It's never too late for a character-building L.
DJ Khaled’s image is one of his defining attributes. So many have pondered the same question aloud, often as a means of tearing the man down: “what exactly does DJ Khaled do?” Of course, they already know the answer. The former DJ is essentially hip-hop’s trusted organizer, affable enough to assemble busy people into the same room with a unified purpose. Call him an A&R, a mogul, industrious, a hitmaker, or straight-up irritating - whatever floats your boat. Hell, he even likes floating on boats, a genuine seafarer at heart. Regardless, Khaled has remained a stalwart presence in the public eye, having nursed and cultivated his carefully designed public persona. And until now, his resolve in staying “in character” has been -quite impressively- unwavering.
By now, you’ve probably seen the video. DJ Khaled, sitting with his shirt unbuttoned to truly emphasize the severity of the situation, unleashing an uncharacteristically bitter rant. "I make albums so people can play it. And you actually hear it,” he begins, in the since-deleted video. “You know, driving your car you hear another car playing it. Go to the barber shop, you hear them playing it. You know, turn the radio on, and you hear them playing it. It's playing everywhere - it's called great music. It's called albums that you actually hear the songs. Not no mysterious shit, and you never hear it."
Some context. Khaled’s animosity appeared to stem from an unspoken battle between himself and Tyler, The Creator. See, the “All I Do Is Win” creator found his Father Of Asahd album sitting in second place, a respectable accomplishment unto itself. Though Tyler’s IGOR lacked “promotion” in the ostensible sense, his loyal fanbase came through and carried his mysterious opus to the number one spot. Nelly once posed the question “what does it take to be number one?” Now, nearly twenty years later, Tyler has shed some light on the answer. Win hearts through innovation, authenticity, and the pursual of one’s artistic instincts. There are clearly shortcuts, as quick-snap trends or big-name features can prove, yet Tyler’s climb to the top proved that the long game is indeed a viable way to play. And yet, Khaled felt compelled to issue a PSA of sorts, as though he were wronged in some abhorrent fashion.
The narrative has since come to shift, painting Khaled as the victim of a neglectful label. Apparently, a bungled bundling deal cost Khaled upward of one-hundred-thousand documented downloads, which would have ensured him the coveted number one spot, and thus keep his winning streak intact. Yet the means through which Khaled meant to secure his downloads served to raise a few brows. Though bundling can feel like a dubious practice in the best of times, Khaled somehow veered into an unusually off-kilter direction: pairing Father Of Asahd with nutritional supplements. The move proved appropriately hard to swallow, as Billboard apparently failed to approve Khaled’s food-pyramid scheme. And thus, tales of a “tantrum” began to spread. And while they were likely exaggerated for narrative emphasis, a blight had appeared on Khaled’s otherwise pristine image of peace, love, and prosperity.
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Paired with the aforementioned “post and delete,” it would appear that Khaled’s veneer had revealed something lying dormant beneath. A force rarely seen, especially for someone who tends to move with such immaculate precision. Of course, rappers have publically sown salt time and time again, with Instagram as the favored pulpit. Yet Khaled has always observed the game from the sidelines, closer to peacekeeper than pot-stirrer. For that reason, his inevitably infamous “mysterious” rant comes off as particularly petty, not unlike when Ned Flanders snaps and ultimately ends up in an insane asylum. Is it a moment a weakness, or a dormant reality finally rearing its head?
If anything, seeing a bit of emotion from Khaled is a net positive, unflattering though the painted picture may be. For a man so unflinchingly positive, almost to a satirical degree, seeing him break character feels strangely refreshing. Perhaps we ought to take a step back and stop pointing fingers, difficult though it may be, given Khaled’s own overbearing attitude. Yet the man has given us enough hits to merit respect, and needling him over a deviation of character raises an alarming suggestion. One that implies the status quo was working, despite a noted and vocalized descent in musical quality. Does the landscape truly benefit from squeaky clean Khaled as he’s come thus far, one who prioritizes the throne above all else? As Tyler's IGOR proved, the journey is as important as the endgame. If Khaled forgot such an integral fact, it's never too late to experience a moment of humility - nor is it ever unwise to do so. Perhaps this post-“tantrum” landscape will birth a new Khaled, a more complete Khaled, in which darkness and light can coexist in a harmonious fashion.