If Snapchat were a TV network, Keeping Up With DJ Khaled would likely be the most watched reality TV show.
The 40-year-old Arab-American DJ behind hits with Jay Z and Drake shares all the glamorous minutiae of a millionaire’s life — jet ski trips, anyone? — while also unleashing motivational narrations that toe the line between comically promotional and genuinely personable. At one moment, you’ll be watching a man tell someone “don’t play yourself” for not “securing the bag” and listening to the adversarial, and undefined, “they.” Then, 10 seconds later, that same man will bring you into the delivery room as his first child is being born. Now, he’s drawn the interest of one of a major automotive manufacturer, Ford, which is planning to use Khaled’s Snapchat kingdom to show off its new Ford EcoSport, making it the first automotive launch in Snapchat history.
Just three months after Snapchat debuted in September 2011, DJ Khaled had the internet campaigning for people to follow him, using his newly created catchphrases to convince them. Five years later and his influence has become so ubiquitous in popular culture that he turned catchphrases like “major key” into his first No. 1 album, which spawned two platinum singles in the same year and a new book — The Keys — he worked on while on the Formation tour with Beyoncé this summer.
Digital Trends spoke with Khaled about how he plans to introduce the Ford EcoSport on Snapchat, how he deals with sharing on social media after the recent robbery of Kim Kardashian, and how, as an Arab American, does a Trump presidency affect him.
Digital Trends: What will you be doing to unveil the Ford EcoSport on Snapchat, and how long has this been in the works?
DJ Khaled: First off, big up to Ford and the EcoSport; the whole family. It’s going to be family out here. Just people that like to have fun. We’re going to have great festivities, as well as give something special and historic to the world in the EcoSport. But at the same time give a surprise performance. You know me, I like to do a lot of surprises and bring special guests with me. So, you’ll never know who I will bring out. Expect a music experience and a very beautiful EcoSport. It’s affordable and fully loaded with all of the tech. The slogan right now is “Hear my echo.” I love it because when I say, “DJ Khaled … Khaled … Khaled,” on all my records, I’m big on the echo. I feel like this EcoSport was so perfect for me.
So, how will it work on Snapchat? Will it be you holding your camera showing off the car or something different?
It’s going to be what I do every day. Very natural and organic. I can never predict what I do on my Snapchat. I can tell you this: It’s going to be fun, exciting, and amazing. We’re walking into a festival of great music, food, excitement, and beautiful fans, great people and family. We’re also here to see the EcoSport. It’s a blessing I can reveal it on my Snapchat by me just being myself. That’s how I do it on Snap.
You may have really shown the music industry how to properly use Snapchat for marketing and really cultivating a fanbase. I saw you at Summer Jam and people were reciting your catchphrases like “Don’t Play Yourself” like they were lyrics. You recently put your son’s birth on Snapchat. What was that like and how did that decision come about?
“I can never predict what I do on my Snapchat.”
First of all, my beautiful son is my biggest blessing of my life. As far as me Snapchatting some of the behind the scenes of the birth, which really was something I was talking about while my queen was pregnant, I always told my fans, if the doc says it was OK to do my thing, I was. I just naturally did it. I did it where it was respectful to my queen. My whole thing is, bringing my son to the world and letting the world know how precious life is. I always say love is the key. I just wanted to spread love through the universe and the world. I felt like, when you see it on Snapchat, you experience something very special. I was excited. I can tell you this, I’m on the road and I FaceTime every chance I get, any break, any moment I get. He’s such a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful blessing to me.
You may put a lot of your life on Snapchat now, but you were a part of some of the biggest hip-hop collaborations even before you could share those moments on Snapchat. You put Nas and Scarface together. You got “Grammy Family” from Kanye West. What are some memories you can share that you couldn’t in the past?
I got so many. From recording with Jay Z to recording with Lil Wayne. I’ve been in the studio with Big Pun. There’s so many stories. I can tell you this, I got a new book coming out called The Keys coming November 22. You get a lot of the stuff you’re talking about. For those that don’t know my full story will get to know my full story with the book.
How long did it take you to write it?
When I was on tour, I had the lady, Mary, that took my talk and typed it for me, she would record me. I think it was probably a good two or three months of her hanging out on tour, her coming on my days off. It’s wherever I wanted her to be in the action and live my life with me for that moment so she can feel my passion through my words. Of course, I gave her some stories and I told her some keys. It was just a vibe.
You can FaceTime with your son and you can Snapchat with your fans. But you’ve been in the game for decades. What’s a piece of technology you wish you had back in the ’90s when you were running around with Fat Joe and Big Pun?
I wish I did have an Instagram or a Twitter or a Snapchat, because there’s so many historic things I’ve done in my career. Ten years, 20 years of my grind. I would be able to show my journey instead of me just telling you. Those who have been down with me since day one know. But back in those days, we didn’t have none of this technology. For me to get hot musically, or for people to come out to see me, it was all word of mouth, until they witnessed it. Now, you can let people see greatness. I use social media for love and good energy. Everything else, I don’t understand it and I don’t condone it. I only embrace good energy and love when it comes to social media. It’s a wild, wild west on social media.
“It’s a wild, wild west on social media”
Social media can be pretty wild and a friend of yours, Kim Kardashian, was recently robbed in London. People are saying celebrities should be cautious about sharing their success on social media. You are very open with sharing your success. Do you ever worry about sharing too much on Snapchat?
Kim Kardashian is a good friend of mine, and I’m glad she’s OK. You don’t want nothing to happen to nobody. We all try to prevent anything to happen to any of us. Including you. We don’t want this to happen to any of us. I’m sure we’re all very cautious and very aware of certain things and we try our best. At the end of the day, God is great. I know God got me and I got God. I got a shield around me and I have to move right. Things can happen and we have to weather the storm. That’s the key, to weather the storm, because not everything is going to be perfect.
That’s the thing about you, you’ll show love by just sniffing flowers and enjoying life’s simple blessings. America is currently going through a complicated time with love. You endorsed Hillary Clinton, but Donald Trump is our new president-elect. What went through your mind when you realized Trump could win, and where were you?
What goes through my mind every day is love. That’s what I represent. Another thing that goes through my mind is, “I have to make sure my son is good, my family is good and I’m going to continue to spread love and joy.” That’s all I’m going to continue to do. I don’t set my mind on other things. I just make sure my family is good, and at the same time my surroundings are good. At the end of the day, I move with a clean heart, a clean purpose, and a clean soul. It’s love. That’s all I promote. I don’t get into certain things because it has to be love. If it’s love coming my way, I’m going to embrace it. It’s not about just me no more, or the people I take care of every day. It’s also about my son that’s going to carry the legacy of the Khaleds.