With shockwaves still rippling across the country in the days after Donald Trump’s election victory, hip-hop maestro, Snapchat celebrity, and recording mogul DJ Khaled had a few major keys to offer his fellow Americans on the subject of dealing with life under President Trump.
“You’ve got to get up,” he told The Daily Beast, relaxing inside his trailer ahead of a headlining event for Ford, whose new green EcoSport SUV would later share the stage with Khaled and his old Terror Squad pals Remy Ma and Fat Joe. “Keep it going. Stay blessed up. God is great.”
The show, one of a flurry of promotional appearances on the 40-year-old Khaled’s schedule, seemed random at first, sandwiched between food stalls pimping free acai bowls, miniature eco-homes designed by the same street artist who amassed an entire collection of fine art portraits of Kanye West, and a bio-dome filled with tiny baby animals.
For hip-hop’s self-made snapping Tony Robbins, it all made sense—even if, when asked if he drives green cars, Khaled kept it light and aspirational. “I like that candy blue! And it’s got a vibe. You know what I mean?”
The vibe of the night fit perfectly into DJ Khaled’s brand, anyway: “Enjoy life,” he smiled.
All that DJ Khaled, self-proclaimed bearer of all the major keys to success, seems to do is win, at least in the last year in which the larger-than-life Miami personality has skyrocketed to global fame with some of rap’s biggest stars on his tracks. Outside of actual radio bangers, he did it by sharing his “major keys” and “special cloth alerts” with his millions of Snapchat followers, earning a glowing profile in the New York Times and viral cache from the concerned masses when he got lost in the dark on his jet ski—and snapped the whole thing.
The New Orleans-born son of Palestinian immigrants first worked his way up in underground hip-hop and radio in the late ‘90s and ‘00s, befriending luminaries like Birdman and Lil Wayne along the way. He ascended to President of Def Jam South before establishing We The Best, his own recording shingle named for one of the signature mantras he’s known to repeat, constantly, like a self-affirming declaration. The ascent has also made DJ Khaled one of hip-hop’s most prominent American Muslims.
And yet, despite President-elect Trump’s incendiary anti-immigrant rhetoric and the specifically anti-Islam policy proposals he’s laid out to target Muslims and Muslim-Americans, Khaled says he’s not worried.
“Me, I don’t really worry about nothing—because God is great,” he said. That applies to Trump, to the environment he’s trying to help by promoting eco-friendly cars, and anything else life might throw at him. “I believe in God, I have hope. I have faith. I pray every day. The key is not to fall through the trap. The key is always to stay focused. Those are my rules that I live by. I stay focused, I stay prayed up, and I go hard.”
Khaled speaks in interviews like he does shouting himself out on his tracks: Repeating his tried and true catchphrases, careful to stay positive, focusing on broad aspirational obfuscations. In The Keys, the new inspirational book he released this week, he asks readers to do more work to make the most of his nuggets of wisdom: “I need you to overstand this,” he writes of his pure unfiltered messaging, “…because I need you to more than understand.”
He isn’t oblivious to the fact that many Americans are still reeling from the election and worried about what it means for their futures. “My advice to everybody no matter what’s going on is to just have love in your heart,” he offered. “Move with love. Love is the key. The most powerful thing is love, and us, coming together. At the end of the day, the number one thing to me is that God is the greatest—and let me tell you, he is amazing. You pray to God and God got us. He got me, you. He got us.”
As we spoke in his trailer, members of his entourage waiting silently nearby, Khaled’s phone rang. He picked up the call from his fiancée Nicole Tuck, who gave birth to their first son two weeks before the election. “Nobody’s seen my son yet,” he smiled, proudly showing off newborn Asahd Khaled as he slept. “I love you, son!”
Fatherhood, he said, “changed my life. I have to worry about and take care of my family, my son. We’re so blessed, man! We have life.” It’s part of what keeps him so hopeful. “You have to because, first of all, it’s real. Second of all, what are you supposed to do—think negatively?”
“Everybody goes through real times and frustration,” he admitted. “You have to weather the storm. And those that weather the storm, I look at you different. I respect you even more. You figured it out, you found a solution, and you made it through the storm. Some people, when they fall, they feel like you’re supposed to just stay on the ground. No! You get up. Just keep it going.”
Back in July, Khaled shared his major keys for success on Larry Willmore’s Nightly Show, directing his no-fail advice to Hillary Clinton ahead of the Presidential debates.
“You know Trump’s gonna fight dirty. But if you come swinging with that upper cut and that knockout, you gonna be aight,” said Khaled, who took the opportunity to officially endorse Clinton on-air.
Alas, the Democrats did not get to reuse the Khaled classic “All I Do Is Win”—the boastful anthem President Obama once played as his entrance music. Now that was a big moment for Khaled.
“For President Obama to walk out to my record, I could imagine how many checks it went through to make it through a president’s test,” he remembered. “I said, ‘I made it!’ the day I found out.”
Khaled’s next big milestone, he teases, will be breaking into Hollywood.
“One of my goals for 2017 is to do a lot of movies and break into the film world—as an actor, as myself, taking Khaled to another level, and hopefully being on the big screen in all of your favorite movies,” said Khaled, speaking in the third person.
He just finished filming an appearance in Jamie Foxx’s directorial debut. “I would love to work with—what’s my man’s name, he lives in Miami? Michael Bay. And I would love to work with Ice Cube. I really want to work with him. Really want to work with him.”
“I feel like I’m just born with it! In front of the camera, I’m ready. Off the camera, I’m ready. I think certain people are just born with an energy, a vibe. And if you think of all your favorite movie stars and actors, they’re special. I feel like I’m special.” He grinned. “Special cloth alert.”