Being DJ Khaled ain't easy. Or maybe it is.
How hard can it really be to make a song when you don't have to write, produce or perform it? That's the case for a number of Khaled's hit tracks, including "We Takin' Over." But if you ask the Miami spin doctor, he's the sole person responsible for putting together every single thing on his album. From beat selection to the lineup of artists to song concepts, it's all on Khaled.
"I [actually] produced two songs on [We the Best]," he explained of his recently released sophomore LP. "[But] I'll tell you exactly what I'm doing: I'm putting the [entire] album together. And not only that, I'm on the records. My ad-libs and everything are a big part of the records, [just] like Lil Jon's 'Yeah!' and all that. That goes a long way. Mine is just a different swagger. And not only that, I'm an artist as well as a DJ and producer. Gradually people are getting different vibes from me. Since the second album, you seen more growth. When I start working on the next album, you'll see even more growth. But you can't scare them all at one time, you know?"
Well, since the DJ does have a scary habit of clocking in with one monster posse cut after another, MTV News decided to get the scoop from the man with the golden (or maybe, in this case, platinum) ear himself. So here, we present DJ Khaled's seven collabo commandments:
Step One: It's All About The Beat
"When I started working on [We the Best,] I called [producer] Danjahandz for a beat," Khaled said. "And I told him what type of beat I wanted. I was leaving New York, and before I jumped back on a plane I told him: 'I'm flying back to Miami and I want to make my single first.' I told him the idea and I booked studio time for him. And when I landed, I ran to the studio to meet him, and the beat, we sat there, listened and did some things to it. I get all my beats first, straight up. When I make my albums, I get all my beats first 'cause I know what I want. Then I just sit in my studio and vibe and I start writing down what I want to do."
Step Two: Have A Game Plan
"When I get the beat, I think of the concept automatically," Khaled said. "I think of the people I want to be on it and I try to come up with some hooks too. Just come up with a little idea for them to take from there. 'Cause sometimes you might just have a rapper rap on a beat and they might rip it down, but it might not be the direction [you want]. With my records, I make sure I go in there with a concept and try to come out with a hit, you know? 'Cause it's not one rapper, so you got to get everyone on the same page. ... It's all a big game plan. It's all a plan, and I got to get it accomplished. It's hard. If n---as say, 'Oh, man, his job is easy,' nah, it don't work like that. Not at all. We're talking months, a half a year, just to get little things done. We're talking about making hits, not just normal records."
Step Three: Start Drafting Recruits
"With 'We Takin' Over,' I told Danja, 'I'm gonna put Akon on this bi---, and he's gonna turn it into a real movie,' " Khaled said. " 'Cause the beat is real aggressive — it's theatrical and movie-sounding — and I wanted Akon to do something real big and the chorus had to sound big. Then I knew I was gonna put [Lil] Wayne on there. I knew I was gonna put [Fat] Joe and [Rick] Ross on. And I knew I wanted T.I. on there. And when I was with Birdman, I told him it was only right for him to bring in Lil Wayne."
Step Four: Who's On First? (And Who's On Last?)
"Akon gave me his vocals," Khaled said. "Then I got Ross to do his part. Then after Ross, I had Joe do his part. Then after Joe, I had T.I. do his part. And then I went to Lil Wayne. Lil Wayne was going to do it already, but I wanted to wait. When I gave it to him and I played it, he told me — his exact words were — 'I'm gonna go in the closet and the boogeyman is gonna come out.' He said some crazy sh--. Then he did it in an hour. I heard that sh-- when he said, 'I am the beast/ Feed me rappers or feed me beats.' I was like, 'Wow.' And I made the breakdown for him. I told Danja to break the beat down when Lil Wayne comes on, and it was just history. That record, I knew it was gonna be a hit from the gate."
Step Five: Don't Be Afraid To Adjust The Lineup
"For 'We Takin' Over,' I knew I wanted Wayne last because I wanted to give him the Biggie look off of 'It's All About the Benjamins,' " Khaled said. "I think he deserves it. But you got to be ready to swap positions for tracks. It's the feeling, the vibe. Each artist brings a certain energy to the song. Ross always brings a big energy. I like to put Ross second on records. Because, say with a record you loving, like, man, T.I.. is ripping it, then Ross comes in, he comes with another energy. He makes the beat go harder. He picks up another level and it gets tighter. Then Joe comes after Ross, it just gets crazier. Then boom, the beat changes up, Birdman's taking you to church, then boom, Lil Wayne finishes you off."
Step Six: Practice Full Disclosure
"Not telling the artists who you're going to put on the record is the biggest mistake," Khaled said. " 'Cause you got to want them to want to be on the record and want to do it. And I don't make those kind of mistakes. Because I keep it G, that's why people love me. I'll go straight up and say, 'You and him got beef, beef that I'm trying to help squash.' I'll be straight up, and nine times out of 10, the problem is over because I accomplished something. You got to keep it G with people." You can't be on no bullsh--."
Step Seven: Know Your Team, For Real
"My lineup that you see a lot that I use, that's my team," Khaled beamed. "Ross, Joe, Lil Wayne, Birdman, Jeezy, T.I. — that's the team, you know? Not 'cause they're the biggest rappers in the game. I just been blessed to have a great team. Everything is built off relationships and going in with that vibe. I bring a different energy to the artists. In the studio, I have a different energy. The funniest thing I ever heard [is that I have a secret over them to make them work with me]. It's called G's recognize real G's. My job is to go in there to make it a classic. People are always gonna hate. That's jealousy. 'Cause we win. That's the problem with this hip-hop game, it's a major problem. Nobody wants to see anyone come up. And I'm coming up, and boy do I have some great friends."