One Show, Two Takes: DJ Khaled – God Did

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A DJ Khaled album went from being a non-entity event to being a marquee occasion each time he releases. He steadily built his reputation since debuting with Listennn… the Album in 2006. 16 years later, now on his 13th album, he has become a household name whose biggest claim to fame is perhaps consistently assembling Avengers-esque rosters of artists and putting them on his albums.

On God Did, the agenda is the same – curate songs that have as many artists of the day as possible. From putting dancehall royalty Skillibeng, Buju Banton, Capleton, Bounty Killer, and Sizzla on the same song, “These Streets Know My Name”, to having Latto and City Girls on “Bills Paid”, as well as finally getting his most sought after collaboration with Eminem – whom he put on a song with Kanye West, “Use This Gospel – Remix”.

This has been DJ Khaled’s forte since time immemorial. Much to the bewilderment of many music fans, who frequently ask — ‘What exactly is DJ Khaled’s role, apart from screaming and shouting phrases on songs?’ DJ Khaled is a DJ and producer first and foremost. Meaning he has the unique eye and ear of knowing which artists would blend well to make great records. It helps that he seems personable enough to form good working relationships with a myriad of artists. This compels them to always pick up when he calls and most importantly, to always put their best foot forward.

Illustrative to this is none other than Jay-Z, who rarely disappoints whenever he gets on a Khaled record since his first outing on 2008’s “Go Hard (Remix)”. Providing what is undoubtedly the highlight of God Did, the self-proclaimed God emcee, Jay-Hova, delivers what many have touted as the verse of the year on the title track “God Did”. Eclipsing what are also exceptional verses from seasoned emcees Rick Ross and Lil Wayne, Jay-Z raps for a record 4 minutes on a 8 minute song, completely obliterating it to smithereens.

Not only is Jay-Z’s verse impressive owing to its length, it’s the gravitas it holds based on the many touch points it addresses. An autobiographical soapbox speech that turns into messianic diatribe, Jay-Z essentially stamps himself as the greatest rapper of all time and emphatically declares that he has done it all – triumphantly underscoring it with the phrase — “HOV DID!”

Considering that “God Did” is the second song on the album, great as it is, it inadvertently sets rather lofty expectations for the rest of the album early on. Unfortunately, the album never quite manages to reach similar heights again.

The novelty of having blockbuster names on songs quickly wears off, especially when the songs themselves are underwhelming. Drake makes two appearances on the album. On album opener “No Secret”, which is a paltry 47 seconds intro, and the sole single “Staying Alive” featuring Lil’ Baby.

God Did is the most bloated of the last five DJ Khaled albums, clocking in nearly an hour off its 18 track length. Comparatively, Khaled’s last five albums were shorter, 2016’s Major Key (14 songs), 2017’s Grateful (double disc, 23 songs), 2019’s Father of Ashad (15 songs) and 2021’s Khaled Khaled (14 songs). And unlike its predecessors, it didn’t have an outright hit single, with the one single released three weeks prior to the album, “Staying Alive” peaking at number 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

Sekese Rasephei

“They didn’t believe in us, God did,” is arguably the most ubiquitous marketing aphorism since Gunna’s Pushin P took the world by storm earlier in the year. It’s vintage DJ Khaled – a rallying cry that sees him positioning himself as an underdog who made it against all odds. 

The 46-year-old Palestinian-American DJ and record producer has crafted a succesful career based off virality more than quality musical output. Since he rose to Snapchat fame circa 2015, Khaled has become almost impossible to avoid. Each new album comes with an inescapable catchphrase and a fistful of all star collaborators that allow him to play the odds, and inevitably luck into a mega hit song at least once every couple of years. His latest effort, God Did (his 13th studio album and his latest Billboard chart-topper), is straight out of the well-worn Khaled playbook. Naturally, the album opens with a feature from Drake, a perennial collaborator, on No Secret. Khaled and Drake have struck one of the most fruitful DJ-artist partnerships over the past decade plus. Lately though, their collaborations have largely fallen short of stellar early cuts like Stay Schemin, No New Friends and I’m On One. True to form, the soulless No Secret sees Drake at his most laboured. “Can’t nobody reach me, dawg. Can’t nobody reach this far,” he declares on what must surely be the biggest waste of a Drake feature ever.

Perhaps to atone for this blunder, which was likely just a shrewd play to manipulate streaming algorithms, Khaled follows it up with the title track, God Did. The 8-minute long track opens with verses from rap veterans Rick Ross and Lil Wayne, and includes satisfactory vocal performances from John Legend and Friday, but it’s Jay-Z’s lengthy final verse that steals the show here. Despite the GOAT’s commendable efforts, the song feels a tad bit too long and Jay’s billionaire boasts feel tired here. That it’s widely considered the highlight of the project speaks more to the album’s mediocrity than it does the quality of the song. 

Later, album lead single, Staying Alive, enlists Drake and Lil Baby in a “safe” partnership that’s spawned a handful of noteworthy bangers over the past few years. While it does have a catchy rhythm thanks to a sample of the Bee Gees’ Grammy award winning 1977 hit single, Stayin’ Alive, it’s probably the pair’s weakest collaboration to date. 

The project’s 18 tracks feature almost 30 different performers, but it’s very rare that Khaled gets the best out of them. Apart from new school torchbearer Lil Baby, other exciting acts to have emerged over the past few years like Roddy Ricch and Lil Durk are also enlisted here. For some reason, despite being perfectly positioned to usher in and champion peripheral acts, Khaled still continues to play it safe by aligning with whoever is hot at any given moment. Pitchfork writer Evan Rytlewski’s apt description of Khaled’s previous album, Khaled, Khaled comes to mind: “Khaled’s aversion to risk is unrivalled: He gathers the biggest names in rap, then has them make the same music they’d record on their own anyway.” Perhaps the best example of this is the Tay Keith produced single, Let’s Pray, which features Travis Scott alongside his star signee, Don Toliver. Let’s Pray sounds like a song the two artists probably made on some random studio night and shelved in their hard drive before Khaled arrived unannounced and carelessly recycled it for his album. 

Fortunately Gunna and Roddy Ricch provide a rare moment of inspiration with Fam Good, We Good, a vintage Streetrunner anthem that has the urgency and bite that the album sorely lacks throughout. Aside from this, the execution never quite meets the expectations. 

Shingai Darangwa 

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