All DJ Khaled does is win. Since dropping his debut album in 2006, the Miami native has diligently built a resumé that now includes the titles of A-list DJ, successful producer, and platinum artist. And that’s just on the music side. He’s also a budding executive who runs his own label (We the Best Music Group) and management company, and is president of Def Jam South. Being on top hasn’t made him complacent, though—he’s about to drop his fifth album and Cash Money debut, We the Best Forever, featuring Drake, Nicki Minaj, Cee Lo Green, and Ludacris. That's why we had to feature DJ Khaled for the Shotcaller Interview from our April/May issue (with Wiz Khalifa/Danny McBride and Kat Denning on the covers). Khaled took a break from eating Jamaican red snapper to talk about being an exec, why he didn’t sign with Def Jam, and his end goal in the music industry.
Interview by Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)
You were very successful as an independent artist. Why sign with Cash Money?
DJ Khaled: I’ve had conversations about being a Cash Money member ever since my first album. I look up to Birdman and Slim and what they’ve done with Cash Money. I look at them as a huge brand like myself. Like Birdman would say, 'We the fuckin’ business.' And they have the same mentality I have: 'Put that music out and let’s go.' I ain’t got to deal with no corporate bullshit.
I didn’t want to be an artist in the same place I worked. You remember how you had that feeling when Jay-Z was the president and he was signed to Def Jam? You could always have people that might feel like you would do something more for yourself.
DJ Khaled: I didn’t want to be an artist in the same place I worked. You remember how you had that feeling when Jay-Z was the president and he was signed to Def Jam? You could always have people that might feel like you would do something more for yourself. [He may have been retired,] but still he always had the artist thing. It’s definitely not a conflict of interest, because it’s all the same in that we dealing with music. I just didn’t wanna put the pressure on myself to be in there to work as an artist and to have the hat as the executive with other projects.
As president, what do you do at Def Jam South?
DJ Khaled: Sometimes I’m in the studio, sometimes I’m not. It’s about delivering the music to the artist, but it’s also about the inspiration. I remember the day with Rick Ross on my tour bus when we were on our way to D.C. to do a show, and he was writing to a beat, and it was actually “B.M.F.” He was freestyling, not even writing. And I was like, "Man, you need to write that shit down. That’s a smash. That’s what they want." He did that shit in like two seconds, and it ended up being one of the biggest records of the year. Me and Ross always talk about features. He’ll ask me to go get this feature, and I’ll have to go in the studio. Like with “Aston Martin Music,” I had to go vibe with Drake, and get him to hear the beat and record his vocals.
Many people’s initial reaction to your new single, “Welcome To My Hood,” is that it’s the same song as a previous hit you had, “I’m So Hood.”
DJ Khaled: I didn’t make the same song twice, but I definitely made the sequel to it, because everyone would come up to me in the streets saying, "Yo Khaled, make another ‘I’m So Hood.’ We love that record so much." So I said, "You know what? This is my fifth album, a new situation, I’m on Cash Money. I’m going to name this album We the Best Forever, and I’m going to go into the mode when I was making We The Best." So I feel like I’m back where I had just got in the game, when I dropped "I’m So Hood" and "We Taking Over," and my life changed.
With so many anthems at this point, would you say you’ve figured out a formula
DJ Khaled: Every album I make big records. I’m going to always make an anthem. That’s what I do. Not to sound cocky, but I got the biggest shit in the streets right now. I don’t care what city you’re from, my shit’s cracking. When my record comes on, you know that’s a DJ Khaled record. That’s my formula, and the people love it. I’m over seven million singles sold in my career. All my singles went platinum-plus. I made four albums, and they all were No. 1 independent albums in the country. All my records and videos were groundbreaking.
What’s your ultimate goal in building the “We the Best” brand?
DJ Khaled: Whether it’s being with Cash Money, being an executive over here, managing this person, or producing this, I’m building an empire. How do you know I won’t be the next [Universal Music Group Chairman/CEO] Doug Morris one day? I’m doing a hell of a job, and I’m on the road to that next level.