While we can all thank Justin Bieber for teaching us how to speak Spanish this summer, DJ Khaled also had his fair share of success these past few months. The Miami producer’s tenth studio album Grateful debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and has remained in the top four for the past six weeks. The album has now been certified gold. His smash hit “Wild Thoughts” featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is nominated for three MTV Video Music Awards including “Video of the Year.” If that wasn’t enough, the chart-topping “I’m the One” featuring Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Quavo and Lil Wayne has now been certified three times platinum. So basically, if you wanted to sum up Summer 2k17 in a sentence or two, the words “DJ Khaled” would definitely be in there — along with “hangover” (but maybe that’s just me).
“For Free” feat. Drake (2016)
Song Sampled: “Blow the Whistle” by Too Short (2006)
The lead single off Khaled’s previous album Major Key, “For Free” samples lyrics and cadences from Too Short’s “Blow the Whistle” and interpolates Akinyele’s 1996 track “Fuck Me For Free.” In addition, one of Drake’s verses references Kendrick Lamar’s song “For Free? (Interlude)” off To Pimp a Butterfly with the line, “and like your boy from Compton said/You know this dick ain’t free.” The track is the fourth collaboration between DJ Khaled and Drake, following “No New Friends,” “I’m On One,” and “Fed Up.” Khaled claims he received Drake’s second verse while shooting the album cover for Major Key. He said, “I had a real lion on the album cover. I was sitting on the throne, and the lion was right here. Drake texts me with the second verse done. Mind you, I’m shooting my album cover, the lion is in front of me, and I’m on the throne. I swear on everything this is a true story. I even snapped and said, “The Drake vocals came in!” And the lion roars. This is all real. I’m not lying! You can go document and go find this. I thought that was so powerful and spiritual and amazing. I couldn’t sleep at night until it was done.”
“To the Max” feat. Drake (2017)
Song Sampled: “Gus Get Em Right” by Jay-O (2015), among others
DJ Khaled began teasing the song on his Instagram, asking if “the Drake vocals came in yet,” attempting to recreate the success of their previous collaboration. Most of the “To The Max” production is a sped up sample of Jay-O’s “Gus Get Em Right,” which is heard prominently in the intro, chorus and outro of the song. The track also contains a sample of T2’s “Heartbroken” and sounds very similar to DJ Jayhood’s 2007 remix of the song, which the New Jersey beat-maker claims has “the exact same chops.” He wrote on Twitter: “I don’t want to say Drake DJ Khaled stole my ‘Heartbroken’ track.. I don’t own the sample but they were inspired.” Jayhood then went on to say that he respects both Drake and Khaled and that there is no “bad blood.” In an interview with The Fader, Jayhood said, “It was definitely sampled from the version I did. The chops are not the same from the original, it’s from the one I did. My drop is even in there.” T2 later confirmed that he was asked by Khaled’s team if they could sample the song, and although he agreed, he claims he hadn’t officially signed anything to approve the sample. “That was a bit of a surprise,” he said upon hearing the track. “I was not aware it was going to come out. I need to speak to people there [his publishers Sony/ATV] to get a clearer picture.”
“Shining” feat. Beyoncé and Jay-Z (2017)
Song Sampled: “Dionne” by Osunlade (2013)
Released as a surprise single right after the 2017 Grammy Awards came to a close, this track samples “Dionne” by Osunlade, which itself uses Dionne Warwick’s 1970 tune “Walk the Way You Talk.” DJ Khaled came up with the idea for the song while at a restaurant a week after his son was born: “I was at Nobu eating and I heard this sample. I put my phone up and I Shazam’d it [saying] ‘Man, this is my single!’ [Then] we went in the studio and we flipped it. So we sampled it and we chopped it up […] and it ended up being a masterpiece.” After signing a management deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation early last year, Khaled presented the beat to the rapper at the entertainment company’s Christmas party:
“I just got to do ‘I Got The Keys’ with him, so I ain’t wanna ask him for another record; but I knew the record was so dope so I’m like ‘Let me play it for you.’ And the first 20,
30 seconds he was bopping his head, I seen him already rhyming in his head. And after I played him the record I was like ‘Yo, I know the answer is “No,” but if you wanna play this to your wife, man, that’d be dope.’ I remember I was at the Roc Nation Christmas party [and] Beyonce came up to me and she was like ‘Yo, I like that record.’ I damn near passed out! I was just speechless […] So, what happened was the night before the Grammys, Jay-Z hit me up and said ‘Record done.’ Meanwhile I was wondering if they were even gonna record it. So I had kept that beat and that vibe and I didn’t touch it. I was gonna hope that, you know what, my prayers are gonna come true. [It was] meant to be. I knew they liked it, but I didn’t want to keep asking them because they’re two big people. I just let the vibe take control.”
Khaled and his team then mixed, mastered, cleared the samples and got Jay and Bey’s approval all in less than 24 hours before dropping the record. Sounds like a Christmas miracle if you ask me.
”Wild Thoughts” feat. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller (2017)
Song Sampled: “Maria Maria” by Santana feat. Wyclef Jean (1999)
A serious contender for this year’s Song of the Summer, “Wild Thoughts” heavily samples the main riff from Carlos Santana’s 1999 smash hit “Maria Maria” featuring Fugees frontman Wyclef Jean. During Grateful‘s recording, Khaled invited Tiller to his house for dinner and played him the initial demo of “Wild Thoughts,” asking him if he could do something with the song. Tiller returned home, quickly recorded his verse and sent it to the producer who used it on the final recording. As for Santana’s reaction to the track, the latin guitarist said he was “honoured” that Khaled, Rihanna and Tiller “shared this summer vibe with the world.” He went on to say that “there is a reason that the infectious groove/theme that Wyclef and I created on ‘Maria Maria’ still resonates today. It speaks to the heart. DJ Khaled, Rihanna and Bryson take that vibe and bring it to a new dimension with ‘Wild Thoughts,’ but the groove and essence of the song is still intact” — which is exactly what a good sample should do.
– Matthew Martino