DJ Khaled Throws Us The Keys The musician and Snapchat advice guru says his communication style is meant to resonate with young audiences. "Sometimes we've got to get somebody to translate in a different way," he says.
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DJ Khaled Throws Us The Keys

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DJ Khaled Throws Us The Keys

DJ Khaled Throws Us The Keys

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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I'm David Greene, and here's this guy.


DJ KHALED: DJ Khaled. We the best.

T-PAIN: (Singing) All I do is win.

GREENE: Yes, that is DJ Khaled, one of the biggest names in rap for the past decade. He is the son of Palestinian immigrants, and he's now a larger-than-life presence in the music world. He's a DJ, producer, record executive and has nine albums of his own. His latest is the Grammy-nominated album "Major Key." It features Drake, Kendrick and on this track, Jay-Z. The track's "I Got The Keys."


JAY-Z: (Rapping) Always asking me the key. Till you own your own, you can't be free. Till you're on your own, you can't be me. How we still slaves in 2016? I should probably copyright this. I promise they ain't going to like this.

DJ KHALED: I got the keys, keys, keys, keys. I got the keys, keys...

GREENE: The keys - they're very important to Khaled and to millions of fans who follow him closely on Snapchat. They are life lessons that just pop in his head as he hangs out in his garden or in the hot tub or, more famously, while he's jet skiing, which is how DJ Khaled became a social media megastar last December. He was at home in Miami hanging out with his fiancee, and then he took a ride on his jet ski to visit the rapper Rick Ross. And on his way back home that evening, he got lost.


DJ KHALED: It's so dark out here. We don't know where the hell we at, but the key is to make it. The key is never give up.

GREENE: That's from Khaled's Snapchat. And when we got him into our New York studio to chat, we asked him what happened.

DJ KHALED: It got dark quick, so I started Snapchatting (ph) because it had the flash, but I was Snapchatting also to keep my sense of humor and my spirits up and also to send messages - subliminal messages - to, like, my queen. You know, it's dark, somebody come get me. And I didn't panic, but was I worried? Absolutely.

GREENE: He did survive, we should say. Now, DJ Khaled is out with his first book, and it is called "The Keys."

DJ KHALED: Well, "The Keys," man, is the keys to success, keys to life - you know what I'm saying? - keys of winning, keys of joy, keys of happiness. The keys never run out, you know? Each key leads to the next key.


DJ KHALED: And then every time, you know, if you text me, I'm going to hit you back with a key.

GREENE: If I text you. So what if I texted you right now, like, hey, what's up, how's New York? What key are you going to throw back at me?

DJ KHALED: It's a cold world, bundle up - key.

GREENE: (Laughter).

DJ KHALED: You know what I'm saying? Like...

GREENE: (Laughter) Yeah.

DJ KHALED: You know what I'm saying?

GREENE: (Laughter) That's very straightforward and honest, but...

DJ KHALED: Yeah, yeah.

GREENE: ...Yeah, you got that quick. That was good.

DJ KHALED: Yeah, and that's how the book is, you know what I'm saying? Because when I was coming up in the game and growing up, they hid the keys from me.

GREENE: They hid the keys from you?


GREENE: Now, they is a very important word in your book that comes up a lot. Who are, quote, "they?"

DJ KHALED: Well, they are the people that don't want me to do this interview with you, you know, they...

GREENE: (Laughter) Well, I don't like them either, then. Let's - we got to find them.

DJ KHALED: They come in so many different forms, but they are the people that we need to stay away from, you know what I'm saying? And honestly, I had somebody actually come up to me and say, Khaled, you will be nothing. You're just a DJ. You're going to be local forever. You're not going to be able to succeed. But I stayed focused. I didn't listen to they.

GREENE: It sounds like the kind of advice that could really help kids as they're coming up.

DJ KHALED: Absolutely. And, you know, this book is definitely to uplift the young world because, you know, we just have different ways of saying it. I was just doing an interview earlier, and I was like, you know, our moms and dads always taught us, you know, to do great things, you know what I'm saying? We bless that family, but sometimes you've got to get somebody to translate it in a different way, you know what I'm saying?

GREENE: You have figured out a way to speak the language that some young people speak and also really inspire them. I mean, that's the balance that...

DJ KHALED: Yeah, it's the culture.


