DJ Khaled is the consummate merchant of posse cut whose deal with Cash Money Records revolves around his superior ability to get as many popular singers and rappers on the same track as possible. He has branded himself so well in this lane that it overshadows even We The Best Music Group, his label with major label distribution. The Palestinian-American started out as a Miami terrestrial radio deejay, building up his network to allow capitalization off well-known rappers and singers who are either too well-compensated or too afraid to say “no” to a Khaled collaboration. Truth is, he is not really an A&R rep nor even an executive producer; he simply knows how to feed the masses with monstrous hits. His latest collection of such, sarcastically dubbed Suffering From Success, is no exception.
The album literally begins in a presidential fashion. President Obama’s campaign chose Khaled’s smash hit “All I Do Is Win” as intro music for his first post-reelection speech, and the POTUS even jokingly quipped, “ How do you like my entrance music? Rush Limbaugh warned you about this … Second term baby, we’re changing things around here a little bit,” before the crowed erupted in rapturous applause. The moment served as an extra validation for Khaled and a natural fit for a sample.
Unfortunately, Khaled’s A&R ear can’t discern among bass-heavy Southern beats. The title track features a gripping verse from Ace Hood and an all-too-familiar Future chorus, but the production is uninspired. The song is hardly original despite being ideal for the club or a booming car stereo. Neither is the next track, the controversial “I Feel Like Pac/I Feel Like Biggie,” which finds frequent Khaled collaborators Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, Meek Mill and T.I. rhyming over a beat that sounds like a carbon copy of the title track. The topic is hardly creative, but considering that conscious content isn’t what Khaled and his cohorts are about, the superstar rappers are on their job. Meek Mill brings the most fervor yet still comes well short of the song’s namesakes. “You Don’t Want Problems” is actually a problem because it’s just another posse cut reusing the same beat. This time around, the rotating cast of rappers includes French Montana, 2 Chainz and Big Sean.
With the first four songs indistinguishable from each other musically, Suffering From Success is torturous to listen to passively – on your computer speakers or on headphones – but the exact opposite in the car or the gym. Lil Wayne shows up on the slower, creepier and distorted “No Motive” and does what he does best: punchlines. It sounds like vintage Cash Money and paves the way for the smooth “I’m Still,” a penultimate R&B-rap crossover posse cut with Chris Brown on the chorus and Wale and Wiz Khalifa on the verses. A bit later, the hit single “No New Friends” is perched back-to-back with the Nicki Minaj- Rick Ross- and Future-featuring “I Wanna Be With You,” an anthem for couples with expensive taste that Khaled cleverly marketed after faux-proposing to Minaj and gaining headlines on MTV, BET and every hip-hop media outlet under the sun.
The dancehall-flavored “Give It All To Me” is an above-average duet with Mavado and Minaj, who break the monotony of the album’s first half; it’s going to become a favorite with deejays at Caribbean after-hour clubs. The next cut, “Hells Kitchen,” is the second-most pure hip-hop track on the album with J. Cole and his crew member Bas employing lower Manhattan’s neighborhood as a double-entendre to describe the ups-and-downs of the path to success. What comes after is “Never Surrender,” the absolute crown jewel of Suffering From Success. It’s an all-star posse cut on steroids: Anthony Hamilton and Akon provide vocals while Houston legend Scarface and formidable New York emcee Jadakiss provide rhymes.
All told, DJ Khaled’s Suffering From Success is an overwhelming, formulaic and repetitive orgy of features and club-ready production. This has been criticized but is apparently as bankable as ever. The album has its moments, but with better sequencing, could have easily been much more cohesive and easier on the ears, especially in the first half.