DJ Khaled, "Kiss the Ring" (Universal Republic Records)
The credits for DJ Khaled's sixth studio album, "Kiss the Ring," list him as both a co-writer and co-producer, but neither of those roles has much to do with why the New Orleans native has earned the right to, year after year, deliver albums with more and more bombastic titles, such as "We the Best," "Victory" and "We the Best Forever."
Instead, Khaled's most pointed job title is the one that isn't spelled out in his album's liner notes: curator. The DJ and Def Jam record executive has a knack for matching producers and artists who, with their powers combined, churn out the sort of star-studded anthems that climb the charts, and kick club-goers into high-gear. Last year's "I'm On One" was one of the year's best songs; and 2010's "All I Do Is Win" was another winner.
While "Kiss the Ring" boasts the star power heard on Khaled's previous discs, its overall sound falls short.
The triumphant "I'm So Blessed" has a good message, and the quaking "I Did It for My Dawgz" makes good use of Rick Ross, French Montana, Jadakiss and Meek Mill, but neither track has the charismatic production of 2007's "I'm So Hood," which begged to be remixed, and was. Kirko Bangz's Auto-Tuned hook on "Don't Pay 4 It" is catchy, but predictable, as are the verses from Wale, Tyga and Mack Maine.
Khaled sees better results with first single "Take It to the Head," which features radio-regulars Lil Wayne, Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj and Ross. On the second single, "I Wish You Would," Khaled kept the guest list short, but he upped the impact, pairing Ross with Kanye West, who colors his verses with a brash mix of boasts ("Every year gon' be our year") stacked atop striking scenes of despair ("The block is at war, post-traumatic stress, ran up outta pills, rob that CVS.")
Another highlight is the DJ Premier-produced "Hip Hop," which features veteran emcees Nas and Scarface. It's a top-notch track, but isn't enough to make up for a slew of so-so ones.
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