DJ Khaled's 'Father of Asahd' Track-by-Track Review

 DJ Khaled photographed on May 8th at The Fig House in Los Angeles.
Sami Drasin

DJ Khaled photographed on May 8th at The Fig House in Los Angeles.

Up until late Thursday night, (May 16) DJ Khaled was tightlipped about his 11th studio album Father of Asahd. For the hitmaking polymath -- who usually takes joy in shutting the summer down with his radio anthems -- this time around, he leaned on the element of surprise to serve as his promo.

Though he kind of spilled the beans about some of his features, most notably his collaboration with the late Nipsey Hussle on "Higher," after that, it was anyone's guess as to who else he grabbed on FOA.

By 11 p.m. EST., a monsoon of content flooded social media. First, Khaled unveiled his star-studded guest list, which included names such as Jay-Z, Queen Bey, Cardi B, Post Malone, Travis Scott, and more. Then, Khaled rattled off more surprises, unveiling the tracklist and his music video itinerary, announcing nine videos within the next four days, with five coming on today (May 17). 

With Father of Asahd finally here, Billboard gives a track-by-track breakdown of his latest endeavor.

1. "Holy Mountain" (feat. Mavado, Sizzla, 070 Shake and Buju Banton)

On Father of Asahd, Khaled's penchant for empowering intros continue, but with a caveat. For "Holy Mountain," he enlists frequent dancehall collaborators Mavado and Sizzla but also injects G.O.O.D. Music's 070 Shake and the elusive Buju Banton -- who is coming off a seven-year prison sentence -- into the mix. 

"Holy Mountain" speaks to the steep climb of success and the arduous fight to protect your blessings. Though Shake has yet to prove herself as a reliable solo act, she continues to shine as a valuable role player, with her hook punctuating the song's message: "Say I wouldn't make it, without being tested."

2. "Wish Wish" (feat. Cardi B & 21 Savage)

Within three years, Cardi has emerged as one of hip-hop's best trash talkers, as proven by her standout features on G-Eazy's "No Limit" and Meek Mill's "On Me." On "Wish Wish," she takes pride in swatting down haters with Mutumbo-like intensity, rapping: "Leave that beefin' shit at Ruth's Chris or end up toothless." 

Her formidable partner in rhyme, 21 Savage, later bulldozes his way through the Tay-Keith track with his unmatched wit. One-liners such as, "Your bitch got that crazy head like a Kanye tweet" and "Had a wedding for my Glocks, call 'em Jay and Bey," not only cements Savage as a go-to feature but gives Khaled an 80 proof club single capable of wreaking havoc this summer. 

3. "Jealous" (feat. Chris Brown, Lil Wayne and Big Sean)

What's a DJ Khaled album without Chris Brown? After leaving his fingerprints on "Do You Mind" and the undeniable tune "Gold Slugs," Brown is at-bat again and swings for the fences on the gooey hip-pop song "Jealous." 

With trap savant Tay Keith commanding the production, the song is a vibrant earworm destined to crawl its way into the Hot 100. Aside from Brown's catchy chorus, Wayne's Auto-Tune sing-song delivery and Sean's punchy verse should help "Jealous" sprint into the playlists of lovesick fans. 

4. "Just Us" (feat. SZA)

Khaled enjoys flipping classic samples, and in 2017, he succeeded when he borrowed the groove to Carlos Santana's 1999 smash "Maria Maria" for his Rihanna and Bryson Tiller-led "Wild Thoughts," which soared to No. 2 on the Hot 100

This year, Khaled plays with fire again by sampling OutKast's "Ms. Jackson" for his new record "Just Us," featuring SZA. While it's good to hear some new SZA -- especially since this marks her first solo cut in two years -- it's hard to ignore the impact of "Ms. Jackson" and Andre's timeless hook. Since Khaled has nearly every artist on speed-dial, a call to the revered tandem or even Andre 3000 could have given this record a bit more juice. 

5. "You Stay" (feat. Meek Mill, J. Balvin, Lil Baby and Jeremih)

Here's a lineup you wouldn't see every day: Meek Mill, J. Balvin, Jeremih and Lil Baby. Despite the unusual pairing, we do receive solid verses from all parties involved. 

For those eying a reunion between Meek and his ex-girlfriend, Nicki Minaj, take a good listen to the Philly MC's opening lines: "You know I never speak on that n---a, it's not my business/ But I could tell you that his level's no competition."

Along with Meek, the remaining men voice their annoyance, pondering why women continue to stick it out in their relationships if they're not happy with their significant other. 

6. "Celebrate" (feat. Travis Scott & Post Malone)

Cheat code? Maybe. Khaled's decision to nab two of hip-hop's biggest mainstream shakers in Travis Scott and Post Malone for a song (their first collaboration) could be a ploy to rocket into the Hot 100. Though "Celebrate" doesn't glimmer like a poppy tune as you might expect from Post, the song has the dark underpinnings of "Rockstar," which could bode well for Khaled and co. 

Posty and Scott toast to their accomplishments, poke their tongues out at haters, and keep the drinks flowing to "the ones we lost." Didn't think these two would bloom into perennial hitmakers? It's all right, "ain't no love lost." 

7. "Higher" (feat. Nipsey Hussle & John Legend)

When Nipsey Hussle was shot and killed last March, his death shook the hip-hop community. Before his untimely passing, Neighborhood Nip filmed his final video with DJ Khaled for their soulful collaboration "Higher." 

