DJ Khaled – Major Key [Album Review]

“Major key alert!” – DJ Khaled

With this being Khaled’s ninth collaboration album, does Khaled still hold such advantageous musical supremacy when it comes to releasing collaboration albums? Let’s take a look.

Foundation

Khaled establish prominence with Major Key by first calculating these steps via social media. Constantly establishing the phrase “keys to success,” the golden key emoji,  and/or “major key alert,” these were just a couple ways in which Khaled had began establishing Major Key from a simple internet phenomenon to a music album.

Fun Fact: The title of the album Major Key is confirmed to be a play on of words alluding not JUST the tracks being played in major key (as in the pitch) but also musical scale.

Promotion

To promote the album further than just on the social media push, on April 12, 2016, Khaled announced that he signed a record deal to Epic Records and would be releasing the album.  Following on April 18, 2016, Khaled joined Beyoncé on her The Formation World Tour pushing more promotion for the album. On Twitter, Future had hinted that there was a song with DJ Khaled and Jay Z that was going to be a single on the album (which is now called and confirmed “I Got The Keys”). Lastly, on May 28, 2016, DJ Khaled posted a photo for the album cover artwork, which features him sitting on a throne with flowers surrounding him along with a lion. This is now confirmed to be the current album cover.

Fun FactRick Ross has collaborated on every single DJ Khaled album with a total of 31 songs recorded and published with Lil Wayne being the 2nd with 8 albums

Singles & Production/Features

The first single was released on June 17, 2016 which was titled “For Free”. The song features Drake with it being produced by Nineteen85 and Jordan Ullman. The full title of the lead single is “Fuck Me for Free”. The track premiered on Beats 1 Radio on Apple Music, during an interview with Zane Lowe and Khaled additionally. The second single was released on July 4, 2016 which was titled, “I Got the Keys” featuring Future and Jay Z with the track being produced by Southside, Jake One and G Koop. The music video was shortly released after the 2016 BET Awards as well.

The third single was released on July 22, 2016, which  was titled “Holy Key” featuring Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean and Betty Wright. This single had premiered on episode 24 of his primetime radio show We The Best Radio on Beats 1. The last single released was titled “Do You Mind” featuring Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, August Alsina, Jeremih, Future and Rick Ross which was released on July 29, 2016.

The producers are listed as follows:

  • DJ Khaled
  • Southside
  • Jake One
  • G Koop
  • Nineteen85
  • Jordan Ullman
  • 808-Ray
  • Cool & Dre
  • Edsclusive
  • Hollywood JB
  • The Beat Bully
  • DJ Nasty & LVM
  • Lee on the Beats
  • Ben Billions
  • Dyryk
  • Qolorsound
  • Kent Jones
  • Metro Boomin
  • Frank Dukes
  • Key Wane
  • Mineral Boss Productions

The featured artists are listed as follows:

  • Jay Z
  • Future
  • Drake
  • Nas
  • Kendrick Lamar
  • Big Sean
  • Betty Wright
  • J. Cole
  • EarthGang
  • Bryson Tiller
  • Nicki Minaj
  • Chris Brown
  • August Alsina
  • Jeremih
  • Rick Ross
  • Kodak Black
  • Jeezy
  • French Montana
  • YG
  • Yo Gotti
  • Gucci Mane
  • 2 Chainz
  • Jadakiss
  • Fabolous
  • Fat Joe
  • Busta Rhymes
  • Kent Jones (We’ll get to him in a second, believe me)
  • Travis Scott
  • Lil’ Wayne
  • Meghan Trainor
  • Wiz Khalifa
  • Wale
  • Mavado

Track by Track Review

So let’s run down the tracks: “I Got The Keys” features both Hov and Future Hendrix on the hook which is definitely catchy (which ironically had me constantly rapping the hook out loud). Then again, any hook Future touches is catchy as is. I felt as though Drake’s verse on “For Free” had felt uninspired considering he yet again rehashed a partial part of a verse (this time it being Too $hort’s verse from “Blow The Whistle”) but it definitely has potential club playback. Nas makes a great appearance on “Nas Album Done” giving us his supreme NY finesse as always (that Bevel Blade had likely went up in stock alone I’m sure).

“Holy Key,” featuring the likes of Big Sean and K. Dot (which could be considered the Control 2 track), definitely made the two go head-to-head. Of course, Kendrick delivered but we will surely get to that momentarily. In the meantime, check out this Fun Fact courtesy of the Rap Genius Community:
Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 5.55.11 PM
“Jermaine’s Interlude” had Cole World come out of the woodwork to perform a powerful verse. I had desired the EarthGang group to at least show up with a verse but there were questionable happenings that had occurred in the track. “Ima Be Alright” featured the likes of Future and Bryson Tiller, which to my surprise I had least expected Pen Griffey (Bryson’s nickname) to appear on a verse. Bryson seems rather odd on such an instrumental on this but Future fits perfectly on this. “Do You Mind” features Nicki Minaj, August Alsina, Chris Brown, Jeremih, Future and Rick Ross. I wasn’t too convinced on this track as well but it definitely serves the purpose of appealing to the ladies (August and C Breezy fans would appreciate this).

