For better or worse, Miami-based DJ Khaled has been at the forefront of a clique-manifested movement, highlighted by the incessant use of southern rappers to promote his brand and name. True, he may provide the airwaves with street anthems and club bangers from time to time. However, his unabashed personality has been a deterring trait that castrates potential followers from his projects. With Victory, his fourth album in five years, Khaled continues his formula into the new millennium; big features, a street aura, and that’s about it.
Noticeably absent is Florida production duo Cool & Dre, who had been significant contributors to Khaled’s compilation discs in the past. On the other hand, The Runners keep their streak going through the single “Fed Up” , which features an all-star line-up of Drake, Young Jeezy, Lil Wayne, and Rick Ross. Over an infectiously energetic beat, the foursome goes on lyrical cruise control while Usher’s hook certainly does not disappoint. “On My Way” slows the tempo down by providing listeners with a mental picture of rappers in grind mode. However, with eight different artists laying out their own stories, the record is a bit laboring to listen to.
Despite Khaled’s passionate rants about bringing a positive image back to the hood, it’s clear that his definition of being victorious is synonymous with financial wealth. This is obvious on “Bring The Money Out,” where Nelly’s uninspiring lyrics make for a hot mess. Lil Boosie and Ace Hood don’t fare any better, leaving Schife’s bass-pounding production with nothing memorable. The cliché record “Rockin’ All My Chains” sounds exactly like you think it would; when in the club, rock all your chains. Opening with veteran emcee Bun B, the verses progressively get worse. In fact, it’s almost downright unfair to put Birdman and Soulja Boy on the same song as Bun B, which settles as an awful decision by Khaled.
One of the few highlights comes on the title-track, as Nas spends nearly two minutes weaving tales of extracurricular activities only available to the victors. Lending words to the unwise, Nas cunningly asks, “He who has begun is half done, why you waitin’?” This is only topped by his line that acknowledges rumors of personal wealth (“I feel intelligence is my wealth / However, ‘how enormous is Nas’ pocket?’ is a pop-quiz to gossipers”). The Inkredibles and R&B singer John Legend play their positions well, taking a backseat and giving Nasir a soulful sound bed to flow over. “All I Do Is Win” is another notable performance, with the trio of Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross and Ludacris rocking the mic deservingly. When listening to this track, it’s definitely easy to imagine people in the club following T-Pain’s words like a game of Simon Says.
For listeners hoping to hear something brilliant from the Terror Squad member on Victory, they need only listen to the failed nostalgia in the intro. Attempting to reenact “Victory,” Diddy’s (then Puff Daddy) hit record from the '90s, DJ Khaled’s monologue sounds more comical than inspirational, a degradation that has been created in the last five years by his phrases “Listennnnnn!” and “We the best!” Interestingly enough, other notable rappers and deejays have established catchphrases without feeling the backlash. We may look back on DJ Khaled’s legacy in Hip Hop and see some shining moments. However, Victory as a whole product will certainly not be one of them.