December 5, 2010

My Gut Reaction: DJ Khaled - Victory (March 2, 2010)

Before you two run for the hills at the prospect of HHID looking at this particular album, allow me to lay my cards on the table.  First of all, Victory is DJ Khaled's fourth album, which means that, by my count, he has three other semi-successful projects under his belt, which sold at least well enough to warrant Victory's existence in the first place.  Khaled's name also continually pops up on other hip hop blogs, so it's obvious to me that there are a lot of people who enjoy his work.  Finally, Khaled always manages to secure guest appearances from artists at the height of their game, so he's most certainly a master of being in the right place at the right time.

Besides, I'm all for the search of beautiful noise hidden within the deafening ignorance that is most rap music these days.

But who is DJ Khaled, anyway?  Wikipedia tells me that he's a deejay (obviously), producer, radio personality, and the president of Def Jam South, a label spinoff he took over from the rapper Scarface.  He's a member of Fat Joe's Terror Squad (an outfit that has seen as much turnover as the Flipmode Squad), and he is a current resident of Florida, which helps explain the Southern bias on his albums.  But all I've been able to gather from ransom selections of his work is that he mainly contributes ad-libs such as "We the best!" and "Listen!", which, not coincidentally, are the names of two of his earlier projects.  He doesn't rap a lick, he hardly writes any of his songs, and the majority of the production (or, in the case of Victory, all of the production) is handled by outside parties.  It could be argued that all DJ Khaled is capable of doing is lending his name to a project, thereby guaranteeing a release date, although it isn't clear how he garnered this much clout in the first place.

Victory is Khaled's fourth compilation album, on which he invites all of his famous friends (and some unknown artists as an act of charity, I suppose) to party.  In order for the guests, which include the likes of Nas, John Legend, Busta Rhymes, Bun B, Ludacris, Rick Ross, and Pitbull, to gain their spots on the album, they must all agree to only write rhymes celebrating the excesses of hip hop life: money, girls, drugs, money, guns, girls with other girls, drugs making out with guns, and Darfur.  For that reason alone, the guest lists seem a bit prohibitive, as the only artists that excel at this subject matter seem to exclusively hail from the South, but maybe that's just because it's cheaper for a rapper to fly from Atlanta to Miami than it is to come from Los Angeles.

Victory was struck with middling reviews, which may help explain why I was able to come across this project so easily in my local library.  It contains eleven songs and an intro, which is an unusual amount of restraint in our chosen genre, when all albums seem to consist of a minimum of twenty-seven tracks and four interludes.  However, the guest list, which includes no less than thirty-three cameo appearances, more than makes up for that lapse in judgment.

I'm already not looking forward to this.

Khaled doesn't build much of a case for his continued career, as this rap album intro features a checklist of nearly every single rapper cliché for keeping it “real” and/or “so hood”, as if anyone is going to believe that a newly-christened record label executive is still going to spend his spare time in the fucking streets. Do you really believe the Def Jam life insurance plan will allow for that shit? Puff Daddy and Busta Rhymes take the curiously offensive tactic of repeating their respective shouting performances from their brilliant No Way Out collaboration “Victory” (an obvious influence on this project's title), which also featured two masterful verses by the late Biggie Smalls: as such, this song indirectly compares The Notorious B.I.G. to DJ Khaled, a guy who, if my understanding is correct, does not rap and does not really deejay anymore, unlike what his name would imply. Way to continue sullying Biggie's legacy, Puffy. I'm going to put this shit on hold and listen to Puffy's “Victory” again just to clear my mind; I suggest you two do the same.

Okay, that actually helped. I had believed that T-Pain's cultural relevancy dissipated after The Lonely Island's “I'm On A Boat” (because I never watched that Freaknik: The Musical thing on Adult Swim), but he creeps up on “All I Do Is Win” in an effort to keep his income flowing. The beat, from DJ Nasty and LVM, facilitates a single verse from each of the guest rappers, with Luda, predictably, having the most impact and Snoop, also predictably, sounding the most out of place, but the entire track has enough energy that, even though the instrumental isn't my cup of tea, I found this entertaining enough, and I'm assuming with that guest list that “All I Do Is Win” (goofy chorus and all) is, or will be, a moderate hit. Couldn't help but notice that DJ Khaled has fuck-all to do with the song, though.

Plies always sounds somewhat humble during the interviews I've heard him do, so his delivery, which is somehow that of an even more constipated Master P, always sounds out of character, even though I have no real knowledge of the man to draw that particular conclusion. I mention this in order to compare Plies with one of his collaborators, Rick Ross, who couldn't sound humble if you took away all of his prized possessions, fucked his girl in front of him and made her cum seventeen times, and forced him and his family to live in a time period populated by early pioneers: that guy just doesn't get it. A lot of rappers brag about the money they have and all of their precious toys, but for some reason, hearing Officer Ricky talk about the exact same shit sounds truly reprehensible: I almost want to physically force his accountant to donate his riches to multiple charities, where at least the cash will be put to better use. Oh, and Young Jeezy is on here, as well.

