V Exclusive: DJ Khaled Talks Collabs With Kanye West, Nas, Cee-Lo; ‘I’m On One;’ & New Album


kmurphy / June 14, 2011

With his buzz-heavy single “I’m On One” already blazing the charts and a new album (We The Best Forever) due out in July, DJ Khaled is pretty much in a zone. VIBE caught up with the ubiquitous Cash Money artist and Def Jam South President to talk about whether his upcoming release will take him to new commercial levels, his collaboration with Kanye West, criticism that he’s not a real producer, and why he’s currently the best.—Keith Murphy

VIBE: Your single “I’m On One” has become one of the hottest songs in the country. A lot of the success of the track points to its enormous star-power. What does it say for your influence that you were able to get three of the biggest rappers—Drake, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross—on the same record?

DJ Khaled: Well, it’s a team. Rick Ross is my brother. I’m signed to Cash Money and I’m a label mate of Drake. And Lil Wayne has been my brother for years, and he has supported me since the beginning of my career. [“I’m On One”] is a special record obviously because it has all four of us on it. People could not imagine all of that on one record. And that’s the whole point. To pull off what can’t be pulled off. Not only that, it’s a new sound and it’s a smash!

Speaking of Ross, you have been very instrumental in his career growth to becoming a viable superstar who recently established his own label—Maybach Music Group. What comes to mind when you think about how you helped Ross break with his debut solo album 2006’s Port of Miami?

Ross was a special project. First of all, he’s from Miami and we came up together. We came from the bottom to the top. We’re best friends. To be in on the day-to-day operations at Def Jam with Ross and A&R his albums, it’s beautiful because he’s my friend. Today, he’s one of the biggest artists in the game. Every time we win it’s a different enjoyment because we know where he comes from. We make great music together and we strategize together and we put great plans together. Everything has gone perfectly when it comes to DJ Khaled and Rick Ross.

Are you surprised at Ross’ immense success given how much he had to overcome in terms of the past criticisms he went through concerning all the C.O. talk?

I’m not surprised. It’s bosses coming together and doing boss things. It’s more than just making music. It’s about taking a record to the next level. It’s about outworking the competition. Ross and myself are hard workers. The whole Maybach, Def Jam, and We The Best teams come together…it’s a team effort. I would not change anything. 

From being President of Def Jam South to your long-running radio show on Miami’s 99 JAMZ, you seem to be one of the hardest working people in the music industry. Do you feel more comfortable being an artist, a producer, executive or DJ?

I’m an artist that puts out albums. I’m an executive at Def Jam, I do radio, run a management company and run a studio. But it all falls under one umbrella: music. That’s how I became who I am. I’m gong to continue to keep doing it all because that’s how you become the biggest in the game.

There was a lot of speculation on why you decided to sign with Cash Money instead of Def Jam. Was it a hard decision to make?

No. The reason why I didn’t sign to Def Jam is because I wanted to keep my A&R/exec job in that building separate from my artist projects. When I’m on the Cash Money side I got my artist hat on and I can be just that…an artist.

So as an artist on Cash Money, do you feel any added pressure for We The Best Forever to become a commercial success with the likes of Wayne, Drake, and Nicki Minaj putting out platinum plus albums?