In a world of kneejerk reactions, there is great power in patience. An album is not something that can truly be judged in the span of a few days, especially not when it is 87 minutes. When reviews of Grateful by DJ Khaled started to be released, they said similar things. Things about the album being bloated, sounding the same, etc. This reviewer hopes to provide a different perspective, one that may overlap in certain departments, but emerges as a different voice than many of the others discussing Grateful online.
When listeners first hear Sizzla’s voice on “Intro (I’m So Grateful)” the stage has been set. Sizzla starts singing about all of the things he’s grateful for over lush production that transports listeners to the tropics, both in its choice of genre and in the ambient sounds chosen to start the track. Following the intro, listeners find all of the singles previously released from the album in direct succession. After which the new music begins to show itself.
Not everything on Grateful works. “It’s Secured (ft. Travis Scott and Nas)” should have been left on the cutting room floor. DJ Khaled has a talent for pairing artists who seem like head scratchers, but Nas and Travis Scott are not an example of that strength. Grateful also does have a few too many tracks, some of the tracks that have artists in common should have been shed to create an experience that has ever so slightly more variation in terms of the features themselves. That is where the real similarities end between other reviews and this one.
For all intents and purposes, listeners should approach Grateful as if it is a double album. The first half focuses on melodic, pop leaning beats, with features who are not strangers to radio. These features include the likes of Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Rihanna, Bryson Tiller, Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Quavo, Travis Scott, Calvin Harris and others. With the first 43 or so minutes of the album Khaled curates a series of pop-rap bangers.
One highlight is “I Love You So Much (ft. Chance the Rapper)” a song that sees Khaled come closer than ever to actually taking center stage on one of his tracks. “I Love You So Much” sees Chance the Rapper singing a hook about how his family is taking over, while DJ Khaled makes a series of speeches about how much he loves Asahd. This song comes towards the end of the first half, the only track that follows it is “Don’t Quit,” Khaled’s song with Calvin Harris.
Once “Don’t Quit” ends, the second half of the album begins and the tone and style of the album changes quite drastically. If the first figurative disk of Grateful is mostly rooted in Pop-Rap, the second is heavily rooted in trap music and hardcore hip hop.
The very first track on this disk is a highlight. “I Can’t Even Lie (ft. Future and Nicki Minaj)” features Future and Nicki both providing some pretty strong verses over a great nocturnal trap beat. One of the strongest tracks on the entire 87 minute album is “Good Man (ft. Pusha T and Jadakiss).” The collaboration on this track is a previously unheard collaboration, but one that provides the most chemistry out of all of the pairings on the album. This collaboration exists over a soulful trap beat with organs and a looping sample asking “Am I a good man?” The two artists trade verses talking about how they both know who they are, and they are not good people.
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The other nostalgic collaboration on the album which comes directly after “Good Man” does not come together quite as well. “Billy Ocean (ft. Fat Joe and Raekwon)” seems to represent a stylistic stand still. It is not particularly bad, but the beat sounds like DJ Khaled is trying to recapture the success of the classic “New York” from Ja Rule’s R.U.L.E, rather than trying to create something fresh and new.
One final highlight to give props to before wrapping up this review is “Iced Out My Arms (ft. Future, Migos, 21 Savage, and TI).” This track features a beat by Southside and Metro Boomin. The beat features a killer guitar and the verses from Migos and TI are stellar. Migos have their usual infectious energy as they trade bars, bouncing off of each other. Meanwhile, TI has some of his best bars in a while. 21 Savage’s verse is pretty good too.
To be honest, Grateful’s biggest flaw is not that it is 87 minutes. Rather, the issue is that a double album formula works better as separate albums. The fatigue would have been easier to avoid were he to either pair it down to an hour, or release the two halves separately. Or do something in between. With the exception of a couple of tracks that were mentioned here, everything on the tracklist is somewhere between decent and great. In the future, to sustain an album of this length, Khaled should avoild any truly bad tracks, of which there are only a few.