Through his networking prowess and an undeniable ear for mainstream radio trends, DJ Khaled has been directly responsible for placing 11 singles on Billboard magazine’s “Hot 100” chart since 2007’s Listennn…The Album. Suffice it to say that when the President of the United States uses your double platinum single as entrance music during a White House Correspondents’ Dinner, you’ve arrived. You can more or less set your calendar alert to DJ Khaled releasing a charting single from a new album each summer, and as his delayed Suffering From Success album hits shelves October 22, 2013, the Drake-assisted “No New Friends” sits at the #54 spot on the charts—having risen in the ranks over the last seven weeks.
Sadly, Suffering From Success is mostly just a collection of unoriginal, disjointed songs about first world rapper problems. The set opens with Future—arguably the star of the album—bemoaning the spoils of success.
“Nigga, fuck this car, fuck these hoes, fuck these millions…fuck your feelings,” Future croaks, over a standard Young Chop beat on the album’s title track. The keys are dark, the syths blare and the bass makes even the weakest pair of speakers sound good. But when Ace Hood lists all of the drawbacks of success—sleepless nights, more haters, and issues with his lawyer and baby mama—things feel eerily familiar. And when he rhymes, “Swear last night I swimmed in that money / Then woke up in a million dollar car,” you definitely get the feeling you’ve been here before.
In the age of producer/deejay sanctioned mixtapes and albums primarily powered by purging contact lists and exchanging ProTools files, originality and innovation are the only things to separate a retail offering from a self-made list of songs any listener can make themselves via iTunes or Spotify. And while Suffering From Success has all of the coherency one would assume comes from locking down the A-Room of one of Cash Money Records’ studios, DJ Khaled offers none of the earmarks which have previously separated his collections from everyone else’s.
Despite being produced by two different camps—Young Chop and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League respectively—“Suffering From Success” and “Blackball” sound nearly identical. The same applies to the saccharine sweet “I Wanna Be With You” (squandering one of Nicki Minaj’s better verses in recent memory) and the “Take It To The Head”-inspired “I’m Still.” Instead of a stadium-ready anthem like “All I Do Is Win” or a clever take on Afrika Bambaataa’s “Looking For The Perfect Beat” such as “Holla At Me,” there’s little on Suffering From Success you can’t find on any of the featured artist’s solo projects.
One of Khaled’s high-water moments comes in the form of a completely coherent Lil Wayne’s appearance on “No Motive.” Tunechi deftly navigates a Streetrunner track divided into two different segments—a minimalist keyboard sequence followed droning synthesizers—with an endless barrage of similes and metaphors.
“I need Benadryl for my trigger finger, bad bitches for my homeboys / The grass is greener on the other side / I’m focused on my own yard / Ain’t got enough, need more dough / We twistin’ blunts like torsos / I’m rich as fuck, but more so / A poor soul,” Wayne rhymes, before the beat morphs yet again.
Khaled also offers one of his best experiments with format, bringing in Akon, Anthony Hamilton and John Legend to croon over a posse cut spanning six-and-a-half minutes with “Never Surrender.” It’s a bit more like a power-ballad than traditional cuts with multiple guests, but the break from format works in Khaled’s advantage. And Scarface and Jadakiss add some much-needed diversity to the usual list of collaborators.
It’s unfortunate that repetitive material and songs that are just overall poorly executed mar such moments. From his extensive work as a DJ, producer and an executive producer, DJ Khaled clearly knows what wins. And if you find yourself at a nightclub or party, it’s very likely a song found on Suffering From Success will serve as your theme song for the night. But coming from someone who has been so influential for the better part of the last decade, DJ Khaled’s latest has very little utility beyond the velvet rope.