Song of The Year-Holy Key by DJ Khaled featuring Kendrick Lamar & Big Sean
A lot of people consider Khaled any number of things: hilarious, vicious self-promotor, someone who flips on his friends in favor of newer, hotter names. His new album Major Key is absolutely the hip hop light show it set out to be. As talented as he is as a DJ, producer and organizer of the music, I consider Khaled a big game hunter of sorts. He bought a house near Jay-z to get a verse (I Got The Keys) and then texted him in all caps that he wasn’t going anywhere. He leveraged his relationship with Future to get Bryson Tiller on Ima Be Alright.
On Holy Key you can absolutely hear Khaled through text and phone conversations revving these two artists up. Pumping them with the adrenal fluid of the imagined impact a game changing verse can have on their career; Letting them know that as respected as they are…we really don’t know what their capable of, none of us. Khaled always has the same pitch: dig deeper and show these MFers who you are.
It works because it’s kind of true. While Kendrick is known as intelligent with an unearthly flow, people are constantly forgetting 2 things: how weird he is and how mean he is. Big Sean brings the mean right out of him (see Control). For his part Big Sean is a masterful lyricist who has literally changed the way rappers rap (his biggest problem: worst mustache in the game). On Holy Key (classic Cool & Dre high octane Fast & Furious beat ) Sean is unbelievable, lacing his rhymes tight and furious but always keeping it Big Sean. You won’t find a more head knocking positive rap verse than his opener on Holy Key.
And yes, Kendrick destroys the song again. As focused as Sean sounds Kendrick sits him down with “I ain’t scared of losses no more, I see life in that. I don’t resonate with the concept of love and hate cause your perspective is less effective and rather fake.” He says “F_ mother earth” and he absolutely loves it. Some people don’t just embrace the villain, they have a sliver of them that really draws power from it. That Ty Cobb part of Kendrick is utterly shocking.
You can’t give enough credit to the legendary Betty Wright for this enormous hook. It’s the incredible Hulk of anthems because it’s not just big but lyrical. Hip hop thrives when the biggest names can open up and prove they deserve their spot; blackout on a track and reinforce their stamp.
Concluding thought: if anyone won Major Key it was Big Sean. Yes, he got bested by Kendrick again but that’s not exactly the worst thing that can happen. Being so close to Kendrick on Holy Key speaks incredibly well of him. His lilting sing song absolutely makes Work For It smooth. He puts a tempo in place that is pleasant and then drops BARS so that by the time 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane come in, the song is already a great situation.
I think there are maybe 7 or 8 people in rap who work as hard as Big Sean.