The fact that DJ Khaled can pull Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Future onto “Top Off,” the lead single for his new album, speaks volumes about Khaled’s status. As an impresario Khaled is peerless: it’s hard to imagine a figure more universally liked in hip-hop. Part of the charm is that he’s not competing with anyone. A few boastful rote introductory phrases is all he brings to the songs put out under his name, which mostly serve as gilded playgrounds for his famous friends to strut over at their leisure. As an artist he’s a legal fiction, but as a connoisseur, impresario, and sincerely enthusiastic fan of rap he excels like no other.
Knowing this, it comes as no great shock that the stakes for “Top Off” are cheerfully low. Jay-Z stoops to insulting George Zimmerman (who’s been sending Jay death threats) before jetting off to his usual enumeration of the rare luxuries he can afford, and afford to know about; Beyoncé indulges in an unusual use of vulgarity while retaining her royal demeanor; Future tosses off an ultrarepetitive hook of the sort he’s long been able to record in his sleep. A hint of weightier matters creeps in when Jay and Bey call, separately, for Meek Mill to be freed, but all in all the track is the sonic equivalent of a jewel-encrusted Rolodex set on a reclining chair next to an infinity pool. It’s blinding and sumptuous, but nobody’s home, and that’s the point. Like his friends, Khaled has risen from inauspicious beginnings to incredible heights, and one of the chief privileges of great fame and wealth is that you can let the settings talk for you. Why get personal, why revisit the depths, when you no longer have to?