DJ Khaled Enlists a Star-Studded Cast for Readymade Party Soundtrack ‘Father of Asahd’
When DJ Khaled released “We the Best” in 2010, few would have expected that he’d be unflinchingly exclaiming the titular line nearly a decade later, bigger and bolder than ever. Khaled has just dropped his eleventh studio album, “Father of Asahd,” released with cover art that depicts him and his son in matching tropical-themed outfits, effectively capturing everything that is so lovable about his music in the first place. Entirely free of any pretension whatsoever, Khaled tirelessly turns out dancefloor bangers with an indisputable life-of-the-party aura that finds its latest expression among a star-studded cast.
Opener “Holy Mountain” immediately establish a loosely structured form that marks this release very much a DJ album. Khaled recruits some dancehall star power, employing Buju Banton, Sizzla, Mavado, and 070 Shake for the track. What begins as a rather chaotic mess with these various characters vying for attention eventually accrues momentum and fleshes into a hard-hitting intro that shuttles slickly between reggae and trap aesthetics. Cardi B takes the spotlight on “Wish Wish,” which clears the clutter for a no nonsense display of beats and rhymes. 21 Savage drops a verse too, but pales in comparison to Cardi, and of course Khaled makes sure to exclaim his “We the best music!” tagline a couple times.
Khaled gets more aggressive with his hypeman duties on “Jealous,” at moments realling Lil Jon in his excess of energy. It’s a tune that begins incredibly catchy and grows steadily more so, with Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, and Big Sean each popping in and gliding over a beat of streamlined swag and maximum pop punch efficiency. “Just Us” fits a sample of Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson” to reverberating ‘80s snares and vocals from SZA that are generally effective but fail to resonate as much as the original source material, ultimately functioning as a reminder regarding the dangers of foolhardy sampling. “You Stay” takes a decidedly tropical turn with Spanish vocals from singer India, who lays down a colorful backdrop, to be eventually joined by Jeremih, Meek Mill, J Balvin, and Lil Baby each of whom effortlessly put their stamp on the track, making for one of the album’s most seamless collaborative efforts.
Khaled keeps the star power steadily coming, with both Travis Scott and Post Malone showing up for “Celebrate.” Scott settles immediately into a hook that he might as well have improvised on the spot, while Malone takes a grand pop star stadium stance. Their back and forth turns and takes on textures, escalating into an intriguing interloping. “Higher” takes an unanticipated detour, employing a soulful beat with some old school flavor, and teaming John Legend up with the late Nipsey Hussle, who spits bars with an abandon that will prove a treat to real hip-hop heads. The assertions about “the best music” continue unabated, and the music dips into gospel-tinged territory on “Won’t Take My Soul,” which can’t help but seem a bit slipshod, as it manages to enlist the master of hooks that is CeeLo Green, and somehow still offer only a rather forgettable refrain, along with equally uninspired rapping from Nas.
Meek Mill bursts in an overdue surge of animation on “Weather the Storm,” and Lil Baby follows his lead, in a track demonstrative of the way DJ Khaled radiates energy when at his best. Now he’s on a roll, and the funky, cowbell-heavy “Big Boy Talk” strikes right on cue, with Jeezy and Rick Ross totally going to town over a beat that recalls Big Tymers cuts from the aughts. Lil Wayne returns for the chirpy, cartoonish bounce of “Freak N You,” with rapper Gunna providing an effective counterparts. At this stage, after the relentless stretch of the last three tracks, one hardly has any other option than to humbly take Khaled at his word when he chimes in with his periodic boasts. He waits until this late in the album to throw in the Jay-Z, Future, and Beyonce-featuring “Top Off,” already long a hit at this point. It’s Beyonce’s stunningly original jazzy contribution that magnifies the otherwise disposable track to staggering proportions.
Khaled delves into more overt pop stylings, recruiting Justin Bieber for “No Brainer,” but cleverly matching him with Chance the Rapper and Quavo, for a judicious assemblage of varied instincts that ends up working surprisingly well. Then, he swings back to a heavily ‘90s-informed strain of straight hip-hop, with Big Sean unloading tirelessly throughout “Thank You.” Finally, Buju Banton brings things full circle, ending an album that began with “Holy Mountain” with “Holy Ground,” a casual guitar-driven closer that places his gruff vocals in a classic reggae context, which adds a certain timelessness to the album’s final resonance.
“Father of Asahd” is essentially a readymade party soundtrack. The obvious lighthearted nature of the work functions to free it preemptively from the constraints of any lofty expectations. And while a few tracks come across as tepid, these are far outnumbered by cuts that effortlessly mine motley star power for plenty spark and pleasant surprises. Needless to say, this is nothing to take all too seriously, but it’s an album that you can throw on and count on to get you smiling and nodding.
“Father of Asahd” is available May 17 on Apple Music.