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If you've been listening to South Florida radio for the past decade, chances are you've caught the unmistakable sound of Terror Squad/Big Dawg Pitbull affiliate DJ Khaled. Not one to continuously rattle off the regular station playlist, Khaled consistently reps the home team and comes with more energy than Dwyane Wade at crunch time.
Originally from New Orleans and of Palestinian descent, the 30-year-old, born Khaled Khaled, has made Miami-Dade County his home base for more than a decade. From stints at Mixx 96 and at clubs on the Beach and over the bridge, to his current top-rated drive-time slot, The Takeover, alongside K-Foxx on 99 Jamz, Khaled has helped nurture the M.I. Yayo's growth before it was cool to rock 305 apparel and rep your city when you're out of town. Leaving suspended driver-license problems in Orlando, Khaled broke on the Miami airwaves at Mixx 96 as "The Arab Attack" in the late Nineties. Rewinding records and dropping reggae horn blasts, Khaled spun local and dirty South releases while the major stations were on mostly the same song rotation. Racking up club gigs from Amnesia to Rikers Island, Khaled hooked up with Uncle Luke as the cohost of his memorable late-night show on 99 Jamz, The Uncle Luke Show.
After dropping his debut album, Listennn, through Koch Records on June 6, the ever-confident "The Beat Novocain" is looking to make his presence felt on the national level.
"It is the best album in the world; I take no talk back. Hands down it's a classic. It represents hip-hop, unity, represents Miami and the country," boasts Khaled. Not to swagger-jack "We Are the World," but the Terror Squad member brings together industry heavyweights such as Kanye West, T.I., Fat Joe, and Miami mainstays Trick Daddy, Pitbull, and Rick Ross, backing the album with some of his own production as well as contributions from Cool and Dre, Develop, the Runners, and others. "I A&R'd the whole album and executive-produced it. I wanted to make hit records and wanted to win. It's not all about me; it's about me collaborating with all kinds of artists/producers to make incredible music."
In the same vein as DJ Clue's Backstage and Tony Touch's The Piecemaker, Khaled drafted artists who tailor-made tracks for the DJ album, showing his rap Rolodex is heavy. "I basically worked with all the artists I wanted to on this," Khaled admits. "We couldn't get the Game cleared through his label, but that's it. It took me almost two years to get Jeezy on a record in a good way, and Lil Wayne knocked out his hit verse in two minutes. I know my album is the best album ever made in hip-hop," he adds. Listennn contains some standout tracks, including the dark piano-laced "Problem," featuring Beanie Sigel and Jadakiss, and the violin-tinged "Destroy You," with an autobahnlike speed of Twista and Bone Thugs. Plus "Born n Raised" could be the first homegrown mainstream anthem for South Florida since the days of Uncle Luke.
"Khaled is one of the hardest-working and smartest people I know!" exclaims 99 Jamz compatriot and official Miami Heat selecta, DJ Irie. "He has elevated his career to a whole new level by coining catch phrases and aligning himself with some of the top artists in the world. He has played a major role by helping to break new artists out of Miami and introducing music from across the country that other Miami DJs don't play."
Pausing for a brief phone conversation with Trick Daddy about a new track for his seventh album, and then coordinating some beats for the Runners (a production partnership with DJ Nasty), Khaled gets more traffic than Google. He is also working with Dr. Dre and Keyshia Cole, as well as with Fat Joe and Lil Wayne on an upcoming collabo titled "The Prophet." Yet "Khaled shows a lot of local love," declares Lunch Money, who appears on the last cut of Listennn, "The Future of Dade County," along with Brisco, Dirt E Red, PM, and Co from Piccalo & Hennessey. "He's a real honest guy in as far as if a local dude brings him a record and he believes it could be something, he'll play the record and show love to it. But if it's not hot, he's not going to play it."