DJ Khaled: Last Night a DJ Saved a Life

Putting out an album, managing The Runners, and hosting the number one night show in South Florida, DJ Khaled forced the entire country to Listennn in 2006. But it wasn’t just the fans who were listening to Khaled, it was the entire industry. Expanding his influence from the 305, Khaled became the DJ other DJs listened to this past year. If Khaled was spinning it so was everyone else. The veteran mixmaster also held the Terror Squad name in the spotlight as Fat Joe dropped late in the year, and Remy had internal affairs. Following in the footsteps of Funkmaster Flex and DJ Clue in the ‘90s, Khaled was the only DJ who released an album that earned respect.

Juggling two phones and hosting his show on 99 Jamz, Khaled spoke to AllHipHop.com on the success he’s had, his immediate plans for the future, and the state of storytelling in Hip-Hop. Listennn up.

AllHipHop.com: Being at a large station do you have a large say in what you play?

DJ Khaled: Nah, radio’s changed. We have this thing called research and they got mixshow lists now and they have rotation. The program director chooses the music. A DJ got a little freedom, but you still gotta go through protocol. At the end of the day, I tell everybody, “A hit is a hit. If it’s not on the radio yet get the streets hot enough to get it on the radio.”

AllHipHop.com: A lot of artists complain about that, but what do you think is lacking with a lot of artists trying to get their song played?

DJ Khaled: You gotta get your hood behind it, the strip clubs behind it, the mixtape DJs behind it. Get your record to the point where the radio stations are calling you. You have to know the game to be in the game. The most important thing is to be educated in the game.

AllHipHop.com: Being a DJ do you think you had an advantage at making your own record blow up?

DJ Khaled: Believe it or not, I’d have to say no because I had to go through the same cycle as everyone else. Of course I can speak it up and talk about it but do I get my record to play? No. There’s a thing called research and if your record makes it out of mixshow into rotation they research it and if the community and market likes it it’ll get high numbers and that’s how program directors look at it. Sometimes the numbers might be low and then build up gradually, like a Beyonce record. That’s why it’s so important to have these big hooks on your records so that people can become familiar with them and start loving them. Of course Miami loves me so they supported my record and the clubs were banging it.

AllHipHop.com: It’s been a big year, so what kinds of toys did you buy yourself?

DJ Khaled: I always had the latest cars before the album. I had the baby blue Bentley Flying Spur before the album. I’m into buying a house and I’m into saving. I really save my money because at the end of the day, you gotta save so you can eat later. In the garage I got the Flying Spur, a 2006 Cadillac Escalade, and a Range Rover. I hit the beach with the Flying Spur but I slowed down driving it because I don’t want to put too many miles on it, so now I’m driving the Escalade [which is] sitting on 26 [inch rims].

AllHipHop.com: You had a lot of people on Listennn. That had to run you up a big bill, so was it based largely on swap agreements?

DJ Khaled: I got relationships with everybody. When I win, they win. There’s publishing and stuff like that. With albums like this, artists will want to work with you and I’ve got relationships with a lot of these artists and they wanted to work with me and I wanted to work with me so we made it happen.

AllHipHop.com: You blew up at the same time as Miami. Did Miami help you blow up or did you help Miami blow up?

DJ Khaled: We help each other. I’m definitely the guy out here who breaks records, but we come together and stick up for each other. All the artists out here like Rick Ross, Trick Daddy, Pitbull, Uncle Luke, we help each other. We’re a team out here.

AllHipHop.com: Obviously you break records in Miami but you also seem to have a lot of push in New York especially seen with what you did for “Hustlin’.” How do you bridge your influence?

DJ Khaled: Right now Miami is a market where I can choose things. That record I took to another level. I knew I believed in it when I heard it so I made it my business to play it on the radio like crazy, I made it my business to go to every club and stop the music and give the record a speech, I made it my business to call the DJs in New York, I made it my business to make people when they were in town from out of town to listen to it so they talk about when they go back home. At the same time, all these people showed me love and showed the record love. The same way if a New York record is hot I have to play it, it’s just great music, you have to play it.

AllHipHop.com: It seems like it would be easier to take a New York record to Miami rather than a Miami record to New York.

