Some people speak in tongues. Some people speak in metaphors. Some people speak in riddles. DJ Khaled speaks in italics. Pop’s musical quilt-master is a serial emphasizer. His latest album, Father of Asahd, he tells me, was an impossibility—getting that many stars on one album, you try it—and yet, “I DID it.” So far as why he believes the album was so potent, he adds, “Because everybody comes with their A Game, or MORE than their A Game.”
But the stress isn’t just reserved for self-aggrandizement. Sometimes—okay, often—he’s merely caught in a state of awe. He’s impressed by his friend, the celebrity chef Salt Bae, for instance, because he came from nothing, and “Now he owns restaurants all over the world... The United States, and THE WORLD.”
It’s this sort of enthusiastic expression of untarnished wonder that’s helped make Khaled a superstar personality in his own right. His brazen accentuation transforms the otherwise mundane into grand pronouncements, culture-shaping catchphrases, and widely consumed motivation. He’s unapologetically loud, bold, and brash, and the culture eats it up. Sure, you might take issue with some of it—its simplicity, the carnival barker of it all—or you might if he didn’t always find his way back to such an undeniably positive message: Love.
Take his legacy. When it’s all said and done, Khaled says he wants to be remembered as “one of the biggest, most powerful moguls.” But also, “an incredible father, with a family that is beautiful and amazing. Somebody that's loved and embraces love.” He justifies the emphasis.
GQ: Congratulations! I heard that your wife is pregnant with another child.
DJ Khaled: Yeah, man, Asahd is going to have a brother. I'm going to have another son, another blessing. God is great. Our family's just getting bigger. Ever since I had my son Asahd, life has changed in so many beautiful, great ways. I just appreciate life more, and what real love is. And I'm just so excited, man. I'm just excited to have barbecues with my family. I'm excited to go on family vacations. I'm excited to work for my family. I love being a father.
I thought it was funny that some headlines said "Another one!"
Asahd said "Another one!" too. It is. It's another one, know what I'm saying? What I love about my catchphrases is it's just me being me and it's natural and the world embraces it.
Have you given any thoughts to names?
We haven't officially talked about names because I want to pick the name closer to his arrival—I'm thinking the month of. Just because when we named Asahd it was a feeling, it was a vibe. Asahd in Arabic means Lion. At that time, and still, there was just a certain energy that Asahd brought to me and the world, and that name fit perfect. God blessed us with an incredible name. And we want to just catch the vibe.
Your last album was Father of Asahd. Does that mean you have to make another album with your next child's name in the title?
_Father of Asahd came out this year. It's doing so amazing, and it's like we focused on that album, and when it's time to make another one, we gonna know what God wants us to do. It's always a vibe. But I can tell you this: All my albums' titles and energies are based on what's going on in my life at that time.
If there's one lesson you want to instill in your children, what is it?
The most important lesson is love. God and love. And God is love, and love is God. Just love. My son, I want to see him smile and be happy. When they're children at this young age, they're supposed to be extremely happy, and I want to keep it like that. So my son is always around me, and he's around all the energies. I make sure that my energy is incredible for him because I know he learns so fast. If I say something, he'll say it. So being a responsible parent, I say to myself, "I gotta make sure the love is 24 hours around the clock." That way, he'll know the difference between love and something else. And if he experiences something else, he'll know that's not the right thing.
How did you feel like Father of Asahd, musically, was a step forward for you?
It's my biggest album to date. And my album before that was Grateful, and Asahd was a part of that too. And the album before that was Major Key, and Asahd was in my queen's belly, and he was a part of that too. So my last three albums have been my biggest albums, and they're going to continue to get bigger. Not only am I going to make sure I continue being great, you have to understand the inspiration and the purpose is higher. And you gotta remember, I'm experienced. This is my 11th album. So I tell people all the time, with experience—look that word up. Experience is a great thing to have.
When you say this album was your biggest, do you equate the size of it with success?
As a body of work, this is my biggest album. A classic album from top to bottom. My whole career I've put out timeless records. I've been part of your life, and everybody's life, for a long time. I'm the guy who made "All I Do Is Win," I'm the guy who made "I'm the One" and "Wild Thoughts" and "Shining"—I can keep going. Usually my albums, I would have two, three big singles and a great album. This album, from top to bottom, everything was a single.