This is the third song in a row to feature Khaled's BFF Ricardo De La Ross, which also makes this the most I have ever heard from Officer Ricky on a single album in fucking ever. The Runners provide a beat that is high-energy music pollution, which will automatically make “Fed Up” somebody's most favoritest song ever, although the way it switches up when Aubrey “Drake” Graham takes the mic was somewhat interesting, I have to admit. There is such a thing as having too many rappers on a single song, though (unless everyone is part of a single group, like the Wu-Tang Clan, but even that's pushing it): I grew exhausted with this shit by the time Lil' Wayne spit his verse, which, if you know me, you'll correctly assume I didn't like all that much. Usher supplies the hook and a quick few bars after Weezy is finished, and he comes off as even more of a dick than my friend described him as after she ran into him in an airport. Oh, and Young Jeezy is on here, as well.

This title track also happens to have the highest pedigree out of all the songs on Victory, with its performances from Nas and John Legend, neither of whom guarantee huge sales (anybody know how Legend's Roots collaboration album Wake Up! Is doing? I hear there's a really good chance those guys may get nominated for an Oscar in 2011 for a song from Waiting For “Superman”), but they do manage to add a touch of class to nearly everything they do. (Legend does, anyway: there's nothing elegant about the remix to motherfucking “Oochie Wally”.) The Inkredibles instrumental is decent enough, and Khaled limits his contribution to the very beginning of the track, but I still found this song lacking, mainly because it only runs for the length of a single verse from God's Son. Since this was originally supposed to be a collaboration between Nas, Legend, Kanye West, and Jadakiss, the song's emptiness makes perfect sense, since it's kind of hard to claim victory when only a single verse is offered for criticism. I will admit that Nas sounded alright, though.

I have an aversion to any song that features Jim Jones: I just cannot fathom how he became so popular with his terrible gruff flow and his reliance on ad-libs. (The only one I ever liked from him is his shout-out to Grey Poupon on “We Fly High”, and only because it was so fucking silly that it caught me off guard.) So it goes without saying that I didn't care much for this shit. Schife's beat was awfully boring, his hook wasn't worth mentioning outside of this sentence, and James stuck with his status quo, as he refuses to “grow” as an “artist”, instead taking the easy way out at every given opportunity. How the fuck did this guy ever earn the opportunity to spit over a Pete Rock beat?

You're either “rocking all your chains” or you have “all your chains on”: you don't combine the two sentences. That doesn't make any fucking sense. This Schife and Drumma Boy-produced trifle sounds exactly like how radio is today, and I mean that its three minutes and thirty-nine seconds perfectly encapsulates how hip hop sounds to a large portion of the population of the United States. Bun B sounds okay enough, and Birdman appears on here solely as a result of Khaled's relationship with Cash Money Records, but the reason this song makes me upset is that I just realized I allowed an album featuring motherfucking Soulja Boy Tell 'Em (that rap name is fucking retarded, but I understand that there is probably another guy out already named Soulja Boy, so kudos for forcing people to refer to your name as a complete sentence every time they mention you, I guess) into my home, and now I have to burn the fucking place down just to stop the virus in its tracks. Oh, and his verse sounds generic: not entirely awful, but certainly nowhere near good. It's easy to see why all the kids these days are into him: kids are really fucking stupid.

Khaled tries to throw listeners for a loop by including reggae superstars Buju Banton and Bounty Killer to the Victory proceedings, but even though this Runners instrumental tries its best to mesh together the best aspects of reggae and shitty rap music, they can't help but sound uncomfortable. Busta Rhymes returns (after making a brief appearance during the “Intro”) to cash yet another check, but his “cameo king” days are long gone. Inserting this song onto Victory, a hip hop compilation singularly focused on the importance of material wealth, was a nice change of pace, though, even though rap songs about women who the artists involved all want to fuck is equally as clichéd.

We can officially stop the search: DJ Khaled has found the guy who will bring real rap back to the forefront, and his name is...Rum. (Yeah, I don't know who he is, either.) Kind of ironic that Rum promises to bring back “real” rap (what constitutes reality in Khaled's little world?) while leaving behind all of the “bullshit” he's tired of, all over a Runners instrumental that sounds like everything else on the fucking radio, inserted onto a glorified mixtape that is actually part of the problem Rum has with hip hop in the first fucking place. Sigh. It doesn't help that his flow is entirely pedestrian: he may as well be Young Jeezy or Rick Ross, he's that indistinguishable.

It's both funny and sad that the title of this song can be seen as completely negating the promise the previous song title made to the listener. Former hip hop superstar Nelly is forced to slum it with the likes of Lil' Boosie and Ace Hood In an effort to make this month's car payments (judging from his verse, he owes a lot of money on a lot of different luxury vehicles), and his utter embarrassment as to how far he's fallen is palpable. Boosie loses this race with one of the fucking dumbest lines I've ever heard: “All these hoes love me, it's like pussy in a can”. The logistics of that statement make my soul cry. Anyway, this shit sucks. But you knew that going in.

