DJ Khaled on DJ Khaled - “It’s life for me. I was born Muslim, my family raised me Muslim.”
Entering Khaled’s home, in a reputable gated community in Los Angeles, the first thing you notice is the impressive (and borderline ridiculous) collection of Rolls Royces in the front yard. Only outdone by his son Asahd’s mini car collection. Aside from the cars, there’s the shoe situation. Khaled lights up when he sees the Nike Air Jordan 3s from Level Shoes we have jetted in just for him, which are later added to his already massive collection. Cars, shoes, watches, hit records — Khaled is clearly a man of excess. More diamonds; more gold; more stuff; just more. It’s clear where he his now-famous “another one” catchphrase comes from.
What is less known, however, is his almost guru-like mindset of peace, love, and respect. After just a few minutes spent in his company, you’ll find that his constant positivity is infectious. It leads us to believe that there is much more to the music star than people know.
But let’s start with the things that people do know
Khaled loves music. He is not some DJ using other people’s tunes and voices to get people on a dance floor. He talks about his approach when making music like an artist: his processes, outcomes, and variables unique to his style. As he barks at his team to get his iPad playing some tunes, he reveals the method behind the arduous job of picking who will work on what tracks from his enviable black book. “I got to love making music with that artist, and be a true fan,” he states confidently. “My fans expect me to work with the greatest and expect me to make records that no one else can make, so that’s what I do.”
And does very well. The release of his new “Top Off” track features music royalty Jay-Z and Beyoncé (who is referred to as ‘B’ on the record) and Future, debuted at No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100; was number two in terms of digital song sales (43,000 downloads sold, according to Nielsen Music); and was instantly the 26th most popular streamed song (15.5 million U.S. streams).
If you are not up-to-date on your hip-hop history you may have only heard of DJ Khaled recently, but he is no new kid on the block. “I am 10 albums in, [and] working on number 11. I have been blessed [by] working with some of the greatest. I have been making anthems for the past 10 albums. I have been a part of people’s lives who have grown up with me. My fans expect me to continue, that’s where ‘another one’ comes from. That’s what I got to do, for them, just keep making that music.”
Tracksuit, Gucci X Dapper Dan; Watch, Excalibur Skeleton Double Tourbillon, Roger Dubuis, AED2,149,000
But Khaled’s approach changes depending on who he is working with, and his vision for the final sound.
“My approach depends on the artist and depends on the record. Every record has a different story,” he says. “I lay my ideas down and when I am loving the beat, I love to put actual ideas down on a track. A concept, a direction. I like making records that can let us celebrate and feel different emotions.”
He talks about those magic moments of collaborating on a hit he knows will stand the test of time with a business sharp clarity. “We need a spark, a lightbulb moment, and then when I present to the artists, I hope they are as excited as I am. Excited to get in the studio and work together, teamwork like a dream work, know what I’m sayin’?” We don’t. But we say we do. If we had to decipher the meaning behind his statement, we would hazard a guess at last year’s banger of a hit, “Wild Thoughts”.
“I had to get Rihanna on that record.” He says with a smile. It was my first time working with her, and after I produced it, we had a party in the studio. Rihanna played a massive part and so did Bryson [Tiller] with the success of that record.”He continues, “I knew I had to get Rihanna, and I got her.”
Working with the music industry elite seems almost an undersell for Khaled. How does he keep delivering top industry names time and again? The simple answer: focus... and maybe a touch of stubbornness. “When I produce a record, I know who I want, there is no Plan B for me. If it’s not Plan A, I need to make a new Plan A if I can’t get what I want at first. I need to make a bigger A, because if I believe in the record, I am not giving up. I won’t settle for less.”
It isn’t just the big names. He came from the underground music scene and still loves to support where he can, working with new and upcoming artists regularly. He played a vital role in launching several careers, including rap sensation Lil Wayne.
“I’ve always been inspired by breaking and hearing new talent. Whether you’re new, or have been around forever, if you’re in the studio and the music’s good, and energy is good, then the magic’s good… that’s what I love.” The latest protégée he is championing is Kent Jones; the American hip-hop recording artist best-known for his commercial debut single “Don’t Mind”, which reached number eight on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. “We worked together on “Don’t Mind”, which was a huge worldwide smash record. His next record is called “Merengue”, it's new and doing great.” He declares proudly.
Khaled is a proud Muslim. He seems to turn to his faith to help ground him, through all the success and his hectic life and schedule. “It’s life for me. I was born Muslim, my family raised me Muslim.” Not just a way of life, it seems a genuine love for him.
“It’s beautiful, it’s amazing, it’s incredible and it has put so many blessings upon me and my family,” continues the star. It’s refreshing to hear him talk about his faith with such pride and passion. “I am born and raised. If you’re asking if I’m the perfect Muslim, and I do everything down to a T, then no.” A raw honesty from the music star.
“My faith has helped make me the man I am right now, with the love and the respect that I put out there. I love anybody that loves God. That’s what I am about.” His positivity is almost tangible, it could make even the biggest cynic feel thankful. At times talking to him feels like listening to a motivational pep-talk.
