It's really hard to place a label on DJ Khaled in 2018. Is he a hip-hop DJ? Is he a Snapchat savant? Is he the rap version Tony Robbins, who revels in dishing out positive affirmations to build one's character and confidence? To be honest, you wouldn't be wrong if you picked all three, because Khaled has proven to be beyond formidable in each category. Now, the astute producer is taking on a new challenge revolving around education.
On Thursday (March 22), Khaled partnered up with Get Schooled and Viacom — after receiving his Social Impact Award for his contributions to the community — to unveil his Key to Social Change. The new initiative aims to “empower high school and college students to make a positive impact in their communities through social media.” Created under the umbrella Khaled's Major Keys Campaign, which caters to kids seeking a college education, Keys to Social Change will launch April 2 and will also award more than $20,000 in scholarships to select participants.
After making his announcement at the Viacom Awards ceremony in New York, DJ Khaled spoke to Billboard about receiving his new award, how school helped him become the man he is today, fatherhood, touring with Demi Lovato, how close he is to working with Eminem and his favorite JAY-Z and Beyoncé collaboration all time. Check out the interview below.
You just received the Social Good Award today. How much did it mean to receive it?
It feels great just to be acknowledged and that my work has spread to the masses in a positive way and motivates people and inspires people, including myself. I'm motivated f my fans and my people. Getting this award motivated me to continue to go harder and harder everyday. You know, it's just great to be acknowledged for your blessings, you know what I'm saying?
In what ways would you say that school prepared you to be the man you are today?
Well, you know, me, my story is a little different. You know, I didn't get a chance to graduate and that's what pushed me to do this program even more because I get to push them to say, “Yo, learn through my knowledge what I wished I would have accomplished” and pushed them to say, “Hey, go to school, but let me tell you the things that I realized when I was going to school.” There's no excuses for me on why I didn't graduate, but you know, I went through some hard times at that period, but I also made sure that I got my education afterwards and I got that through going to get a GED and also, my family making sure that I had home tutoring and stuff like that throughout the trials and tribulations I was going through at one point my life.
Also, just giving the keys to people and encouraging them not through school, but in life, you know what I'm saying? That's what I push everyday. You know, school is life, and outside school, school is school. I would say life is like school, you're going to be tested. Make sure you pass it. That's the key, you know?
I remember your interview with Hot 97 when you spoke on the new school not having that same work ethic in comparison to you. What advice would you give the new school today that has the advantages social media, SoundCloud and more?
I mean, be grateful for all this new stuff that you have and also, do your homework about when people didn't have it. When I say people didn't have all this technology, it was more word mouth or me having to travel and go to different hoods and different places to perform to say, “Khaled is out ripping it down in Miami,” or “Khaled is out ripping it down in Brooklyn, or “Khaled is ripping it out in Jamaica.” That wasn't on Instagram. You couldn't see that.
So whoever was at that spot knew about it and the word passed and passed and passed. Nowadays — which is great because you can get your music played through SoundCloud and streaming — you eliminate the middle man. You can go straight to it, which is a blessing, but at the same time, imagine if you have those tools and still work as hard as myself. With these tools, you can be the greatest to ever did it with quality music, quality product and a quality brand.
I just noticed that you have Asahd as your phone background on your cell phone. What would you say to date is your proudest moment during fatherhood?
My proudest moment in fatherhood is being a father. My new album is called Father Asahd and I'm proud to be the father Asahd. My son is my best friend and, you know, God gave me a blessing to have a son, a king, a born king. I want to thank God and my queen for letting me have my biggest blessing. I'm sure it's my queen's biggest blessing. If she was here, she'd tell you the same thing. It's just beautiful, man.
What's been your favorite moment during Demi Lovato's Tell Me You Love Me Tour?
When Demi said that she was six years sober. When we went onstage just to sing her happy birthday about her accomplishment, I told her I feel like she was chosen to go through what she went through and to teach the young world not to go through what she went through. The blessing was that she overcame it, and that's what it's about: When you fall, you get up. She fell, she got up. That's a major win. That's what I wanted the world to know. If you fall, you can get up. That's what it's about. I thought besides performing for a full arena with all our fans, I feel like that moment and that day and that night was something that's always going to be remembered forever and I feel like the world has embraced it. It was beautiful.
It's no secret that you have dream collaborations, most notably Eminem, Dr. Dre and Adele. How close are you to securing those Em vocals?
Well, I mean, Eminem, I finally met him the other day at the iHeart Music Awards, but I didn't really get a chance to talk to him, talk to him. I talked to him on the camera, but I'm sure he's getting the kites, and the next step I think is for me to deliver something that he'll love to get on. I'm friends with his manager and I'm going to reach out to him and I'm going to send him something. Hopefully, he'll like to get on it. I just want to make sure when I send it, it's the one. Throughout the years, I've been telling you I've been trying to get him on records. I had the ones, but now, I'm working on the new album, so I want to create the new one. Hopefully, he's willing to work and again, I'm a big fan. He's somebody that I haven't worked with yet, and I would love to pull it f.
You've worked with JAY-Z and Beyoncé twice and gave us “Shining” and “Top Off.” Overall, if you can pick your favorite Jay and Bey collaboration all time, which one would you choose and why?
My favorite Bey and Jay collaboration all time is “Crazy in Love.” That's my favorite collab from them, also, the ones that I've made with them including “Shining” and “Top Off,” but the list goes on like “Drunk in Love.” The records that we've heard from them have all been great. That's JAY-Z and Beyoncé, the greatest that have ever did it. They can never do wrong in my eyes.
Lastly, if you can pick one word to title this chapter in your life, what word would that be and why?
Just grateful for my life, grateful for my son, grateful for all my opportunities, grateful for the love I get, grateful for my fans, grateful just for…God.