Few things go as well with sticky summer heat as the glossy, bombastic Southern sound DJ Khaled trades in. Big, booming Cadillac music, Khaled has built a career on providing the public with perhaps the most high end mixtapes ever made. We The Best Forever is not different. There is nothing terribly smart or groundbreaking here, but this is as tight as trap rap gets. Shallow can still be enjoyable; think of exploring a tidal pool and you’ll get the idea.
“I’m on One” has surely been on your radio, and Khaled pulls out the big guns from the beginning. Drake provides his trademark sing-song flow, while the ever popular Rick Ross and Lil Wayne round out a radio winner. Ross returns on “Welcome to My Hood”, a comically ghetto track that harkens back to older Khaled releases. A stomping brontosaurus beat fits Ross like a glove, while Plies sounds as angry as ever. T-Pain provides the humorous hook, his robotic croon as indicative of summertime as ice cream trucks and baseball. Ace Hood is as underwhelming as ever, while Wayne provides another decent verse.
A forgettable journey to Atlanta, “Money” features Jeezy and Ludacris rapping about the titular object, breaking new lyrical ground. A more pleasant excursion is the New York City flavored “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over.” An old school beat, carried by Mary J. Blige, sets the track apart from the rest of We the Best Forever. The endlessly overrated Fabolous drags this one down from being a hit, although despite a strong effort from Jadakiss.
“I’m Thuggin” is the worst cut of the bunch. It is doubtful even the hardest gang bangers will embrace this one. Although Wocka Flocka is smartly confined to the chorus, handing the keys over to Ace Hood is not a much better idea. A trainwreck ensues.
Khaled dips into R & B on “Legendary” and “My Life.” The former features a nice blend of voices from Chris Brown, Ne-Yo and Keyshia Cole. Cole in particular stands out, belting from the heart as usual over the uplifting beat cooked up by Cool & Dre.
Dramatic piano arrangements, staccato drums and Cee-Lo Green set the stage for some of the album’s strongest verses on “Sleep When I’m Gone.” The Game spits furiously funny lines (“f***ing basketball wives/While you’re at away games/Really fucking basketball wives/Ain’t gotta name names”) that bode well for the upcoming R.E.D. Not to be outdone, Busta Rhymes uses the track’s haunting piano to evoke imagery of funerals among other lyrical feats. It is refreshing to hear Busta step back from his speed sometimes and let his rhymes breathe.
“Future” is another standout, its dark marching band beat even dragging a decent verse from Ace. Playing out in movements, Meek Mill, Wale and Vado take advantage of the upscale room they get to play in. Drake’s Detroit doppleganger Big Sean is more disappointing, although the verse is far from a deal breaker.
The Runners surprisingly produce only one song on the album, the disappointing “A Million Lights.” Kevin Rudolf sleepwalks through his hook, seemingly unable to complete a bar (“The floor is moving so”). The YMCMB-team does a decent job off the bench, although Corey Gunz is easily ahead of Tyga, Jae Millz and Mack Maine.
Khaled ends with the blockbuster “Welcome to My Hood (Remix).” Perhaps the ultimate trap rap anthem, everyone from Compton to Kingston and New York to New Orleans is represented here. With a laundry list of rappers, standouts include Ludacris, Busta Rhymes, Twista, Bun B and the Game. Jamaican MC Movado was an inspired choice, while Khaled manages not to embarrass himself while rapping with the big boys. The original’s beat chops and dances with the rappers, and the end result is an enjoyable remix with all the star power, substance and subtlety of a Michael Bay movie.
Despite some definite clunkers, Khaled most likely has another hit on his hands. We the Best Forever is a prime example of popcorn rap, an enjoyable listen even if the production values are loftier than the content.
Prime Cuts: “Sleep When I’m Gone”, “Future”, “Welcome to my Hood (Remix)”
We The Best Forever receives a PAR
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