DJ Khaled: King of Collaboration

Jasseim Obie

DJ Khaled just released his 10th studio album, Grateful. Looking back on his nearly twenty years in the music industry, one might say he has changed the collaboration game completely.


“They kick you when you’re down, but they wanna kick it when you’re up.” – DJ Khaled

Before we talk about DJ Khaled’s impact on the music industry, let’s start with a little history lesson.

Since the birth of rap music, collaboration has been a major, yet complicated aspect of music creation. Going back to the 80s and 90s, rappers from opposite parts of the country almost never collaborated on music. Beefs between east coast and west coast rappers mostly prevented it. Rappers like Tupac, Too $hort, Warren G., Snoop Dogg, and Dr. Dre could collaborate on songs because they were close friends and were all based on the west coast. Similarly, artists like Biggie, Mase, and members of the Wu Tang Clan occasionally worked together because they represented New York.

The east coast/west coast beef was all about competition and which coast’s musical style was better. Diss tracks became popular. But because of the ego that most rappers have, it escalated to real life violence. Snoop Dogg stated in an interview (video below) that Tupac once confronted Nas because of a personal beef between the two, and it could have ended in the death of Tupac that day. However, Snoop claims, Nas decided to be the bigger man and told his goons to let Pac and Snoop live.

There was a lot more drama in the hip-hop world in those days. But today’s hip-hop artists are different. There are more collaborations between artists from different parts of America and even throughout the world.

“Don’t ever play yourself.” – DJ Khaled

In the 2000s, the “posse cut” (a song featuring several rappers who are on top of the game at the moment) became prominent in hip-hop. These are tracks that shoot to the top of streaming and Billboard charts and earn collaborators check after check as they find placement in movies and commercials.

DJ Khaled has made an entire career from those songs. His first hit “We Takin Over,” featuring Akon, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, and Lil Wayne, was released in 2007 on his second album We the Best. The single went gold and won two Ozone Awards. All of the artists featured on that track come from different parts of the U.S.–something that wouldn’t have happened in the 90s. The album debuted at number 8 on the US Billboard 200, and has sold approximately 440,000 copies.

But Khaled hasn’t stopped there.

“They’ll try to close the door on you… Just open it.” – DJ Khaled

From 2008 – 2017, he has released 8 albums and received Grammy nominations for the  2011 song “I’m On One” and for his 2016 album, Major Key. He also gave us “All I Do is Win,” one of the biggest sports anthems in music history. The single has been certified 3x Platinum, was used at the 2013 White House Correspondents’ Dinner to introduce President Barack Obama, and has been featured in everything from Coke commercials to Pitch Perfect 2.

On all of his albums, Khaled has collaborated with just about any hip-hop artist you can think of–even some you’d never think of.

“I’m all about peace. I’m all about unity. I’m all about love.” – DJ Khaled

On an interview (below) with the Breakfast Club, he mentions that for some artists he planned to collaborate with he would actually fly to where they lived and talk with them about plans to collaborate. Most people in the music industry would simply make a phone call or send a direct message via Twitter, but Khaled always goes the extra mile. In the interview, he also talks about how important it is to spread love and positivity throughout the world, because as human beings that is what we were brought here to do.

Khaled is a perfect example of the law of attraction, or the “the ability to attract into our lives whatever we are focusing on.”

In 2015, Khaled became an internet sensation due to constant Snapchat posts where he would give the world his “keys to success.” It turned out to be great marketing for his album Major Key, which featured tracks like “I Got the Keys” with Jay Z and Future, “For Free” featuring Drake, “Jermaine’s Interlude” with J Cole, and many more. That album eventually went gold and was nominated for the Grammy award for Best Rap Album.

Khaled did more than most artists to promote himself on Snapchat. His “Keys to Success” quickly became snapshot gold.

Yes, there have definitely been “posse cuts” before DJ Khaled was a big name in hip-hop, but Khaled is the one who took it to a whole new level.

After the release of “We Takin Over” in 2007, other rappers attempted to make their own posse cuts and tried to make even better ones. It’s produced tracks like “Swagga Like Us” by T.I., “Forever” by Drake, “1train” by A$AP Rocky, and “Monster” by Kanye West. And while those are all amazing tracks, DJ Khaled was able to make albums full of songs like that and stay relevant because of it. Khaled has turned collaborating with different artists from different cities and genres into a million-dollar investment. And for that, it is safe to say that DJ Khaled should be crowned the King of Collaboration.

Editor’s Note: For more on collaborating and to start your own, watch our videos in the Collaboration course and stay tuned to Bandbasher.
Cover/Header Image via Instagram / DJ Khaled