DJ Khaled is basically more a hype man than a musician, though he has bafflingly good access to the biggest names in hip-hop and brings them together every year for patchy pop compilations which he shouts buzzwords over. But while previous DJ Khaled albums have been irritatingly synthetic, the latest, ‘Father of Asahd’ – named after his two-year-old son – is by far his most accomplished.
Tighter than his previous projects, ‘Father of Asahd’, which moves from banger-to-banger with every guest pretty much bringing their A-game, has an enviable cinematic sheen. En vogue producer Tay Keith, who consistently takes the aesthetic of John Carpenter horror scores and translates it into hood anthems, provides the heat once again on ‘Wish Wish’, as Cardi B and 21 Savage both make an artform out of gross brags. The former stirringly threatens to leave her rivals toothless (watch out Nicki), while the latter hilariously spits: “Your bitch got that crazy head like a Kanye tweet” in that trademark villainous monotone drawl of his.
The fun continues with ‘Just Us’, which sees the brilliant SZA express herself fully over OutKast’s iconic ‘Ms. Jackson’ beat – albeit in a raw way that feels more mixtape freestyle than fully fleshed-out song. Meanwhile, the late Nipsey Hussle, in what might be his final guest verse, poignantly writes his own eulogy on ‘Higher’, reflecting on his dad’s humble journey from Africa to Los Angeles. The music video, filmed a few days before Nipsey was murdered, is a touching tribute and deserves to do big numbers. Beyoncé even turns up, alongside husband Jay-Z and Future no less, to cuttingly joke: “If they’re tryna party with the queen / They gon’ have to sign a non-disclosure!”
The pace doesn’t let up and it feels like there could be at least six singles here. Yet the record is at its best when the tone becomes more reflective and Khaled behaves less like an overexcited puppy, allowing his guest stars to slow things down a notch or two. Jamaican singer Buju Banton talks about young black men finding holiness despite a life filled with obstacles on Holy Ground, and the acoustic guitar sample taken from Lauryn Hill’s ‘To Zion’ is just as soothing as you remember. The atmospheric ‘Holy Mountain’, an ode to smoking a spliff a day to keep the evil away, is also brilliant, with DJ Khaled and trap reggae an unlikely winning combination.
‘Father of Asahd’ isn’t perfect, and the celebratory baller vibe can get a little tiresome at times. However, this time round, whenever Khaled shouts “Another one!”, his catchphrase, it actually feels merited. DJ Khaled’s true talent lies in bringing people together (the thumping ‘Big Boy Talk’ unites former rivals Rick Ross and Jeezy), though his musical credentials remain debatable. Yet when things come together this well, it doesn’t really matter.