It's not only about numbers. It's about the impact in the culture. It's about, every time you turn on the TV you're going to hear "All I Do Is Win." Every time you watch football, basketball, soccer you gonna hear "All I Do Is Win." You watch a movie, you gonna hear one of my records. You turn on the radio, you gonna hear one of my records. DJ Khaled is the anthem king.
I love the "You Stay" music video, and my favorite part is when you catch a piece of steak in your mouth. How did that come about?
Salt Bae is my friend, and I'm a big fan of him. He's such a great, great person. I'm inspired by his story. He's a great cook and entertainer and a boss and a mogul. He came from nothing to be where he's at right now. That just shows you the power of the people and the power of love. I can relate to that. And now he owns restaurants all over the world... The United States, and THE WORLD. And this man wakes up at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning and works out every single day. And then he's at his restaurant from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 o'clock at night, every day. And then being an entertainer and being able to inspire and bring happiness to people is such an inspiration. I asked him to be in my video. I was like, "Yo, I want to do this one scene. Not only to praise you. I just think it's boss." It fit the video.
But there's so many records on the album! I'mma be real with you. What I did on Father of Asahd can't be done. And when I say that, I want you to do it. Because we don't take “no” as an answer. When I made the album I say can't be done, I DID it. That's just the attitude I have on everything I do.
What was hardest about it?
Making the record was the hardest—to get everybody in the same wavelength and position for each record. The blessing is I have experience. A lot of these artists have respect for me, and I have respect for them. They trust my vision and I would spark up an idea and they would take the idea to other levels. It's a teamwork situation.
How do you decide who goes on what song with who?
It depends. I always start off my albums with the production standpoint. I just want to make sure the production is A1. And then after the production, I just like to come with some kind of idea. Even if you don't use that idea for the record, it sparks up other ideas. Most of these records got recorded with me in the studio, and it was very intimate.
But how do you figure out who would be good collaborating with who?
Sometimes I like doing collaborations that they say are impossible to do. Working with Jay-Z and Beyonce. I've been blessed to do that two times with them, with "Shining" and "Top Off," and to this day I still can't believe it. Music and energy speaks in volumes when it comes correct.
You have relationships with a lot of stars and some of the most powerful people in music. Do you have any keys to maintaining and nurturing big relationships?
My keys to maintaining a relationship is to be honest at all times. My relationships with all these artists is more than music. I'm not just going to call you for a record. Hopefully 90% of my relationships is a real friendship. We support each other. I support their project, they support mine. But not even just that. It's having dinner at my house, going on vacation together, just sending a text or a call, or they might need some advice. I value my relationships. I value them more than making a record. I think—no, I know—that's why my records are so potent. Because everybody comes with their A Game, or MORE than their A Game.
But it does seem like having Number 1s is important to you.
It's not just about having Number 1. I'm Number 1 no matter what. I look in the mirror and tell myself I'm Number 1.
You do a million different things. Is there a skill you don't have that you wish you had?
I love everything that God has done for me. He's made me incredible. And I'm grateful. I'm the father of Asahd. I feel like I have all the skills. There's nothing I can't do. Anything I put my mind to, I'mma do it.
Being that this is GQ, I feel like I've got to ask: How'd you craft your style?
My style is me. I love color. I love tropical stuff. I love clean looks. My style is something you can wear today and 100 years from now. My style is timeless. If I wear a suit, I can wear that same suit 100 years from now, and it’ll still be the flyest suit. It's just the way God has blessed my body. The way I look and my beard, and the way my shirt lay on my belly—it's just a vibe. It's Khaled.
And I love jumpsuits because it fits every occasion. To go to something dressy or something casual.
Are jumpsuits sexy?
Yeah, for sure! They sexy on me. I've got little hairs on my chest. It's a vibe.
You have a lot of fans and a really infectious spirit. Would you ever consider running for a public office?
Uh, nah. God bless whoever does. But I have my house. And my house is with my family. And I have to make sure they're straight. I'm their president, I'm their father, I'm their friend, I'm their person they come to. And it’s the same for me. I go to my family for them being my president, them being my friend, them being my father, them being my son. I just make sure that home is amazing, because if home is amazing then everything else can start being amazing.
This interview has been edited and condensed.