“Pick These Hoes Apart” has the talents of Jeezy, French Montana and Kodak Black which instrumental wise it serves its purpose of a “love but still street” track. “Fuck Up The Club” features the likes of Future, Rick Ross, YG, & Yo Gotti (with Future giving us the repetitive but catchy hook) which definitely holds the weight up of a great club banger along with Metro Boomin’s “Work For It”featuring a returning Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz and Big Sean on the hook (doing a great job on it as well).

“Don’t Every Play Yourself”…LORDY.. Jadakiss, Fabolous, Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes and Kent Jones (which we’ll get to that in a second as well). “Tourist” did not hold the appeal as I thought it would even with the high-octane skills of Lil Wayne & Travis Scott combined. It’s not “Antidote/Piss On Ya Grave/Oh My” high great but it’s just enough to get by. “Forgive Me Father” features an extremely great hook from Meghan Trainor but I was not too sold on the verses of Wiz Khalifa and Wale so much (and for those who know me as a Wizzleman fan, I’ve heard better “feel good/motivational” verses from Khalifa Man). “Progress” features a solo performance from Mavado which would definitely appeal to the Reggae genre.

Feature Spotlight: Kent Jones
kent-hot-100-bb15-2016-billboard-650-1548
So you’re probably wondering…”WHO IS KENT JONES? Why isn’t Kendrick on there? How come Big Sean isn’t on there? Oh so, Future had 4 tracks and he isn’t on the Feature Spotlight? You mean 6 of many East Coast Legends didn’t make it?”

Well, are you familiar with the guy that sings the hook on this song below?

You’ve likely heard “Don’t Mind” before on the radio or just briefly (just as much as I did) but Kent Jones had delivered (in my opinion) the best VERSE on the whole album. Relax, relax…You probably hadn’t even HEARD his verse yet. Before I get you right, of course you need a history lesson on Kent Jones I’m assuming.

Jones began working with record producers and songwriters Cool & Dre by signing a record deal with Epidemic Records. While there, he collaborated with  Fat Joe, The Game, Currensy, Queen Latifah, and Busta Rhymes. Cool & Dre introduced him to DJ Khaled in 2015, who eventually signed him in a joint record deal to his own label We the Best Music Group and Epic Records.  Jones later on released his first mixtape titled Tours in July 2015 with the mixtape’s most successful song “Don’t Mind”, which contained lyrics in 4 different languages, later released as a single. It was also remixed by Trina later on just before it would be scrapped as an unwanted single. The song debuted at number 63 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in May 2016, reached number 46 on the pop radio boards in the first week in May as well, and finally  rising to number 40 in the following weeks.

Got your history lesson? Good, now if you haven’t already, go listen to Kent Jones’ verse on “Don’t Every Play Yourself.” It seems as though being on a track with four East Coast Legends seems to bring the best out in someone. In fact, peep the Rap Genius article of the full breakdown of Kent Jones’ verse here.

Honorary Mention:

Kendrick Lamar: It’s King Kendrick…however there’s some things that have to be discussed regarding the verse below
Big Sean: I feel as though Detroit is never given the credit it deserves and Sean Don delivered on both his performances on the album to constitute his city
Jadakiss, Fabolous, Fat Joe & Busta Rhymes: I noticed something that was there in their performances. What was presented was their old selves such as Kiss coming right out of the gate with the “cash/cocaine” bars, Busta getting just as wild as he did back in the 90’s, etc.
EarthGang: Oh so you thought the vocals in “Jermaine’s Interlude” were just anybody? Peep the track again (the hook specifically), go listen to EarthGang’s music in general and come back.
Future: Hooks. Ad-libs. It’s his bread and butter. You can’t argue this.
Meghan Trainor: The only worthy RnB vocalist that had one job and killed her job at that in “Forgive Me Father”

Final Verdict:

I feel as though that the album has several strengths and weaknesses due it to being a collaborative album. Lets review both of these:

Album Direction:

StrengthNine albums in and I feel as though Khaled had gotten it right. The purpose of a collaboration album is to mix in a variety of different artist and throw them into one big melting pot. You have several tracks where there are pioneers of the music genre, tracks with lyricists, tracks with commercial artists and tracks with the new era of RnB artists.

Weakness: The problem with this is that the caliber of the genres are not as equally spread. You can’t have Jay-Z, Nas, Jadakiss, Kendrick, J. Cole (who are all lyrically high), Future, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Gucci Mane (who are considered remarkably high commercially) then have only Chris Brown, August Alsina and Bryson Tiller on the RnB/Pop aspect of it. Khaled couldn’t get any RnB legends on the album to serve it justice? (Genuine, Tank, Tyrese, Usher, Anthony Hamilton or anyone in this specific spectrum)

163531_med_
Ace Hood:

Strength: This by far has to be one of Khaled’s major strengths in terms of the We The Best Music Brand. The fact that he wasn’t present on the album is a major weakness in itself because let’s be clear: if you are unaware of Ace Hood’s lyrical ability (if you think he isn’t lyrical, the Starvation mixtape series is staring you in the face) and his finesse in making a commercial song (which lets go down the line, Hustle Hard, Bugatti, Welcome to My Hood), it’s imperative that you are aware of this.

