In Miami hip-hop producer DJ Khaled’s world, the main order of business is business as usual. In recent years, the We The Best executive has gained more fame for his music direction than his music making though he still does just enough producing to give himself some compositional clout, even on his latest LP, I Changed A Lot (released Oct. 23). Truthfully though, Khaled has not changed a lot, and besides his noticeable sellout campaign flaunted in a number of the album’s music videos, the lack of depth and fresh breadth in the music itself reflects this stagnation. The album does contain some good rap wordplay, high energy, r&b hits that can melt the hearts of the most tender of groupies, and one ska-influenced song too, but sadly, it’s sonically manipulative, materially single minded and one-tracked, and another obvious clone of DJ Khaled’s now recognizably nauseating formula, “another one” as he would say. As a music album, I Changed A Lot just makes the cut by a hair’s breadth, but as a sign of growth and artistic evolution for DJ Khaled, it sucks.
Before Khaled and his crew get lampooned too badly, it must be noted that all the rappers here do a respectable enough job crafting and spitting credible rhyme verses, but again like before, they are all focused on hood dream obsessions, trap-centricities and gangsta-insularities. This is dreadfully mono-angular to the point where it’s sad to see good emcees like Fabolous, Beanie Sigel, Ace Hood, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z and others forced to fit the tight mold Khaled has set up for them. This is Khaled’s eighth compilation album of superficial, braggadocious and lavish street-bangers with nothing new and different provided this go-around, and if anyone thinks that what he makes is so good that it doesn’t need changing, tweaking or alterations, they should think again because I Changed A Lot isn’t going anywhere hip-hop-wise.
We start with “I Don’t Play About My Paper,” a song whose title gives away its spoiled theme, in which Rick Ross throws out a decent verse next to typical Future, who at this point has only showed the public one dimension to his style. Then we come to the socially skeptical “I Ride,” a pretty fair rowdy, bang-out song with the guys followed by the “Gold Slugs” single, an impassioned r&b lover-boy cut with no real rapping (Fetty Wap squawking does not count). The cynicism and some bad title-grammar are introduced in “I Swear I Never Tell Another Soul” where we get more than a healthy amount of distrust in others. The macho disregard tossed around in “I Lied” is then the perfect setup for the immediate sexual gratification demanded in “How Many Times” about impatience for women who take too much time (a relatable and prevalent social issue but recycled content resurrected with little new innovation or style nonetheless).
“You Mine” is another impassioned r&b lover boy song with hardly any rapping besides Future’s verse if you can even call that rap. The time-wasting “Every Time We Come Around” has the boys boosting their set again (typical), “I Ain’t Worried” serves up more hood sh*t, and “They Don’t Love You No More” (more forced, inorganic bad grammar there) gives off more of those moderately foul aromas of cynical distrust introduced before. “My League” is basically Mavado doing a danceable dancehall song with caribbean reggae singing (not really true-to-the-core hip-hop), “Hold You Down” is the album’s ultimate soft romance joint, something that modern day feminists might like to retitle ‘Hold You Back,’ and finally “Most High” is Khaled’s shallow stab at motivation and inspiration where he puts PC singer John Legend in the piano hot seat for a slim one minute and a half. The rest is deluxe bonus material, one remix and two instrumentals.
I Changed A Lot is very precarious. It’s the same old thing we have gotten too used to from the artist-using DJ Khaled. Khaled got away with it and honestly succeeded in the past with it up until 2011’s We The Best Forever album, but starting after that with 2012’s Kiss The Ring, things started to go downhill for him and his narrowly selected, collectively non-diverse bunch of artists (on their own, they are best, but altogether under the same roof, they’re a dime a dozen). And to take the cake, looming over everything like an ominous dark storm cloud are the pathetic advertising attempts Khaled has filled his videos and cover art with that somehow do not find their way into the music. In a number of the songs’ visuals come polished images of Luc Belaire wine, Citizen e-cigars, alcoholic beverage Four Loco (a Khaled favorite), multiple sports teams on jerseys, and biggest of all and the album’s front-running sponsor, the Finga Licking fast food restaurant. Just the fact that DJ Khaled has stooped so low as to crawl to corporate giants to boost and support his album just shows he either wants a lot more money or he isn’t confident in the power of his music by itself. Did I mention that the overarching label behind I Changed A Lot is media monster Sony Music Entertainment? A big figure who has previously done good things for hip-hop, DJ Khaled has brought very little new to the table this time around.