DJ Khaled is one of a kind. Equal parts the prototype for the modern hip hop caricature and the caricature itself, he’s grown acutely aware of his image and its strangely subversive clout in 2015.
I Changed A Lot is perhaps the strongest testament yet to his varied talent — which ultimately amounts to making music that sounds good on large speakers and bringing together massive rapper collaborations for posse cuts that read like who’s-who lists for Top 40 hip hop. Straight off the top: if you don’t like pop-friendly, club-ready hip hop or are looking for something with lyrical substance, this album is not an exercise in those fields. Not even a little. This is DJ Khaled we’re talking about, a producer known for shouting his own name and catchphrases as much as anything else he does — which, to borrow his words, is ‘a lot.’
Here’s the thing about the record: it’s finally the project where Khaled isn’t ‘that guy’ on every track. There have been numerous productions to Khaled’s name where the most memorable thing about it is his shouting or shameless self-promotion. None of these songs sound like that, which isn’t to say that they’re giving anyone else in the industry a serious run for their money, but it’s Khaled at his most musically entertaining. If What A Time To Be Alive is the playoffs, I Changed A Lot is the all-star game: a bunch of rappers that are hot right now, stunting out some easy-to-palate rhymes over top of the most subwoofer-friendly set of productions this side of trap music, without any of the real risk.
Highlights to the album include opener “I Don’t Play About My Paper,” which gives us Future at his most Future and a Rick Ross verse that almost makes you forget he raps in support of date-rape, a Chris Brown appearance on “Gold Slugs” is so ridiculous (the hook is literally, “I’m grillin’ and I’m fuckin’ at the same time”) it almost makes you forget he beat his ex-girlfriend, and a tight Big Sean verse on “How Many Times” that almost makes you forget all the tracks he’s spit lazy bars on.
Basically, aside from all the womanizing content and an absolutely shambolic verse from Jay Z on “They Don’t Love You No More,” there’s very little on I Changed A Lot that isn’t enjoyable, at least on some level, ironically or otherwise. It’s also not an album that will do anything other than get you pumped up or slap some bass on big speakers. There’s no reflexivity on the lifestyle, beyond Khaled knowing that this is actually one of the better projects he’s ever put together. There’s also no clear-cut single or breakout hit on the record, which might doom it slightly for the commercial charts, but honestly adds to the cohesive feeling of the record, normally a rarity for Khaled projects.
I Changed A Lot is an accurate title, because he has — there’s still a lot of the old Khaled-flavored tropes here, but it’s his most polished work in a minute. He’s still ridiculous, but his musical ability is refined as ever. It’s less that this is new territory for Khaled, and more that he’s perfected the territory he’s in to a finely-tuned degree… and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t kind of dig it.
Verdict – 3.7 / 5
I Changed A Lot is out now on We The Best Music – Purchase on iTunes