“This shit special!!!!!!!!” DJ Khaled bellows in his reverb-twisted voice on the intro to “Hip Hop”, a track off his sixth album. After several verses, when the track is winding down, Khaled says it again. If, somehow, the listener had forgotten that the shit was special, Khaled is there to remind us that this shit, indeed, special. Between contributing this grammatically incorrect but still somehow appropriate line, Khaled’s contributions to the track are hard to pin down. He doesn’t rap on the track; that’s handled by hall-of-famers Nas and Scarface, each doing a somber take on Common’s hip-hop-as-a-woman motif. Nor does Khaled produce the beat for the song; the beat was produced by young fruity-loops virtuoso Lex Lugar. There’s even some token old-school scratching. Was that Khaled on the Serato? Nope. That’s DJ Premier, also a hall of famer. Khaled’s only clearly manifest contribution to the song is saying “This shit special,” twice. And that’s what makes him kind of awesome (emphasis on the “kind of”).
Khaled Bin Abdul Khaled, a heavyset Palestinian-American, got his start as a radio personality in Miami. That’s probably how he was able to adopt the “DJ” moniker without ever, you know, actually DJing. On Khaled’s new album, he is credited as a writer on each of the tracks. Whether he get’s that credit JUST for shouting on the intro of each track, or if he was actually doing some writing in the studio, that’s unclear. On “Bitches and Bottles”, another track off the new album, Khaled’s only contribution is saying, over the outro, “I make hits, I find hits and I play shit out.” Which begs the question, do you either produce or write hits, sir? Because if not, why do you get to make albums?
I’m willing to believe that Mr. Khaled is mostly a curator, a job title which has grown to be ever more expansive in our lifetime. He probably picks the beats, picks the rappers, maybe gives them some sort of a song concept, then goes and stands on the balcony of his Miami condo while other people make the songs (probably while drinking a fourloko). Curation is on of the best jobs out there, these days, because the only qualifications are to have good taste and then to be recognized for your good taste. From there, you’re day-to-day is just selecting artists or works to highlight. However, most “curators” I know are responsible for their startups’ Tumblr or are programming a small film festival. Khaled is curating verses from the biggest rap artists in the world. That’s definitely a step up from spending your day looking for weird art videos on the internet. And not only does Khaled, curate these songs, he get’s to be the front man for them. “Hip hop” is technically HIS song, featuring Nas and Scarface and DJ Premier. That’s a gig.
The thing about Khaled is that he’s actually actually a good curator. The rap radio song of the summer last year was “I’m On One” DJ Khaled featuring Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and Drake, produced by T-Minus. Great, weird, catchy pop rap song. IF, and it’s still an IF, Khaled actually made that song happen, then he deserves some credit. Think of it this way; there are plenty of pop singers who have their songs written and produced for them, who have their image and brand manufactured for them, and whose vocal performance digitally enhanced to the point where it might as well be a robot singing their radio hit. DJ Khaled is certainly doing as much, if not more work then they are. And basically living inside a rap video all the time. So, I’m not saying I would do what Khaled did to get where he is. I mean, if you look at it on paper, you’d have to assume did a deal with the devil to get what he’s got. But I still want his job. It looks pretty fun.
Henry Goldman is founder of Yr An Adult. He is living out HIS dream gig, occasional freelancer/internet addict.