And I’m gonna say this NOW as a fan and to assist with my argument for Ace Hood. You see that man’s eyes in that picture above? Rather frightening isn’t it? Take a good look at his face. That’s a very strong look for hunger and what I’m alluding to is the fact that Ace has released **FIVE** mixtapes so far under his Starvation series (which his 5th tape has been released just months ago which did wonders). Starvation 1, 2, 3, & 5 are my personal favorites and it’s suggestive you take a listen. The man is gifted.

Weakness: As I said, the weakness is for not having Ace Hood on the album as Khaled and Ace are extraordinary duos in the game. Although it was stated the two are doing their own thing, I’m unsure if Ace can continue to push his music alone despite being a very gifted artist lyrically and commercially. You can be brought up to speed in regards to what had happened exactly in this HipHop DX video regarding the situation.

kendrick-lamar-bb4-2016-billboard-03-1250
Kendrick Lamar:

Strength: People that know me know good and well know how much I’m supportive of K. Dot. The man is a walking lyrical genius that has released 3 albums that have not failed and have been brought in a manner that is directional as well as influential. Considering he’s consensually as one of the greats of our time in hand with J. Cole, what can this man NOT do? His first album tells the surrounding themes of people being born in the 1980s (hence being titled Section 80), his second album focused on the theme of his personal narrative of living in Compton (which we know was Good Kid, M.a.a.d City) and his third album focusing on the narrative of being a Black man in America along with the musical direction being altered to Jazz (which we know as To Pimp A Butterfly). On “Holy Key,” the man had delivered a very powerful verse full of multis and metaphors. However, I’m suspecting a very important trend following that changes my mind on the artist as a whole.

Weakness: Battle rap fans…do you remember the 2nd round of Hollow Da Don vs. Loaded Lux? Remember when Hollow exploited the idea of how Lux could say anything and it’d “sound” so convincing that he’s remarkable just alone by simply rhyming a handful of multis together with anything intellectual? Now the non-battle rap fans are probably wondering, “what is he talking about?”

Hollow Da Don said it best: “His bars give you that hmm, I think I get it face” and “Because you don’t understand him don’t mean that he’s nice.” This is the point that I’m getting. I’m not totally dismissing the idea that Kendrick is getting a little bit too ahead of himself lyrically as a God MC but let’s be honest: Can you break down the following bar to a point where it could be understood? (for future purposes, break down any of his other intricate bars that have been released as of late in the meantime)

“Crab and Oyster with gorgeous abortions, I require thee
Flesh and poison the point is the reason
You won’t die in peace.”

This is a bar taken straight off of Kendrick’s verse of “Holy Key.” But notice the vocabulary and multis there. If I could give you 5 minutes to break down that bar without having to research (that’s right I’m looking at you, you RapGenius fans), could you figure it out? Additionally, if you were to hear this bar the first time, how would you have reacted? Think about this along with other bars that you have heard from Kendrick that you initally “thought” were hot. I understand that flow and delivery is definitely one of those “spur of the moment” type deals in Rap/Hip-Hop but as a fan of lyrics, I look at it from a perspective.

Let’s say Rapper A approaches you and says, “hey can I spit a verse for you real quick?” You state, “yeah sure.” Rapper A spits you an entire 16 of materialstic, commercial non-sense but the flow & multis were immaculate. But if Rapper A had said that to me, I would say, “your flow is dope…but what are you REALLY saying to me? You just told me what other artists in the game are saying: money, cars, clothes, jewels, etc.”

Now let’s flip this: Let’s say Rapper B approaches you and says, “may I spit you a verse for you real quick?” You state, “yeah sure.” Rapper B spits you an entire 16 of intellectual, intelligent bars but yet again, the flow and multis were immaculate. Now if Rapper B had came up to me with it, I’d say the same thing: “your flow is dope…but what are you REALLY saying to me? You just rapped to me what other artists in the game are saying: too many $50 dollar intricate words, bars and lines but it just goes wayyyyy over my head and frustrates me as a thinker. I need you to dumb it down to a point where it makes sense but it’s still clever.”

Of course, you likely already know which rapper category Kendrick would likely fit in. However, I’ve heard better Kendrick verses where each category of a clever rap (punches, multis, wordplay, etc.) was to a T. The “HOC” verse, the “Control” verse, the TDE Freestyle Cypher back in 2011, c’mon…do you remember how clever this Kendrick was in comparison to our present day Kendrick? The weakness I’m stating is that Kendrick is straying away from what works for him slowly but on a risky venture rather than a explorative one. I am not sure what to expect further from K. Dot as he’s still young but again, we can only keep our ears open from here on out. I would hope he’d prove me wrong. Keep in mind that this is the 3rd song that Kendrick has *noticeably* done the multi route for verses that have gained appeal this year.

Overall, Major Key delivers an album with an all-star lineup of great Hip-Hop/Rap artists but falls short due to inconsistencies. Peep the entirety of Major Key below on Spotify and if you’re interested, pick up Major Key on Apple Music and retail stores available.

Renegade Score: 4.0/5

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