Words by Jesse Serwer
DJ Khaled dropped the video to Major Key single “Nas Album Done” today and, while the eight-minute mini-movie features Nas himself delivering some of the year’s most celebrated lyrics, it’s the homages to the Caribbean that are worth a closer look. Here’s a look at seven major keys to comprehending Khaled’s meme-minded video.
1. Mavado (0:01)
The track playing as Khaled pulls up in a Bentley at the video’s start is “Progress” by Mavado, already a massive hit across the islands before its inclusion as a bonus track on Khaled’s chart-topping Major Key album. Mavado, who signed to Khaled’s We the Best label in 2011 and now resides in Florida, has been a staple of Khaled’s recent albums. In any case, it’s a timely inclusion, as the Gully Gad’s feud with Popcaan has brought him back to the forefront of the dancehall conversation in a way he hasn’t been since the Gully/Gaza rivalry of the late ’00s.
2. Louie Rankin (0:27 + throughout)
The surprise star of the clip is dancehall deejay, actor and “original Jamaican don dada” Louie Rankin, reprising his role as “Ox” (Lennox) from the 1998 movie Belly. Best known for his appearance in that film and 2003’s Shottas (where he played the equally gully Teddy Bruckshot), Rankin was first a pivotal figure in the New York dancehall scene of the early ’90s, when he dropped the pioneering dancehall x hip-hop fusion track “Typewriter” and feuded with Super Cat over the title of dancehall’s “Original Don Dada.” The line between Louie Rankin and the gangsters he plays on film has always seemed a little thin — his Facebook IDs him as “Louie Rankin aka Teddy Bruckshot”; his IG is @Louie OxRankin — which is what makes his scenes with Khaled magnetic, even if they are a little overdone and tedious.
3. The Bahamas (0:01 + throughout)
The appearance of Ox may suggest we’re in Jamaica, but the video was actually shot in The Bahamas, specifically Nassau, where we’re treated to scenes of The One and Only Ocean Club, one of the island chain’s most picturesque resorts.
4. Patois (0:32-2:03)
The adoption of Jamaican patois by non-Jamaicans has been a hot-button topic lately and, while the seeds of a backlash have begun to ferment, Khaled, a man for whom a lack of self awareness is a sort of artform (or elaborate ruse), can’t be bothered. He liberally drops patois like tings, di youth dem and nuff gyal into his dialogue with Ox, stating his name with a Jamaican twang.
5. Carnival (4:46-6:35, 7:39-end)
Next, we have the appearance of island beauties in masquerade gear, bejeweled, feathered up, and repping Carnival or, as they say in the Bahamas, Junkanoo.
6. Ricardo Drue (7:37 – end)
The video ends with Khaled getting his “Hotline Bling” on, dancing like nobody’s watching to some soca. He’s not shimmying to any random song: “Vagabond” by Ricardo Drue has been one of the biggest tunes across the Caribbean for the last two-plus years, hitting every Carnival from Antigua to Trinidad. Perhaps this unexpected cameo could be the push it needs to get soca back to the pop charts.
7. DJ Khaled (0:13 + throughout)
The final “major key” to understanding “Nas Album Done” is Khaled himself. Surely, some will accuse Khaled of playing culture-vulture here, as the backlash to this year’s onslaught of dancehall appropriation takes shape. Here’s the thing: Khaled was repping dancehall and island culture before those people were probably born. Khaled got his start playing reggae in New Orleans before relocating to Miami in the late ’90s, where he made his name as a DJ on 96 Mixx, the most popular of Miami’s many Caribbean-centric underground radio stations. He’s been known to dancehall listeners internationally since at least 2002, when he appeared on the intro to Bounty Killer’s Nah No Mercy album, and has featured artists including Baby Cham and Buju Banton on his albums. You can accuse Khaled of being many things, but a “Johnny-come-lately interloper” is not one of them.