In the introduction to the album, DJ Khaled states how he has worked his whole life for “this” while overcoming the “evil” impeding his dream. This album is a chapter by chapter walk through and unfolding of this conflict.
Murder, drugs, guns, money, Kanye, Paul Wall, candy paint, 20” rims, champagne, Cool and Dre, bitches, sex, the club, hollow drums, Puerto Ricans, and Soul Sonic Force all find a place in the lexicon of DJ Khaled’s Listennn which is a real gauge of the changes mixtapes—CDs rather—have passed through. Truthfully, it much more resembles a compilation as such because the songs are not actually mixed together and therefore lacks the mixtape feel. The strengths of not mixing the songs, however, is that you are able to enjoy them all the way through and, consequently, makes the music less a sparse and choppy mix and more of a completed thought.
The first cut featuring native Floridians Trick Daddy, Pitbull, and Rick Ross includes a hypnotizing hammy organ with a screwed chorus chanting, “Born and raised in the County of Dade”. The album makes a smooth transition into Gangsta Shit with Young Jeezy, Bun B, Slick Pulla, and Bloodraw which follows suit.
But the album begins to take off with Kanye West’s Grammy Family; undoubtedly one of the hottest tracks on the mix. Featuring Consequence and John Legend, the beat is evocative of an old Cure song with haunting organs and boom bap drums. Kanye and Consequence spit nothing but high caliber lyricism while following a similar delivery pattern which gives the song continuity. It is a classic American rags-to-riches story. “It’s a celebration bitches my bottles of cham be/ I ain’t in love with same stripper that sprung T”
The only cut which gives considerable competition to Grammy Family is Cool and Dre’s Holla At Me featuring Lil Wayne, Paul Wall, Fat Joe, and Dade County residents Rick Ross, and Pitbull. The song embodies the word, “universality”. First you have a mixtape organized by a Palestinian, what I believe are a black and Puerto Rican production duo, a Nuyorican, a white rapper from Houston, a NO-based black rapper, a Latino rapper from Miami, a beat reconstructed from Afrika Bambaataa’s Looking for the Perfect Beat and re-posited by Cool and Dre in a much more advanced and modern fashion.
Holla At Me is no We’re All in the Same Gang call for peace, but an accurate representation of what hip-hop looks like today. This song under no uncertain circumstances expresses hip-hop more fully than any other at the present time as well as express the themes we are still struggling with,
For those few looking for social critique, check out Juelz Santana’s Addicted, a song which divulges the decay and hopelessness of modern civilization and its subsequent psychological effects in the minds of the American people. “I’m addicted…car, clothes, drugs, hoes, you know/ I’m addicted…murder, death, kill, everything goes/ I’m addicted…I honor death before dishonor/ I’m addicted… this ain’t fiction I live this”
While playing Listennn, I got a glimpse of the hip-hop of the future: a hopeless, post-industrial, post-Katrina, mix of less synthesizer and more hollow clanky drum sounds. I am not dismissive of this. This is the broken promise of prosperity, freedom, and equality. And until that changes, expect more of the same.
This is a solid album and although Khaled produces only three of the songs, he manages to leave his mark and insure Miami’s sound is far from the signature booty bass which dominated it several years ago.