If you'll recall, I became exhausted when I listened to the four rappers that appeared on “Fed Up”, and those guys were all popular artists. (Whether or not they should be is a discussion for another time.) So Khaled's centerpiece, a posse cut featuring no less than nine relative unknowns, simply tries my patience: I struggled to stay awake, as though I was seven years old again, trying to stay up and watch Saturday Night Live, but with my eyelids growing heavier and heavier with each passing minute, ultimately ending up asleep on the couch. This might have been moderately enjoyable if Khaled had thought to include a ringer right at the very end, such as a Pusha T or a Royce Da 5'9”, but alas, no such luck. What's left is a gauntlet that Khaled has thrown down for the listener: sit through this entire fucking song, and maybe, just maybe, you'll receive a cookie.

Khaled's ode to his adopted hometown of Miami barely features him, which shouldn't be surprising at this point in the write-up, but still sounds somewhat awkward, since the listener is left to assume that Pitbull is acting as Khaled's surrogate for the entire length of his performance. To his credit, Pitbull sounds alright over a beat that won't ever be played on the radio: the instrumental actually sounds rather majestic (or as majestic that a DJ Khaled album can possibly sound, anyway). This track helps Victory end on a relative high note, as it were.

THE LAST WORD: It should be pretty obvious that I didn't care much for DJ Khaled's Victory. I found it difficult to determine just how much input Khaled had with what is ostensibly his album: aside from a few song introductions and some random shout-outs from his more famous friends, he does jack shit on Victory, shifting responsibility to the multiple producers and guest stars who were unlucky enough to pull the short straw. Victory does manage to sound like a cohesive album, but only because all of the songs sound the same: every single one of these hip hop mutations could populate a radio station playlist, and that is not a compliment. Khaled is obviously a master at giving the people what they want (There is a heavy emphasis on hooks that double as empty club chants on here), but the problem is that people don't know what they want until you tell them. The bigger names, such as Ludacris, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, and Drake, all emerge unscathed, since giving verses to a glorified mixtape deejay is like second nature to them, but all of the relative unknowns (who I could list here, but I don't want to encourage them) fail to differentiate themselves from one another, making most of Victory sound like one long blowjob without a climax. Once again, it's pretty obvious that I didn't care for this album. However, I did actually like Pitbull's performance on “Rep My City”, so this wasn't a complete waste.



  1. "Oh, and Young Jeezy is on here, as well."

    Max comes across as Great Great Grampa Hater sometimes...but still funny as hell...classic review mang...

  2. I don't understand how you can justify calling these records "DJ Khaled albums" when he puts in next to no work on any song. If he coveted himself as the "executive producer" at least the exec puts in work on the beats, this guy is just a failure. He almost reminds me of Diddy, where he'll just appear in the video just for shits and giggles (except at least Diddy can find ghost writers for him so he can rap, unlike this fat motherfucker)

    What a clown, why can't he just shut the fuck up and sit at his desk like a good president does and promote his artists instead of putting his fat ass in front of them all. Waste of space-Fat Albert lookin-ugly-twice removed cousin son of a bitch.

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  4. with all due respect, why review crap like this when there is tones of true hip hop that you havent reviewed yet?

  5. "This might have been moderately enjoyable if Khaled had thought to include a ringer right at the very end, such as a Pusha T or a Royce Da 5'9”, but alas, no such luck."

  6. any immortal technique on da way - revolutionary vol 2 proof hip hop isn't dead

  7. Seriously the funniest review you've ever written haha

  8. not a fan of dude's music but if the whole genre is now a circus, how much of a "clown" is the clown that can hop out of one ah them tiny cars with moneybags and ish...and would'nt dude be more like a ringmaster cause he gets all these artists to come and play...imagine nas and J legend balancing mics on their clown noses... his music is mostly shitnuggets but i got a few grains of dap for heads that can make shit happen

  9. Max loves to piss his readers off.. XD

  10. I am with Dondadon on this one. Really Max?

    You wasted your time reviewing this? It's on a par with Soulja Boy...

  11. immortal technique is proof hip hop is dead

  12. "It's easy to see why all the kids these days are into [Soulja Boy]: kids are really fucking stupid."

    What the fuck, man? I'm 13, and I'm wouldn't touch "Soulja" Boy with a 39 and-one-half-foot pole.

  13. Besides Nas' verse, this was a waste of time, which means it was way above my expectations.

  14. Max are you ready for a Redman overload?! :D

  15. Max you're really a comedian

  16. Max your starting to grow on the angry cage fan, before the past couple of reviews i was reading it simply for your wisecracks and the oppurtunities to type-yell at you. But im actually starting to think your not all that retarded........A full album where the best thing is a pittbull verse...god dman skip this shit, nas's verse is prolly alright but its not worth it

    1. I'm sure you'll find many more opportunities to type-yell at me moving forward. That's just how it goes sometimes.

  17. The line up for fed up reads like a list of everything that's wrong with hip hop (or rather, rap) today.

  18. 4 years after writing this review, can you remember why you decided to write about DJ Khaled?

    1. I thought it would be funny?