DJ Khaled: Nah, I think the love is mutual because for years all you heard was New York records and now you have a lot of Miami music coming out. I feel like in New York you got DJs like Funmaster Flex, Clue, Enuff, Green Lantern, and they all support good music. That’s the job of a DJ, to play good music. Over here, we play “New York, New York”. In the game you have to support great music.

AllHipHop.com: Fat Joe just dropped his new album. How did your relationship him with start.

DJ Khaled: Joe is my best friend. I’m the godfather of his daughter. We do music together and he lives in Miami and New York. I’ve known Joe for like 14 years and we met each other and just kept in touch. We ended up building a vibe. Joe is family to me; he’s my brother. He believes in everything I do and he’s there to support me, he’s my number one supporter.

AllHipHop.com: You produced “Story to Tell” on his last album which was a story track. How did that come about?

DJ Khaled: Part one was crazy. With the beat, I was telling Joe, “I’ma take it to Life After Death, some Biggie Smalls s**t.” My sound is theatrical and dramatic and he ripped it down with the story he told to it. We were in the studio one day and he said he was going to do a part two to continue the story so that felt good. On these albums you have to have some great concept records besides your everyday radio singles and that’s what that was.

AllHipHop.com: Do you think the storytelling is getting lost in Hip-Hop?

DJ Khaled: Yeah, I think we need to do more of it. You have your singles and they’re incredible records, but when you have an album and you have 14 tracks on it you want variety. You want a record where someone tells a story you can relate to or where someone gets real creative. Artists like Tupac, Biggie, and Nas were great at doing that. I think some of our artists need to do that. You got artists like Fat Joe that do that and we still have artists that are really rapping. I think gradually, other artists will be doing cuts like that too.

AllHipHop.com: What southern artists in particular do you think are good storytelling?

DJ Khaled: I like Jeezy when he tells his stories because you can relate to it. I like Lil’ Wayne too. Rick Ross has a record called “It’s My Time.” You have to tell stories that are real and that the average person can listen to it and feel the energy. I love Rick Ross, Lil’ Wayne, and Jeezy at telling stories from the South.

AllHipHop.com: How do different artists from different regions work differently?

DJ Khaled: Everybody got their own style, everybody got their own vibe; it depends. Lil’ Wayne is like one of the best rappers alive, he’s incredible. The way he works is amazing. [The] kid just gets glazed up and he’ll knock a record out in two seconds and it’s hot. Then you have a Rick Ross who does the same thing. He just listens to the record and he just goes in his zone and knocks it out like it’s nothing. Then you got artists who study the record and come back to it.

AllHipHop.com: How do you make sure you accommodate everyone’s style?

DJ Khaled: I tell every rapper when they do a record that I don’t want them to just be on this album and that I want them to give me something they’d give themselves. I try to help with the concept and whatever I can.

AllHipHop.com: What changes are you gonna make for the second album?

DJ Khaled: I’m gonna continue to make great music. My main thing is the production. In ’07, I’m coming with a whole different sound. You have to go with time and I’m usually ahead of time and with this time I’m really breaking down concepts and putting certain records together so I’m making every record like it’s the first single. I’m going in there thinking why I wouldn’t make every record the biggest record when these are the biggest artists. I don’t even consider my album a compilation because I structure it like a Biggie Smalls would structure it. I’m doing the new album and calling it We The Best. I’m not saying I’m the best, I’m saying we the best.

AllHipHop.com: Is the second album on Koch as well?

DJ Khaled: Yeah, it’s going to be on Koch. It’s album-to-album with Koch. I have a great relationship with Koch; I like what they’re doing. They go hard behind my project and I go hard too. I think they the future.

AllHipHop.com: Fat Joe’s gone independent as well. What kind of advantages do you think there are to going indie?

DJ Khaled: Obviously the money is better. The only thing is you have to work a lot harder but you learn the business more. When you do it yourself you realize that you can do it yourself but you have to have great connections, hustle, and a hit record. If you have a hit record and know what you’re doing, there’s no excuse.

AllHipHop.com: Who will we find on the new album?

DJ Khaled: Everybody, I’m messing with everybody. Any artist reading this, holla at me because I’m going in. If you feel like you the best, call me.

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