Release Date: Jul 19, 2011
Record label: Motown
"If you ain't talkin' money, we ain't talkin'!" "We'll be legendary!" When DJ Khaled speaks up on a record, you can expect an exclamation point (or six) to be attached. Khaled isn't exactly a musician. He's a personality, a ringleader, a brand. He gets just three co-producer credits here. Mostly ….
We the Best Forever may be DJ Khaled’s first release for the Cash Money label, but little else has changed. The good news is that the ringleader’s formula of rounding up superstar talent for an album jammed with potential singles still works, unless you think everything on 2011 radio is trash and that big money ruined hip-hop. This is unrelenting gloss where all the participants “win” and declare themselves “the best,” and from the tres cool opener “I’m on One” (where Drake drops the brilliant Degrassi ref “I ain’t worked this hard since I was 18”) to the closing remix of “Welcome to My Hood” (an air horn-fueled Miami anthem with Khaled taking a rare producer’s credit), it’s hard to argue.
There are certain people one can count on to make good music, and then there are certain people one can count on to make hits. The two aren’t necessarily the same, but when a person crafts good music that is also nearly guaranteed to turn into a hit, it’s a formula for success. It’s that reputation which probably gave DJ Khaled the cojones to call his latest album We The Best Forever – major emphasis on “we,” as he had a minimal part in even the song production, leaving both emcee and producer duties mostly up to his tried-and-true team of hit makers.
The amount of pleasure you get out of DJ Khaled’s new disc We The Best Forever enjoys a directly inverse relationship with the amount of thought you put into it. If listening to, say, Shabazz Palaces is the hip-hop equivalent of eating broccoli, then this album is a deep-fried Big Mac covered in Skittles that has been re-deep fried and covered in a layer of dolphin fat. And guilded.
DJ Khaled is something like the Prop Joe (HBO’s The Wire) of hip-hop, if Prop Joe weren’t ever able to supply the best ideas or the best product in Baltimore, only the best compromises. While he’s produced a few beats here and there as Beat Novacane, and there’s no denying his influence on the Miami club scene through his work as a radio and club DJ there, for the nation at large, he’s known mainly as the guy who does everything by doing absolutely nothing. Perhaps an unfair critique considering tracks like “We Takin’ Over” and “Out Here Grindin’” probably aren’t getting made without his behind the scenes brokering, but in an artistic sense, extremely true.
DJ Khaled's fifth curatorial compilation of posse raps is a forgettable snapshot of mainstream hip-hop despite an all-star roster of emcees, R&B singers and producers. An industry fixture, the Miami radio DJ and Terror Squad member takes few stylistic chances, making We The Best Forever a mostly tedious listen despite its flashes of lyrical invention. The clear highlight is opening track I'm On One, a spaced-out summer single produced by Toronto's T-Minus and Noah "40" Shebib and featuring a scene-stealing stop-start verse from Drake.
DJ Khaled is fast-becoming more consistent than your favorite rapper. Beginning with his debut “solo” album, Listennn…the Album, in 2006, the part-time DJ, part-time artist, part-time label exec has released five albums, including We The Best Forever, which hit shelves this past Tuesday. In that five-year span, Khaled has become something of a larger than life hip-hop personality, and has had his hand in at least one anthemic hit record yearly.