Photo courtesy of Billboard
Story by Diah Marche/ Contributing Writer
DJ Khaled released his 11th studio album, titled “Father of Asahd,” on Friday, and the album is already set to become one of summer’s biggest jams. The album is named for his son Asahd, who was named executive producer on DJ Khaled’s last album “Grateful.” The new celeb-packed album features artists such as Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Future, Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, and Quavo; along with other collaborations with artists such as Cardi B, Big Sean, Meek Mill, and the late Nipsey Hussle.
The first track, “Holy Mountain,” has a reggae vibe with special features by Buju Banton, Sizzla, Mavado and 070 Shake. The song is meant for dancing, and that is made very clear when the beat drops like a rollercoaster, with equal amounts thrill. The song speaks of the steep climb to success and the hardships faced there. Though Shake remains fairly new to the rap world, her strong hook solidifies the song’s message: “Say I wouldn’t make it, without being tested.”
The next two songs on the album were produced by MTSU’s very own graduate Tay Keith, who graduated in 2018 with an already extensive portfolio. “Wish Wish,” which plays as a savage stand-up to haters, features Cardi B in her natural role as one of the industry’s best trash talkers. “Jealous” features the ever-present Chris Brown in a bright earworm that rings of ooey-gooey love-sickness. Both songs are strong examples that impressively showcase how talented Keith and Khaled are together.
“Just Us,” featuring Sza, samples an instrumental from the Outkast song “Ms. Jackson.” Sza’s powerful voice and presence adds to the strong emotion of the track, with a rousing edge that fits the 300-esque battle scenes that make the music video.
“Higher,” one of the most profound tracks on the album, features John Legend and the late Nipsey Hussle. Hussle, a rapper and avid community activist, was known for always telling stories in his music, which made a huge impact on his fans and community. This, combined with John Legend’s soft angelic voice, makes this song a powerful addition for the listener to soak up.
In an Instagram post, DJ Khaled said the song was part of a “soul-searching journey,” and that Nipsey Hussle shared his “energy and positivity” with him before his death.
In the social media post, Khaled states that all profits of the song will go to Hussle’s son and daughter.
“Top Off” and “No Brainer” are the perfect summer jams to follow “Higher,” or to accompany a day at the pool or a cookout. While “No Brainer,” with its star-studded line-up of Justin Beiber, Chance the Rapper and Quavo is sure to make you dance, “Top Off” is more controversial, though no less filled with fame. The song makes references to the arrest of rapper Meek Mill, who’s 2018 incarceration drew nationwide attention, along with references to the death of Trayvon Martin. The song brings these issues back to light in a way that can’t help but draw attention.
Not all attention has been good, however. “Top Off” has received mixed reviews from critics: Billboard’s Gil Kaufman wrote that “Top Off” is “a breathless outlaw track about outrunning the police and enjoying the finer things,” while Pitchfork’s Larry Fitzmaurice thought that the song was “more bland than it is bizarrely successful, proof that Khaled’s blockbuster-stuffed style often suffocates under the heft of its own bravado.” These reviews, among many others, display the tender balance Khaled attempts to strike with this track — with debatable success.
“Freak N You,” featuring Lil Wayne and Gunna, is a track that seems, at least to the author, to be thrown onto the album for no apparent reason. It doesn’t match the vibe or distinct sound of the rest of the album, and would probably be better as a stand-alone single. Producer Joe Zarrillo sampled Jodeci’s “Freek’n You” from 1995, which peaked at No.14 on the Hot 100 that year. The sample stands as the high point of the song, however, as Wayne lazily delivers his lines of “She got a condo and got a crime rate/ I let her kill me, I reincarnate.” The lines leave little impact, and the track carries on rather unimpressively.
The closing song on the album, “Holy Ground” is another reggae-type which also features Buju Banton. The string-heavy track lends to the drama of Banton’s monologue, which encourages strength and carrying on through oppression. By ending the album the same way it started, Khaled brings a sense of absolute completion to the listener.
The 15 track album is a great listen from top to bottom. There is something for every type of fan of Khaled. Whether it’s the new collaborations that bring the listener in, or the original style that keeps the listeners for good, this is, as Khaled says, “another one!”
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