Behind The Board: DJ Khaled Reflects On His Early Days, Working With Music’s Biggest Artists & More

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Hip-hop hit-maker DJ Khaled is doing what he does best: making music and inspiring others. Khaled has been in the game since the ‘90s, graduating from spinning vinyl in his garage to the GRAMMY stage. Today, the GRAMMY-winning producer and artist has a multitude of roles.

“I’m a father, I’m a producer, I’m a DJ, I’m a music executive, I’m an executive, I’m a young entrepreneur,” Khaled told GRAMMY U National Representative Carlie Anderson

Khaled showed he is also a role model, taking time to speak with GRAMMY U following at an Aug. 16 event at Miami’s Soho Beach House. There, Khaled was in conversation with Carl Lamarre, Billboard’s Deputy Director of R&B and Hip-Hop.

The conversation wasn’t exactly planned, but Khaled made sure to make the most of the opportunity to speak to the younger audience of GRAMMY U, even telling those around him to quiet down so that he could give his full attention to Anderson.  

Khaled reflected on the creation of his 2006 debut project Listennn…the Album, as well as the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. Like many artists and fans, Khaled believes hip-hop is more than just a genre of music: it’s a lifestyle. 

“Hip-hop is not only everything to me, it is a force of greatness,” Khaled tells Anderson. Hip-hop changed my life, saved my life. I love hop-hop. I have to thank hip-hop for the blessings and inspiration, for the way hip-hop raised me.”

Khaled recalled how he found hip-hop on his own and began to immerse himself in the world behind the music. Now, as a leading contributor to the culture, Khaled regularly reflects on how the culture made him who he is.

When it comes to being an inspiration to others, Khaled takes his position very seriously. His advice to young and emerging music-makers was simple: “Just be you.

“The world is yours,” Khaled continued. “Being you is the most beautiful thing in the world.”

After receiving five nominations at the 2023 GRAMMY Awards and performing at the show alongside Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, John Legend and Rick Ross, and, Khaled shows no signs of stopping. Earlier in August, he announced his 14th studio album, Til Next Time. The new project will be his first under the new partnership with Def Jam (in February, the rapper left Sony Music to join Universal Music Group). With this deal, Khaled was also named Global Creative Consultant for UMG.

The announcement of his album also came with a four-minute trailer, featuring his wife and two children. With comical moments from Khaled throughout, the video still steadies itself with the trademark motivational sentiments the producer is known for. 

“Success ain’t easy,” Khaled said in the trailer. “You gotta want it so bad that you’re willing to put everything on the line, even if you gotta risk your own life.” 

It’s no surprise that Khaled has some big features planned for the album. The debut single, “Supposed to Be Loved,” already spotlights frequent collaborator Lil Baby, as well as Future and Lil Uzi Vert, who is working with the musician for the first time. 

As a true master of collaborations, Khaled told GRAMMY U about how his partners are often also his inspirations. Dr. Dre, Puff Daddy, and Fat Joe sit high in his mind, as well as Jay-Z, who Khaled credits to having “shown us that anything and everything is possible” in this industry.

Khaled also gave love to his supporters for sticking by him in all his different endeavors. 

“My fans are my inspiration,” Khaled says. “They keep me going and keep me doing what I love to do, making music and representing hip-hop.” 

With Til Next Time and his other efforts,  Khaled strives to continue pushing hip-hop forward. This genre’s milestone is the first of many in his mind: “Not only hip-hop 50, it’s hip hop forever.” 

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