Salmon suit and white dress shirt, custom-made; Watch, Excalibur Skeleton Double Tourbillon, Roger Dubuis
At the heart of it all, he is a family man. Referring to his fiancée Nicole Tuck as his “Queen”, and their son, Asahd, who at not even two-years-old is credited as executive producer on Khaled’s album “Grateful”. Asahd has his dad’s tastes, being consistently decked out in Gucci suits, Jordan sneakers and a $100,000 watch his dad gave him as a birthday gift. A social media star, Asahd rarely goes a few months without appearing at some red carpet event and posting to his 1.8 million Instagram followers. It certainly isn’t your average toddler lifestyle. Khaled claims to not worry about what his son ends up doing, if he doesn’t want to follow in his father footsteps and become a music superstar, or even live in the public eye, it wouldn’t bother him.
“Whatever my son wants to do, me and my queen are going to fully support him,” he continues. “We want him to learn to be humble and show respect, as well as be a boss. I work every single day for my family, so his future is secured. I work every single second for him.” It isn’t all strict dad guidance and worrying about his future though, his usual positive mindset is only heightened when talking about his son. “I am very proud of what he has accomplished in the last 16 months” He beams. “We are feeding this greatness into him and I can see it in his demeanor, his walk, his attitude, his smile, he is a king, he is a born king and I am so proud of him.”
Khaled caused quite the controversy when he decided to live-stream Asahd’s birth, sharing the experience with his large digital following. “I don’t regret nothing ’bout doing that,” he states boldly.
“I was chosen to put love in the world, and that was love. This is not acting, this is not posting for hits, this is about the purest form of love. My son brings the realest and the truest form of love to me.” Again, positive, love-fuelled words stream out of him and contradict any hip-hop royalty attitude you may have expected. “I think the world would be in a better place if we all show more love to each other.” Wise words and
a sentiment we should all share.
Salmon suit and white dress shirt, custom-made; Watch, Excalibur Skeleton Double Tourbillon, Roger Dubuis
Khaled is no different to any other man when it comes to the dramas of juggling a successful career, with a demanding family life. “My schedule is insane, it’s crazy, and it’s busy. My queen and my son go everywhere I go. We’re together, we’re a team, we’re a real family and we stick together.” He isn’t all talk, he always makes sure his family is his top priority and works hard on planning so they can spend some quality time together. “I try not to go more than three or four days away from my son. If it’s more than that, my queen will come to me. At the end of the day it’s teamwork, you know? A good woman. A good family. Good friends. And of course… a great Nanny.”
It’s clear his son’s lifestyle is very different from Khaled’s humble roots growing up, but he isn’t worried about his son losing the work ethic that is such a big part of Khaled’s persona. “He’s going to have to work even harder than I did,” he says in a matter-of-fact manner. “He has been raised around a mother and a father who work very hard and that’s how it works, my mother and father worked seven days a week, 24 hours around the clock when I was a kid and that showed me that I have to work hard.”
Of course, no point is ever made without a positive spin, and reminder of the love he has for his family. “That’s why I tell my son, that he is the greatest. You can do whatever you want to do. Him seeing daddy work every day in the studio, seeing me work every day in the office, travelling city to city, he’s going to embrace that and either want to do that for himself or do what we do and become a part of that.” When quizzed on if more kids are on the cards, it is obvious he is keen for a bigger family.
“I want more kids, absolutely. I always wanted a big family and Asahd is a dream come true. If Allah gives us more kids, man we’re ready. We are ready to accept that.”
The father-of-one continues on the subject of expanding his brood with a tinge of excitement, “Maybe a daughter. Maybe a queen. Maybe another king. Either way, I’m happy. It’s changed my life becoming a father because now I can truly say I am happy. That’s been my lifetime goal, to be happy.”
There is a rather strange, very surprising relatability to DJ Khaled. When he talks about the love for his family, you forget his success and see him as a father with the common goal of having, and raising, a successful family, which seems to be his biggest focus.
Khaled is referred to as “The King of Snapchat” by Coca-Cola senior VP for Content Emmanuel Seuge. He gets an average three million views on each of his Snaps. Boasting more than 6.2 million followers on Instagram and 3.36 million followers on Twitter. “I use social media to bring to awareness to my music, I bring awareness to love. I use positivity, motivation and inspiration,” he continues. “Social media is connecting me closer to my fans because I can speak to them and they can speak directly back to me. That’s what it’s about. We are connecting on a personal level now.”
The raw, unfiltered, unplanned content struck a chord with his fans – a far cry from the overly filtered content usually associated with the successful. “I’m not going to lie, I spend a lot of time on social media,” he says. Stressing his own role in managing his channels, he explains “It’s all me behind the posts, I have to control the narrative of what I want to say.”
So how does a man so positively minded deal with the ever-growing negative side of social media? Simply put, he doesn’t. “I don’t entertain that negative side, if you put out love, you get it back.” He gives some straight talking advice to fans on how to deal with the trolling and online bullying that has become commonplace online these days. “If you do experience that negativity, there are a few things you can do. Don’t entertain it. Walk away from it. Get it out of your life. If you follow my career you will see I always tell everybody, stay away from that.”
Again, we see his positivity turning into almost a guru-like wisdom, every word spoken with a clarity and conviction you can’t do anything but agree. “We can’t entertain no negativity, man. We just can’t. That’s not only a waste of emotions but it’s also a waste of time. No one is going to love yourself more than yourself.”
Khaled’s status as a style icon is unexpected. Not your usual fashion pin-up, his confident approach to dressing has won him a legion of style fans and designer friends. “Fashion has always been important to me. I love dressing up, I love not being scared to wear anything,” he says, stepping out of his bespoke coral coloured suit and into his Gucci X Dapper Dan burgundy tracksuit.
Plaid tracksuit, custom-made, Terrell Jones; Polo shirt, Khaled’s own; Sneakers Jimmy Choo @ Level Shoes; Watch, Excalibur Skeleton Double Tourbillon, Roger Dubuis
His confidence shines not only in his outfit choices but also his positive mindset, “I’ve always been fly and sexy – you know what I’m saying? Whatever size I am, I’ve always been a fly and sexy person that’s who I am. I feel like I’m a good-looking man, and I’m sexy and I love myself.” Insecurities just don’t seem to be an issue with this man. Oozing confidence and rarely crossing over into arrogance, it’s with fashion we finally see a more relaxed, fun side to him.
“When it’s time to dress up imma show you something, you know what I’m sayin’? And I’ll be the best dressed in the room,” he says with a smile.
“It’s not just his wardrobe that is setting trends, his footwear addiction is borderline worrying. He owns three large houses, each of which with its own enviable sneaker collection. “If I could only wear one pair of shoes for the rest of my life it would be Air Jordan 3s. I’ve got three houses, big houses, all full of Jordan’s. You can’t have too many!”
“I collect watches too,” he says with a serious tone. “Right now I’m wearing a platinum Arabic Rolex. It’s got the Arabic dials with the blue face. Platinum.” As I take it off his wrist to replace it with a AED2,149,000 Excalibur Skeleton Double Tourbillon Roger Dubuis watch, limited to eight pieces worldwide, fully-paved with diamonds, he won’t take his eyes off it, maybe one soon to be added to his enviable collection?
While his wrist will always be packing weight, his waistline may not be. Khaled was recently unveiled as an ambassador for Weight Watchers.
“I don’t lose weight, I get rid of weight. I don’t lose, I win. All I do is win.” It’s a phrase that captures his glass-half-full mentality. He continues “I’m doing it to be healthy and I’m doing it for my son. My son has made me fly again. I do want to be healthy. Discipline myself. I don’t crave things the way I used to.”
He doesn’t try to claim he will be rocking a six-pack on the beach this summer, but again, shows a grounded relatability with his new healthy focus. “Learning is the key to being healthy. Learning which kind of foods help and how much you eat and I’ve been doing this for a while and Weight Watchers have been really helping me out tremendously,” he says. “I’m inspired and proud of myself. It’s important I do this for my son and my family. There’s a lot of people who count on me. I have to do it. I’m happy with the way I am at all times. I’m having fun with it.” Explains the producer.
“Today I weighed myself and I was 260lbs and I started at 293lbs so I am proud of that. My fans are seeing it. And what I love about making sure me and my family are healthy is that my fans are inspired and they are rooting for me. And that means a lot to me because they are my family too.”
His fingers are in far too many pies, he is starting to make us feel bad about ourselves. Khaled recently went on tour supporting Demi Lovato, but he is still too fresh into it for the true exhaustion to of set in. “I toured with Beyoncé before, a big massive stadium tour and it really is a lot of work. You feel exhausted. There are times I don’t sleep for days and days and days. Because of my album and touring, but I will tell myself at some point you’ve got to get some rest.” Rest doesn’t appear to be something the music producer is that familiar with. Businesses and projects are seamlessly juggled with a chart-topping career.
“I’m launching my own furniture line. We are finalizing the plans now for release – I’m really excited by it. It’s gonna be big.” Naturally, the theatrical designs are opulent and statement-led. Khaled ensured it was a family affair with Nicole taking a leading role in the project. “My queen helped with the designs. There’s been a lot of people working on this to make these fly.” Not one for doing anything by halves, the furniture line has been ticking along while Khaled enters the world of talent competition judging.
He recently starred as a judge on Fox’s reality music show The Four: Battle for Stardom alongside fellow judges Sean Combs (Diddy), Meghan Trainor (“All About That Bass” singer) and Charlie Walk, (president of Republic Records). “The Four is amazing. It’s been a big success. We have a hit TV show and I’m so happy it’s been picked up for another season. We are not going to stop, we are going to continue giving more greatness. Another one.”
As the day draws to an end with DJ Khaled, the unavoidable takeaway has to be his positivity. It seems the real Khaled, although intense – for sure a major factor in his success – has a realness about him that makes his guru-like thought process, weirdly relatable. Father, businessman, social media star, musician, talent show judge, style icon, furniture designer, author, it appears the star has a focus that we champion here at Esquire. We wait with baited breath to see what notch is coming next, adding, as he would say, ‘another one’ to his already intimidating success belt.