|Recording information: BAMF Studios, NYC; Batcave Studios; CMR South Studios, Miami, FL; KDS Studios, Orlando, FL; Nasty Crib, Orlando, FL; Peer 97, Mamaroneck, NY; Piety Street Recording, New Orleans, LA; Premier Studios, NYC; Roc The Mic Studios, NYC; The Hit Factory Criteria, Miami, FL; We The Best Studios, Miami, FL; Zenith Studios, Atlanta, GA.
|We the Best Forever may be DJ Khaled's first release for the Cash Money label, but little else has changed. The good news is that the ringleader's formula of rounding up superstar talent for an album jammed with potential singles still works, unless you think everything on 2011 radio is trash and that big money ruined hip-hop. This is unrelenting gloss where all the participants "win" and declare themselves "the best," and from the tres cool opener "I'm on One" (where Drake drops the brilliant Degrassi ref "I ain't worked this hard since I was 18") to the closing remix of "Welcome to My Hood" (an air horn-fueled Miami anthem with Khaled taking a rare producer's credit), it's hard to argue. "I'm Thuggin'" "goes dumb" in the rowdiest way possible with Waka Flocka and Ace Hood concocting a new genre you might call "Neanderthal crunk," while "It Ain't Over Til It's Over" is soul-warming old-school butter featuring an ancient Schoolly D beat and Mary J. Blige in fine form. With the Game, Busta Rhymes, and Cee Lo all on the cut, "Sleep When I'm Gone" is the highlight it should be, while the fourth-quarter winner "A Million Lights" is prime pop-rap with production from Khaled's Florida brothers, the Runners. Newcomers should be aware that Khaled interrupts all this grand entertainment with his usual grand posturing -- shouting "We the best!" and whatnot -- so be prepared for an experience somewhere between a star-studded soundtrack and a DJ-helmed mixtape. ~ David Jeffries