The hype just keeps on growing around DJ Khaled.
It’s been announced that he’ll be supporting Beyoncé on her world tour, and his public presence continues to grow in the lead up to the release of his much-anticipated album, Major Key. A$AP Ferg named him his favourite person on Instagram and Snapchat, and there are a host of webpages dedicated to his catchphrases and daily Snapchat escapades involving his lion statue and jet-ski.
Khaled’s web fame has risen to unbelievable heights over the last few years via a stream of “so bad they’re good” catchphrases (and excessive amounts of cocoa butter). Take a look back over Khaled’s rise with us as we try to figure out the key to his success.
DJ Khaled - Holla At Me
Born in New Orleans in 1975, Khaled was into in hip-hop and reggae early on. He began working at Odyssey record store in the early 90s, where he met Cash Money Records owners Baby and Slim as well as becoming pals with Birdman and Lil Wayne, but after serving a month in an Orlando jail for traffic offences in 1994, he decided to take his chances in Miami. He arrived with the clothes he stood up in, twenty dollars in his pocket and the dream to make it big. After a hard year sleeping in his girlfriend’s car and struggling to get a break DJing, he finally stumbled upon pirate radio station Mixx 96, run by Christopher Lyon and Marcello Valenzano, soon be known as Cool and Dre. They gave him some airtime, and he impressed them so much that when they moved to Atlanta, they passed the show over to Khaled. Khaled would play until he fell asleep and started all over again in the morning.
DJing almost 24/7, he soon became a familiar favourite on the Miami scene. “When we came back to Miami, the first thing we did was turn on Mixx 96,” Dre remembers. “All day long, it was just Khaled.” Soon after that, Khaled moved from the underground and into the mainstream. He began booking gigs on the Miami Club Circuit, as well as co-hosting with Luther Campbell of 2 live crew fame on his radio show in 1998. By 2003 Khaled had earned his own radio show on 99 Jamz and began releasing his own tracks such as the severely underrated Holla at Me.
Terror Squad - Lean Back
During this time he also got involved with Fat Joe’s Terror Squad rap crew. His unique role involved holding an umbrella and to shield Joe from dollar bill$. Around this time Khaled dropped his previous moniker, “Arab Attack”, as he deemed it inappropriate in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and he was known for a short while by “Terror Squadian,” eventually settling on DJ Khaled.
DJ Khaled, Akon & T.I. - We Takin' Over
This album, combining radio and hood hits, sold well. Soon major record labels were interested in working with him. Def Jam were asked him to help Rick Ross to choose songs for his album, and the followup to the Listennn… album, We Takin Over, acted as a forecast of what was to come – total Khaled takeover.
DJ Khaled - All I Do Is Win ft. Ludacris, Rick Ross, T-Pain & Snoop Dogg
Next came I’m So Hood before All I Do Is Win from 2010’s album Victory absolutely blew up in the charts. Even Obama was a fan, proving his Khaled fanboy status by using it as his walk-on music at The White House Correspondent’s Dinner in 2013. “How do you like my new walkout music? Second term, baby,” he joked at the dinner. “Rush Limbaugh warned you about this.” Bless up Obama.
DJ Khaled - Hold You Down ft. Chris Brown, August Alsina, Future, Jeremih
Without a doubt Khaled’s most infamous and meme-able musical moment comes in the form of Hold You Down. In a very unexpected display of affection he tells his video love interest “baby, you smart, you very smart – matter of fact you a genius.” He then instructs her to “say my name baby” before reaffirming her positive attributes once again: “ you smart, you loyal, you grateful. I appreciate that.” This gesture of adoration ends in Khaled handing the woman stacks of money with instructions to “buy yo’ mumma a house.” Khaled improvised this entire sequence, and the look of bewilderment on the girl’s face is immeasurably hilarious. This amazing video moment, combined with his quirky web presence on various social media platforms, has led to the notoriety we observe today.
It looks like Khaled’s going to be holding it down for a long time to come, as his new album boasts vocals from Drake among other high-brow collabs, as well as cover art featuring a real life lion (a knowing nod for his Snapchat followers). Like his pal Drake, Khaled is embracing his meme-ability, and who can blame him? After all these years of hard work and networking, he’s finally found a platform of appreciation. The constant insight into his everyday life via social media makes it easy to see why he is so popular among his peers, and he is famed in the business for his enthusiasm and charisma. After all, in the words of Khaled, “Don’t play yourself. Find peace… life is like a waterfall… you gotta flow.”