The best part of any DJ Khaled album is the ensemble cast of hip hop artists that Khaled recruits. Major Key is no different, enlisting everyone from Kodak Black, to Fat Joe, to Meghan Trainor. Because there’s such an eclectic mix of artists on this album, it sometimes feels random pertaining to who is actually doing tracks together. Understandably, a compilation album has its hits and misses, and despite Khaled’s running “key” theme, this is not a concept album. Major Key is a sampler platter of all of pop rap’s trendiest sounds and artists in music right now.
DJ Khaled has been good for a couple smash hits with almost every album he has put out, but these days Khaled may be better known for his social media personality on Snapchat. Khaled (whether intentionally or not) satirizes the rap mogul boss persona that has been in hip hop forever. Khaled’s catchphrases are easily digestible, funny, and positive. Follow him on Snapchat (if you don’t already) and you’ll see what I mean. If you are familiar with Khaled’s Snapchat, you’ll be able to pick the Khaled-isms out of Major Key. However, I’m not convinced knowing Khaled’s Snapchat adds much to the experience of listening to this album. One of the biggest flaws of this album is how serious it is. There aren’t enough spitters on this album to get away with such a humorless, and at times generic, album.
Even with all of the flops on this album, there are quite a few bright spots. The album is actually alright up until “Ima Be Alright.” “Holy Key” has the best Big Sean verse I’ve heard in years. Big Sean brings the heat with bars like (“Every day off to the races, can’t f**k with you if you racist/ beat your a** until you purple/they can’t even tell what your race is”). “Jermaine’s Interlude” includes a vintage J. Cole performance. Kodak Black lays down a fun verse on “Pick These H**s Apart” that would’ve fit beautifully on Young Money’s “Every Girl,” with romantic lines such as (“soon as I saw you girl my dick was standin’ hard”) all over a danceable, electronic club beat.
But really, there are three songs on this album that shine in unique ways that keep Major Key from being a major dud—“Tourist,” “Nas Album Done,” and “Don’t Ever Play Yourself.” The spacey, ethereal synths mixed with some thunderous bass is what gives “Tourist” some of the best, most dense production on this album, not to mention that both Travis Scott and Lil Wayne sound like this beat was actually made to cater to their rapping. “Nas Album Done” is another example of Nas being featured on a trap beat and out-rapping most trap rappers at their own game. “Don’t Ever Play Yourself” has more quotable lyrics than any other song on the album, and along with Nas on “Nas Album Done,” the best rapping on the record. Jadakiss, Fabolous, Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes, and relative newcomer Kent Jones, all come through with clever, gritty, and hilarious bars full of entertaining wordplay. It’s hard to pick a favorite verse on this track, but as of now, I’d have to say that Fat Joe has the best line on the song when he raps (“Brian Scalabrine n****s always tryna high five”).
Other than the select few songs I mentioned above that I think the hip hop heads will dig, there are plenty of songs on this album that are more in the interest of casual hip hop fans and pop fans. Future makes quite a few appearances on this album and mostly sounds lost without his signature darker production. The more uplifting tracks such as “Forgive Me Father” and “Progress” are painfully clichéd and flat. The clubs songs in the middle of the album are redundant and forgettable. “Do You Mind” is the worst song on the album by far, and possibly one of the worst songs I’ve heard all year. The song samples “Lovers and Friends,” the classic Lil Jon, Usher, and Ludacris slow burner, but is a poor reinterpretation at best. Nicki Minaj can’t be excused for dropping a verse that is Pitbull-level terrible, with cringe-worthy lines like (“Eat the cake and he suck on my toes, yes/hitting them home runs, I’ll be like ‘Go Mets!’ ”).
DJ Khaled’s lane is to make fun, radio-friendly music, but just because Major Key is a mainstream album, doesn’t mean that the bar should be lowered accordingly. Like most songs on the radio, Major Key will have its moment, but will ultimately enter the pop music void and become eternally irrelevant.