For ardent supporters of Nip, hearing the song will be hard, but watching the video will be a more onerous task. Clad in an all-blue suit, Nipsey appears angelic, floating through the streets of Crenshaw, while reflecting on his turbulent lifestyle. 

"Police hit the lights, that's a car chase
Lookin' back at my life make my heart race
Dance with the Devil and test our faith
I was thinkin' chess moves, but it was God's grace." - Nipsey Hussle

With John Legend rebuking the Devil on the song's chorus, Nipsey unknowingly paints his modern-day version of Tupac's 1996 record "I Ain't Mad at Cha", with his appearance in the Eif Rivera-directed video being the cherry on top. 

8. "Won't Take My Soul" (feat. Nas & CeeLo Green)

If you're a Nas fan, chances are you were saddened by his lackluster 2018 album, Nasir, especially after he declared "Nas Album Done" on Khaled's 2016 project Major Key

Fast-forward to today and Nas deftly scripts two noteworthy, gritty verses. Not only does he speak on his mental spirit being alive and well, but he also issues a chilling message to Yolanda Saldívar, the killer of Mexican-American pop singer, Selena: "Pray for the day I bust a nina on that bitch who shot Selena," he asserts. Just when you thought Nas' ears were deaf to criticism, he tacks together a potent solo cut over the Streetrunner-produced track. 

After hearing him on Swizz Beatz's "Echo" and now "Won't Take My Soul," it's good to see that Esco still has some bounce in his step. 

9. Weather the Storm (feat. Meek Mill & Lil Baby)

After whimpering like lost puppies on "You Stay," Meek Mill and Lil Baby take it back to the trenches on "Weather the Storm." Meek performs with valor, swiping his way through the mud with an award-winning verse. While he brags about his recent success and newly-minted Forbes appearance, it's his take on the Grammys that hits the hardest, rapping: "Probably won't give me no Grammy, putting awards on wrists."

Instead of bringing his signature drip, Baby returns to the fundamentals, revisiting his Street Gospel/Harder Than Hard days. Aware of his rapid rise to fame, Baby prays to speed his way past convictions and evade cops seeking his downfall. Again, Streetrunner shines on the production side, crafting a dark, ominous beat for Baby and Meek to feast over. 

10. "Big Boy Talk" Featuring Jeezy & Rick Ross

Every time Ross and Jeezy collide, it makes one smile because of their muddy past. If you remember, the two veterans sparred in the 2010s, but repaired their relationship, and have since collaborated on tracks such as "War Ready" and "Like Them." 

Ross and Jeezy each zap fans with one-line quips, most notably the former, who laughs at artists who "headline the Fyre Festivals." It's not their best collaboration, but the jazzy tune gets the job done for fans of both stars. 

11. "Freak N You" Featuring Lil Wayne & Gunna

Producer Joe Zarrillo adroitly samples Jodeci's "Freek'n You," which peaked at No. 14 on the Hot 100 in 1995. In this case, the sample outpowers the stars, as Wayne lazily raps, "She got a condo and got a crime rate/ I let her kill me, I reincarnate."

Sometimes, Wayne's playfulness makes a record pop, like his showing on Chris Brown's 2013 song "Loyal," but here, a bit more effort would have gone a long way. Even Gunna can't save Weezy's futile attempt, as he too catches the lazy bug, churning out lyrics like, "Her pussy pink, I bought her mink." A Big Sean or Drake verse would have added a bit of much-needed color to the proceedings.

12. "Top Off" Featuring Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Future

Khaled's issue with making albums is how sometimes it begins to lag towards the end. In this case, he decides to take two of his singles from last year in "Top Off" and "No Brainer" to paddle his way to the finish line. Twelve months ago, "Top Off" wasn't a particularly good record, and well, 12 months later, nothing has changed. 

13. "No Brainer" Featuring Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper and Quavo

Unlike "Top Off," "No Brainer" caught a little fire last year and hopscotched its way to No. 5 on the Hot 100. Khaled's shrewd move of aligning Bieber, Chano and Quavo for a second time came after the success of their 2017 collaboration "I'm the One." "No Brainer" was warmly welcomed at beach parties and barbecues last summer, but we doubt fans are particularly anxious to reheat this record a year later. 

14. "Thank You" Featuring Big Sean

Though he's struggled much of his career to definitively muscle his way inside hip-hop's A-list, Big Sean's dexterity keeps him very much in the discussion. On the sample-driven "Thank You," Sean's lyrics are ice-pick sharp, as he counts his blessings with both hands.

The punchlines come in flurries, as Sean Don namedrops Kill Bill, 90210 and Wu-Tang Clan during his three-minute exhibition. He even cleverly references Ariana Grande's "Thank U, Next," rapping: "Plus I gotta thank my exes on some "thank u, next" shit/ And all the old times that gave me new perspectives."

With a new album on the way, this is the wake-up call fans needed in case they were ready to write Sean off. 

15. "Holy Ground" Featuring Buju Banton

To close out his 11th studio album, Khaled calls on Buju Banton once again for "Holy Ground." The string-laden track highlights Banton speaking on maintaining strength and marching through oppression. The song encourages listeners to carry on despite life's difficulties -- and while admirable, with the way Sean rapped on "Thank You," Khaled could and should have wrapped up the album right then and there. 

Still, despite a few blunders, Khaled's assembled team of All-Stars gives him more of than a fighting chance to hold down the summer once again. 


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