dumb and retarded/let’s get high as we wanna, let’s go and burn up a forest/Girl there’s other precautions, get the care it’s inside it/let’s put in ice on your watch and designer on your body/let’s order b*tches and bottles, b*tches and bottles… let’s get it started.” Wow. Wordy, ghetto, and in modern Dionysian tradition, that truly nails what the song is about. T.I. handles the first verse (“I’m turned up till my knob broke say down I say nah ho…”) while Lil Wayne knocks out the second verse with some production variants (“…I like sticky weed and sticky p-” – yeah you get the idea…) All in all for all it’s looseness, it is one of the best cuts.
“I Wish You Would” (official music video): http://youtu.be/kj8-uiksEIs
- “I Wish You Would,” a promotional single, features production from Hit-Boy and features Kanye West & Rick Ross. DJ Khaled sets the tone with his opening vocals: “DJ Khaled, Hitboy I’m so serious.” Khaled doesn’t lie as “I Wish You Would” definitely has an edgy sound, easily locked down by the respective MCs. West handles the solid, if predictable hook (“I wish you would n**ga…I guess it how I came up/I wish you would try to play us…”) In addition, West handles the first and third verses in typical ‘Yeezy’ fashion while Rick Ross handles the second verse in which he raps about, money: “…My corner will scorch ya, somehow my flow the coldest/money, power, respect the only thing’s truly important/Family first, Khaled we gotta stay focused/God forgives and I don’t…” Another solid cut by all means.
“Take It To the Head” (official video): http://youtu.be/-p0bNOxBhgc
- Keeping the hits rolling, “Take It To The Head,” another single graces, produced by The Runners. Featuring Rick Ross once again, the catchy cut also features Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, and Lil Wayne. Khaled gets things started off (“Working all winter/shining all summer/I ain’t no beginner/you scared to…”) before Chris Brown breaks into the hook (“Take it to the head/don’t think about it be, about it/don’t be scared to take it to the head/girl you fly but if I tell you then you might take it to the head…now we gon’ get f*cked up, no excuses, no apologies.”) Ross conquers the first verse, followed by Nicki Minaj (“…I ride for him, DMV/Stamina, GNC/3 Letters, CMB/Compeitition I don’t see any) and Lil Wayne closing (“…I eat her ice cream, she eat my ice cream cone…”) Lushly produced and featuring solid vocals by Brown (yeah I’m actually giving ole boy a compliment), “Take It To The Head” is another hit.
- “They Ready” is as solid as anything else, if a notch below juggernauts “B*tches & Bottles,” “I Wish You Would,” and “Take It To The Head.” Produced by J.Cole, it also features Cole, Big K.R.I.T., and Dr. Dre protegé Kendrick Lamar. Cole handles the catchy hook (“One for the money, two for the show…” etc.) as well as the first verse, in which he sounds incredibly agile. Mississippi’s Big K.R.I.T. rocks out his second verse, again adhering to a bridge that was featured on J. Cole’s verse as well. Kendrick Lamar’s verse is segued directly from K.R.I.T.’s to close the effort nothing sort of ‘wildly.’
- “I’m So Blessed” features Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa, Ace Hood & T-Pain. T-Pain is drenched in auto tune on the hook, but it works brilliantly. Big Sean takes verse 1 (“…I’m self made, self paid and I got my city watching/they threw me in the game/I threw up numbers like an auction…”), Wiz half-raps/half-sings verse 2, while Ace Hood handles the final verse. Produced by K.E. On Tha Track and co-produced by DJ Khaled, the production is solid with its clapping and pummeling drums and brassy synths. No objections here.
- “Hip Hop” features Scarface, Nas & DJ Premiere in top-notch fashion. The production begins more muted before picking up. Even when it does pick up, it certainly doesn’t opt for the party vibes of some of the previous showings, making “Hip Hop” a bit more ‘intellectual.’ But then again, when you have Nas as a featured MC, you expect more than a party track. Scarface starts it off (“…Hip Hop Heartbreaks/straight-laced, deep bass, 808s plus the mixtapes…”) and Nas finishes following a segue from Scarface’s verse. Well produced, exceptionally performed, “Hip Hop” is the more substance-filled cut of Kiss The Ring.
“I Did It for My Dawgz,” video (audio): http://youtu.be/0UKZAog61DE
- Anytime a rap song mentions ‘dawgz’ anymore, Rick Ross seems to be a part. Unsurprisingly, “I Did It For My Dawgz” features Ross, Meek Mill, French Montana, and Jadakiss. The production work (The Beat Bully) is dramatic and perfect fodder for Ross’s simplistic, but catchy hook: “I did it for my dawgz (I did it for my dawgz)… Oh Lord!” Characterized by clapping and stuttering drums, Ross handles Verse 1, Meek Mill the second, French Montana the third, and Jadakiss closes on the fourth. Perhaps not the ‘cream’ of the crop, it is solid, if for nothing else than to hear Ross affirm his love for ‘his dawgz.’ We already know he wants to be buried with them according to “Bury Me A G.”
- “I Don’t See ‘Em,” produced by Detail, features Birdman, Ace Hood & 2Chainz. It’s not bad, though it begins to exhibit a slight downgrade in the quality of Kiss the Ring. 2Chainz rocks the hook: “If I stand next to ice, then I’m camouflaged…my future’s so bright, that all I see is stars…” Chainz handles 1, Hood 2, and Birdman closes with verse 3.
- “Don’t Pay 4 It” features Wale, Tyga, Mack Maine & Kirko Bangz (such a clever name). Produced by The Runners, Kirko Bangz handles the hook, with excellent vocal production and solid surrounding sounds. The production is lush and malicious all in one, though the ends is not as great as the very best. Wale, who is usually on ‘autopilot’ delivers and ok but not truly ‘great’ 1st verse; Tyga and Mack Maine handle the second and third verses respectfully.
- “Suicidal Thoughts” is the weakest point of the album from my estimations. While the production by Boi-1da is great, it is hard to understand featured artist Mavado.
- Closing cut “Outro (They Don’t Want War)” features Khaled rapping and also features Ace Hood. More of a skit than anything (prior to Khaled‘s rap), “Outro” is creative for sure.
Overall, Kiss The Ring is a solid album. It loses steam beginning with “I Don’t See ‘Em,” but there is no overt miss save for arguably “Suicidal Thoughts.” It is hard to make a compilation feel cohesive, and like most compilations, this one suffers that flaw naturally given the shifting in/out of various artists and producers. Well produced, well assembled, and enjoyable enough (even when it is too edgy), Kiss The Ring is another triumph for DJ Khaled. After all, he was behind “All We Do Is Win.” And the DJ/Rapper/Producer is #Winning.
Other Albums/Artists mentioned: