Over thirty-five years ago I moved from Chicago to Miami. Even though at the time I had finished high school and would start college two months after the move, I still had to do more growing musically and emotionally. From that point till seven years later, I had experienced a mountain of important life events and more. It took a while for me to realize that I had done what many other musicians were doing. For a variety of reasons I, and many others made our way to south Florida. The small, fledgling music community was growing. Our featured artist this week was one of those musicians that made his way to Miami, and found major success. DJ Khaled, born and raised in one major music community – New Orleans, made his way to south Florida in 1998. His story began in New Orleans, before his move to Miami.
Khaled was born on November 26, 1975, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Palestinian parents who had immigrated to the United States. His parents were musicians and played Arabic music. Khaled started developing an interest in rap and soul music at a young age, and his parents supported his interest. He worked in a local record store which helped to lay foundations for his music career.
During his early career, Khaled became acquainted with several young artists and helped them before their breakthrough; these include Birdman, Lil Wayne, and Mavado. One of his first jobs was at the New Orleans record store Odyssey where he met both Birdman and Lil Wayne in 1993. After leaving Odyssey, he began DJing in reggae soundclashes, mixing dance hall and hip-hop.
Upon his move to Miami, DJ Khaled made his way to local icon and international hip hop legend Luther Campbell’s radio show on (WEDR-FM 99.1) 99 Jamz. Campbell of course is well-known for his music with Miami’s own 2 Live Crew, and at the time the leader of a very popular radio show. The show was described in an article written by Tristram Korten for Miami New Times. I also worked at the newspaper at the time.
One paragraph from Korten’s article gives life to DJ Khaled’s breakout start.
“Welcome to The Luke Show, broadcast Friday nights from 10:00 p.m. to midnight on 99 Jamz (WEDR-FM 99.1). A barely controlled raunch party, it dominates the time slot after having been on the air only a few months. As the show progresses, Black Cherry, Freaky Red (who’s wearing spandex) and Miss Hurricane (in a silk pantsuit and hat with gold trim) all compete in “freaking”: They attempt to fluster callers by describing sexually arousing scenes. Then Campbell’s sidekicks, 22-year-old DJ Khaled and a gaggle of rowdy boys, pitch in. Before you know it, they’re planning a more intimate gathering over which Campbell is expected to preside. “Y’all are on your own, I’m off the market,” he says over the air. “I got my old lady waiting at home.” ”
Of course his time with Campbell was only the beginning. During his career, Khaled has used many monikers including Arab Attack, Big Dog Pitbull, Terror Squadian (used during his time with the hip hop group Terror Squad), Beat Novacane (a moniker under which he produces beats), The Don Dada, Mr. Miami etc. Khaled has stated that he used the moniker Arab Attack for music as in saying “attack with music”, but it was soon discontinued by him after September 11 attacks since he felt that using it would seem disrespectful and offending towards those who suffered due to the attacks.
On June 6, 2006, his début album Listennn… the Album was released by Koch Records; it premiered on the US Billboard 200 chart at number 12. The album features guest appearances from Young Jeezy, Bun B, Birdman, Juelz Santana, Slim Thug, Krayzie Bone, Chamillionaire, Trina, Twista, Freeway, Jadakiss, Beanie Sigel, Styles P and Lil Scrappy, among others. The album was supported by three singles: “Holla at Me” featuring Lil Wayne, Paul Wall, Fat Joe, Rick Ross and Pitbull, “Grammy Family” featuring Kanye West, John Legend and Consequence, and “Born-N-Raised” featuring Pitbull, Trick Daddy and Rick Ross. The album received overall good reviews. AllMusic‘s David Jeffries praised Khaled for crafting an album that’s diverse in its production geography-wise and for bringing out great performances from his artists. A.L. Friedman of PopMatters also praised Khaled for bringing in an all-star cast of artists and producers, signaling out “Born-N-Raised” and “Gangsta Shit” as the album’s standouts.
From the beginning, DJ Khaled had the ability to bring artists together and produce music that fans would appreciate. Almost twelve years later, DJ Khaled is quite proficient at creating his own music community.
DJ Khaled would go on to bring us three more albums within the next four years. He would continue his very successful format of bringing stars together and bringing out the their best. He would prove each time that music, and the musicians within are one large community. Not just Miami, New Orleans, or the south, but worldwide. By this time Khaled won DJ of the Year awards from the BET Hip Hop Awards and Ozone Awards. He was appointed the president of Def Jam South in 2009.
DJ Khaled announced the title of his fifth album, We the Best Forever, on Twitter. On August 19,2010 Khaled signed to Cash Money Records along to Universal Motown, the album will be released under the label, also under E1 Entertainment, Terror Squad, Def Jam South, and Khaled’s own label We the Best Music Group, with confirmed guests as Fat Joe, Chris Brown, Keyshia Cole, Cee Lo Green, Cool & Dre, Rick Ross, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Nas, Birdman, Lil Wayne, T.I., Akon, Drake, and Nicki Minaj. We the Best Forever would be more star-studded than any of his previous albums, with good reviews as well. Amanda Bassa of HipHopDX gave the album three out of five stars, saying “At this point listeners are either down with his movement or they aren’t, and while We The Best Forever is a solid piece, it’s not different enough from his previous work to change any minds about him. But with emcees ranging from Jadakiss to B.o.B., there really is a little something on his latest LP to satisfy just about anyone who enjoys mainstream Hip Hop.”
Yes, like it or not, DJ Khaled was at the start of a new movement in Hip Hop, and music overall. Today, his formula of producing music with multiple artists is a normal occurrence, and music fans have bought in.
Om June 23, 2017 DJ Khaled released his tenth studio album Grateful. Again, his album is filled with contributions from artists at the top of the music industry. Now, DJ Khaled has reached that point of becoming a true icon in the entertainment industry. He is recognized worldwide by anyone from ages 6 to 60.
The cover art was released alongside the album’s third single, and featured Khaled’s son Asahd, who was born in October 2016. Asahd was also revealed to be acting as the album’s executive producer, with his father taking to talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! in March 2017 to explain the reasoning and process behind his son’s position on the album, stating:
“He is credited as executive producer, and his attorney has his points and royalties, everything. Listening to the songs, going over the business part of it, [deciding] if the vocals are right, if the beats are right, if the energy’s right. When he [rocks and grins], those are smash hit records, when he [looks deep in thought], that’s the real serious records but hits with substance. It’s a vibe, you know what I mean? Believe it or not, the poops and the throw-ups are super blessings. Those are actually the real good ones. He actually threw up on me while I was mixing and working on “Shining”, and when he threw up on me, that [was] a blessing”
No one except DJ Khaled could explain his son’s contributions quite like that.