DJ KHALED: Yes, yes, yes, yes.

GREENE: Well, I - can I tell you my favorite of the keys?

DJ KHALED: Please tell me.

GREENE: We have - our program is MORNING EDITION, and our staff - we're obsessed with sleep because none of us get enough of it. We have to wake up at ungodly hours of the morning. Have a lot of pillows...


GREENE: ...I love that. We need pillows. Do you mean that literally?

DJ KHALED: I mean that so literally. I'm talking about you have to rest your greatness, you know? You know...

GREENE: (Laughter).


GREENE: Well, thank you. Yes, I'll think about that as I go to bed tonight - resting my greatness.

DJ KHALED: And that's - it's a very important key. Like, you know, I have a lot of pillows in my bed, my tour bus, like, you know, every time I turn, there's a pillow. You know, if I turn to the left, the right, if I turn my whole body and my leg moves, it's just pillows everywhere.

GREENE: Khaled, do you have the book with you?

DJ KHALED: Yes, I do.

GREENE: Could you read a little from page 126? I'd love people to get a feel for your writing.

DJ KHALED: Let me see, 126, I always wanted to be on this show, you know?

GREENE: You always wanted to do our show?


GREENE: Really?

DJ KHALED: Yes - 126, have a lot of pillows.

GREENE: Thank you.

DJ KHALED: They don't want you to have a lot of pillows, so I make sure I have a lot of pillows. It's a major key to rest your greatness. Pillows are important. When you sleep, when you're supposed to sleep, got to sleep like a king or a queen. Every time you turn, there should be something comfortable to greet you, and that softness reminds you of parts of your body - it's time to relax. You know what I'm saying? Like...

GREENE: (Laughter) I do. I don't even know how to - like, you're - I'm connecting with you. You're making me feel that pillows are so important. I mean, most people would just say like, you know, dude, like, get some good pillows and go to bed, but you - I mean, there's a poetry to how you do this.

DJ KHALED: Oh, no. This is that, like, holy grail. This is for real, you know? And I'm sure you experienced it, you just didn't realize how important and adaptive (ph) it is, you know what I'm saying?

GREENE: Yeah. How do you come up with these?

DJ KHALED: I'm just being me, man. You know, I don't come up with it. I don't sit there and just think, hey, I'm going to up with something. No, you know, it's just me that just comes out of me. Like, you know, when you ask me a question, I have the answer, at least a answer that I want to give you, you know what I'm saying?


DJ KHALED: Today I was with somebody on my way over here, and, you know, he was asking me a question, like, you think you need help when you do interviews or - 'cause, you know, your career's going on a higher level. You know, I'm about to go speak at Harvard.

GREENE: You are?

DJ KHALED: Yes, I'm going to speak at Harvard.

GREENE: What's...

DJ KHALED: And I'm having a speaking engagement with Arianna Huffington. And my career is going to a higher level and I'm embracing it and I'm very grateful. And the person was like, yo, you think we need to help you? I said, yo, bro, you're wasting your energy. I'm born with this, you know what I'm saying? Like, I'm not saying I don't want to learn something I might not know, you know what I'm saying? But I always told - I told the man I told you in this book too that knowing is better than learning. I know it sounds kind of weird because you have to learn to know...


DJ KHALED: ...But some things that you just know. Like for instance, if you know the stove is hot and it's hot, why touch it, you know what I'm saying?

GREENE: (Laughter).

DJ KHALED: Like, you know it's hot. Like, don't touch it. Like, you know what I'm saying? Like...


DJ KHALED: ...You just know. Like, there's certain things that I know that I like. You can't teach me something that I know.

GREENE: I literally am thinking back to a moment a few days ago when I touched the stove to see if it was still hot, which was really stupid.

DJ KHALED: Yeah, well, you see what I'm saying?


DJ KHALED: And that's what you call playing yourself.


DJ KHALED: You know what I'm saying? Like...

GREENE: Yeah. Well, I am going to go buy some extra pillows.

DJ KHALED: Yeah, it's important. That's a key.

GREENE: Yeah, that's where I'm off to. Thanks a lot, appreciate it.

DJ KHALED: All right, man, bless up.

GREENE: That is the one and only DJ Khaled. His new book is called "The Keys."


DJ KHALED: Major key...

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