DJ Khaled’s latest effort Kiss The Ring is a victory lap. His last two albums proclaimed his triumph; after albums titled Victory and We The Best Forever, there’s nothing left to do other than gloat. Hell, the last track is just Khaled ordering a nice meal poolside with Ace Hood. He moves away from the hyper-energetic Lex Luger beats that peppered his last album, toward more decadent beats by Hit-Boy and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. This isn’t a man leading an army anymore, this is a man ruling a fucking empire.
Of course, DJ Khaled’s army of features is the main draw of any of his albums. The insta-hit combination of Auto-Tuned Kanye and Rozay on “I Wish You Would” feels calculated (how much of the album’s budget went to that one song?) but it’s also an undeniable banger. Hookmen du jour Future and French Montana seem to be conracted to show up on every album this year. I’m shocked neither is on the new Fiona Apple album. They pop in for a song each, singing respectively about bitches and loyalty. Future always sounds like he’s suffocating, and French sounds like he’s drunkenly repeating Rick Ross on the hook. Regardless, it’s impossible not to be charmed by the guileless simplicity of someone screaming “I DID IT FOR MY DAWGZ.” Everyone on this album seems unironically happy to be there.
When there’s a kingdom such as that constructed by Khaled Khaled (this is his actual legal name), grooming heirs is only natural. And Khaled does just that in spades. Especially with Ace Hood, who needs the work. “They Ready” is a joint by J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T. and Kendrick Lamar, three up-and-comers with a lot of indie buzz. On the other hand, “Don’t Pay 4 It”, excluding hilariously poor veteran Mack Maine, is a celebration of the super-commercial next generation. Wale, Tyga, and Kirko Bangz share space on the track, and this is where Khaled’s obscured genius comes through. He can play every side of the field at once, a chessmaster of hype. He courts oldheads with “Hip Hop” as he churns out radio singles at an alarming pace. No matter what you think of the man himself, one thing is evident: everyone will like at least one track on this album, by design. A king takes care of his subjects.