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Cheat Sheet: DJ Khaled

Who: The “Contacts” list on DJ Khaled’s cell phone must read like an alphabetized Top 40 countdown. DJ Khaled—a corpulent, Palestinian-born DJ, producer, actor, and record executive—has managed to work with just about every major hip-hop artist of the past ten years, both launching and rejuvenating multiple careers. Far from a simple Rolodex man, DJ Khaled has more than earned the company he keeps.

Born Khaled Bin Abdul Khaled, DJ Khaled entered the hip-hop world via his namesake profession, eventually earning a job as a host for Miami’s pre-imminent hip-hop station, WEDR, a position he maintains to this day.

With the connections earned from that DJ-ing gig, Khaled worked his way into the world of hip-hop production. After contributing to albums from Fabolous, Terror Squad and Fat Joe, Khaled decided to go the unconventional route of releasing records on which he would produce, receive top billing, and farm out lyrical duties to his famous friends.

Listennn…The Album dropped in 2006, earning itself a respectable #12 spot on the Billboard 200 thanks to guest verses from the likes of Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross. Since then, DJ Khaled has released four more LPs and a minor deluge of singles. Kiss the Ring, Khaled’s sixth album, is due later this year.

In 2009, DJ Khaled’s instinct for pop music synergy earned him a job as president of Def Jam South, the latest iteration of a hip-hop career that includes just about every role save for that of MC.


The Sound: DJ Khaled’s music serves a unique role within the hip-hop world. Whereas other superstar producers (Kanye West comes immediately to mind) adopted the garb of MCs in order to nab headlining credits, DJ Khaled chose to remain a beats man, ceding lyrical duties to well-known rappers while still maintaining creative control over his projects. In many ways, DJ Khaled is really making mixtapes—they just happen to be the most impressive mixtapes on the planet.

As might be expected, Khaled’s beats tend towards the broad end of the spectrum. With blaring, synthesized horns and reverb-broadened drums, DJ Khaled’s songs provide a comfortable canvas on which MCs can do their work. Whether owing to Khaled’s production style or to his personal insistence (or, more likely, both), the verses laid down on top of Khaled’s beats tend toward the realm of world-beating braggadocio.

Subtlety is not DJ Khaled’s jam. Neither is humility. Khaled’s second, third and fourth albums were respectively named We the Best, We Global and Victory, betraying a leitmotif that may lack for depth but certainly earns points for consistency.


Essential listening: “Take It to the Head” has been making the rounds during the past couple weeks, employing its remarkable list of guest MCs as an effective advertisement for Khaled’s upcoming Kiss the Ring LP. With Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and Chris Brown filling out the track, it would be hard to avoid finding something here worth liking.


“We Takin’ Over”, from 2007’s We the Best, offers a typically straightforward piece of boasting from the Khaled camp. The track earns further distinction because of its inclusion of an up-and-coming Rick Ross and the questions it raises about the feasibility of DJ Khaled and Fat Joe sharing a boat.

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About the Author


Shane Danaher's affection for pop music has peppered his adult life with a variety of aesthetically rewarding and financially disastrous decisions. After moving to Portland, Oregon for college (because that's where he heard Modest Mouse was from) Shane has wound up participating in the music world in roles ranging from 'drummer' to 'promoter' to 'bathroom floor scrubber.' He has toured without money, written about almost every band ever to have come out of the Pacific Northwest, and one time traveled all the way to Los Angeles just to see a catch hip-hop show. He currently resides in Portland, where he writes about hip-hop, pop and rock music for a variety of publications. He still plays drums. He wants to meet Kanye West.

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