|Recording information: Conway Studios, Hollywood, CA; Glenwood Studios, Burbank, CA; HeadQcourterz Studios, Manhattan, NY; Hit Factory Criteria, Miami, FL; Jungle City Studios, New York, NY; Justice League Studios; Multi Alumni Studio, Atlanta, GA; Nightbird Studios, Hollywood, CA; Plush Studios, Winter Springs, FL; Quad Studios, Manhattan, NY; Record One, Sherman Oaks, CA; Red Lounge Studio, Tampa, FL; Red Room Studio, Carson, CA; Swisher Suite Studios, Miami, FL; The Hit Factory, Miami, FL; We The Best Studios, Miami, FL; WEstlake Studios, Los Angeles, CA.
|He's a DJ, not a rapper or producer, and yet Kiss the Ring is another in a long line of exciting compilations from DJ Khaled, the man with the million-dollar contact list. Being that it is his second release for the Cash Money label, the best of the YMCMB staff is here save Drake, with Lil Wayne leading T.I. and the Auto-Tuned Future through "Bitches & Bottles (Let's Get It Started)," a party tune with Mike Will Made-It on the production and six names in the songwriting credits, but it still comes off as simple and immediate. Nicki Minaj joins labelmate Wayne, along with Chris Brown and Rick Ross, for "Take It to the Head," a song perfect for rainy days as the lyricists go from sullen to champion over a slow-rolling Runners production. T-Pain's usual high-gloss schtick seems renewed with Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa, and Ace Hood all representing the new breed of witty thugs on "I'm So Blessed," and seeing how the Floridian Khaled is always watching the island talent, 2012's Jamaican dancehall champion Mavado is here, sounding majestic and very Buju Banton on the sad tale of Kingston ghetto life called "Suicidal Thoughts." Khaled introduces the moving cut with the iffy "pass the Guinness," plus all the "kiss the ring" drops are perilously close to Spinal Tap or Too Short territory, but past that, his song-interrupting shouts of "we the best" are kept to an acceptable level, and with veterans like Scarface and Nas here on the sour "Hip Hop," the glitter is anchored by street cred and some veteran wisdom. Still, this is the sixth time the DJ's used this formula, so any "lack of evolution" argument makes for a valid, but tiny, complaint, so think of this as a run-of-the-mill Khaled album and that mill is still doing pretty awesome. ~ David Jeffries