Despite Guest Talent, DJ Khaled's 'Suffering From Success' Is A Failure
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 21:10
What does DJ Khaled do, exactly? As absurd a question as this is to ask about someone whose name has been plastered on some of the quintessential hip-hop anthems of the past five years, many still don’t know the answer. He doesn’t rap or make the beats on which he so defiantly yells his trademark ad lib, “DJ KHALED! WE THE BEST!” So what is his role? On his latest album Suffering from Success, his seventh (!) studio release, Khaled’s job becomes a bit more clear: he brings together talent from every corner of the genre in the hopes of striking gold. Gold for Khaled sounds like past hits such as 2010’s “All I Do is Win” or 2011’s “I’m On One.” Unfortunately for Khaled (and for us), Suffering from Success fails in many of the respects in which his past projects excelled. Suffering’s repetitiveness and lamentations for the rich and the famous result in a stale record, one that lacks the vivacity we’ve become accustomed to with DJ Khaled.
“No New Friends,” the album’s lead single, which has peaked at No. 37 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, sets the tone for the rest of the record. A subdued Drake, perhaps a bit groggy from a night spent gallivanting with Khaled, Rick Ross, and Lil Wayne, the other features on the track, croons in the chorus, “No new friends / no new friends / no new friends, no, no, no.” Couple that with an unusually candid Ross verse (“All I want is love n—a, money bring that stress though”), and it’s clear that these multimillionaires want us to know the true perils of fame. The issue here is that Khaled et al. want it both ways: they’re going to tell us how hard life is as a rapper while simultaneously boasting about their extravagance (Monsieur Ross again: “Smoke good I live life / strip club like every night”). As a result, the message of the album falls on deaf ears. Khaled must repeat himself again and again (and again), and several tracks sound like perfect duplicates of each other.
On “Blackball,” Future (a surprising bright spot on the album with his unorthodox flow), Ace Hood, and Plies hammer home the point of just how much money these gentlemen have. “They tryna blackball me, they say I got too much money / They say I’m A-Rod.” This track appears to pay homage to the album’s title track “Suffering from Success” (a mere two tracks prior) with an auto-tuned Future quite literally whining “I’m sufferingggggggg” (please give this track a listen for your own amusement). Khaled has forgotten that seven minutes earlier in the album, he already told us just how bad it is to be rich. And yet between “Suffering from Success” and “Blackball” he finds it necessary to add nothing new save for a culturally-relevant jab at Alex Rodriguez. These two tracks underscore just how disjointed Suffering is.
To his credit, Khaled continues to bring out the best in a number of the artists whom he enlists to spit. A revitalized Lil Wayne is at his metaphor-spewing finest on the StreetRunner-produced “No Motive,” a track heavy on synths and sure to stave off rumors of Weezy’s demise for at least another month or two. Wayne’s label-mate Nicki Minaj submits some of her finest bars in years on the albums lone love song, “I Wanna Be With You,” which definitely deserves a listen.
The pure comedy of this album’s premise far outweighs these few instances of deft rapping. No one in their right mind should feel badly for DJ Khaled, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Ace Hood, Plies, Rick Ross, Future, Drake, or anyone else featured on this album who, by their own admission, spend lavishly, work sparingly, and drown in a sea of money. With a revitalization in hip-hop of lyricism in its purest form with the ascendance of rappers like Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, A$AP, and others, Suffering from Success plays like a swan song for the “anthem rap” that Khaled used to build a career. Perhaps DJ Khaled recognizes his time is almost up. If that’s the case, then he certainly does have a cause for suffering.