A sadly formulaic slugging match between some true rap heavyweights.
Adam Kennedy 2012
In hip hop, the clique is all; few stars stand alone without aid from sizeable extended families. Cruel Summer, the game-raising compilation from Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music stable, elevated the bar in that regard. DJ Khaled's sixth album wields a guestlist fit for comparable impact, yet lacks a similarly cohesive vision.
Despite past platinum sales galore, it's not a great stretch to suggest that most casual listeners will land on Planet Khaled by virtue of Kiss the Ring's stellar cast. An exhaustive meeting of key rap minds, schedule juggling conceivably took 15 times longer than the recording sessions. Nodding to two decades of hip hop, the Miami-based producer dials up Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne, Kanye, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and countless more, plus stacks of rising players.
Amid that, however, a fantasy 1990s triumvirate of Scarface, Nas and DJ Premier drop a tantalising Trojan horse behind enemy lines: Hip Hop mourns the decline of its eponymous artform. Nas goes especially hard with a telling – if medically questionable – flow of consciousness on his musical mistress that “menstruates weekly”.
Single Take It to the Head, meanwhile, is oddly ineffectual considering the talent showcased. Rick Ross comes off lackadaisical, Nicki Minaj offers far from her greatest verse, a mumbling Lil Wayne's mouth sounds fuller of iced grill than usual, while Khaled hollers unselfconsciously over the whole palaver like an actual ghetto Tim Westwood.
B****es & Bottles detonates the first memorable widescreen drama, Lil Wayne dusting himself down for a beat deserving of his drawl. They Ready brings the best lines, though, J Cole switching up the tempo before Dr Dre protégé Kendrick Lamar's lurid lines win props, not least by comparing his manhood to “a whistly flute”.
Khaled knows the value of economy, a rare gift in major label rap: 12 tracks, the same number as Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music collection, ensures a streamlined heavyweight bout. But though its combative title suggests Khaled cares little for anybody's approval, Kiss the Ring ends up more of a formulaic slugging match than any collection of genuine rap prize-fighters really should.