On a chilly Spring day in April, the heavyset DJ steps off the elevator at KOCH Records’ Manhattan office, chatting a mile a minute on his Blackberry. It’s only 11 AM, but Mr. Miami is energetic and colorful. His mammoth Terror Squad medallion swings around his chest as he strolls around the office making sure his itinerary for the day is set. There’s good reasons for why Khaled is considered one of hip-hop’s hardest working entrepreneurs: multitasking as a producer, DJ on South Florida’s WEDR 99 Jamz and manager for the production duo, The Runners. Last year, the Big Dog Pitbull released his debut LP, Listennn…The Album, which sold over 200,000 and opened No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Independent Album chart. Now, almost a year later, the Beat Novocain will release his follow up, We The Best, on June 12. The LP features a star studded lineup of guests, including Lil’ Wayne, Birdman, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe and Akon on the new hit single, “We Takin’ Over.” Khaled talks to XXLMag.com about his sophomore effort, industry politics and Remy Ma’s departure from Terror Squad.
This is a quick turn around between albums. Did you want to capitalize off the momentum of the last one?
Yeah. I’m a fan of music. I think artists should drop as much music as possible. You have to stay in people’s faces and continue to make hit records [in order] to stay in this game. If you don’t work, you ain’t gonna win. I just want to show people this is what I do. We the best! The first album was big. I love it. It’s a classic. But the songs [on We the Best] are bigger. I got concepts. I just don’t got people rapping. I got hit chorus, hit ideas, hit concepts. Every record I went in thinkin’ it’s gonna be a single.
The KOCH budget can’t be big enough for all these artists. How are you putting this album together? Are people doing favors for you?
Real recognizes real. A lot of these artists respect my passion and the ideas I got. At the end of the day, everybody is gonna eat. The business is structured so if I win, they eat. If they win, I eat. Being relevant helps you eat. Then you got your publishing game. If the record sells or charts, you’re good. So some people do it on the love while others do it on the business. Either way, doesn’t matter to me because we’re gonna win together. People just fuck with me. We have relationships.
As a DJ releasing an album, what’s been the biggest challenge for you?
Breaking through. The hip-hop industry is a circle. They don’t want to let you in. I feel like I’ve broken into that circle by putting this album together. I’ve kicked the door down. I’m changing the game. I just shot a video for “We Takin’ Over” and it’s gonna be one of the most classic videos since [Biggie’s] “Hypnotize.” People are gonna be like, “Damn, it looks like a million dollar video.” Then you got KOCH, who is the underdog, but they got like four hits in a row. They gotta get respect now. I think they are the only ones putting out hits right now. They got DJ Unk, Jim Jones and Khaled — that’s a great lineup. All of these labels are just putting these artists out and making them fail. I’m here controlling my own career. If I don’t like something, we’re not doing it.
As a DJ on Miami’s 99 Jamz, have artists approached you like, “I’ll be on your album if you play my song on the radio?”
Not really, ‘cause real recognize real. Of course, you want to show people love, but my job as a DJ — and I hope DJs think like this — is to play great music. If it’s great, I’m gonna play it. But if I don’t think it’s great and other people think it is, then I’m gonna play it. I’m right 95 percent [of the time], but I can be wrong. I’m gonna support as much as I can. Everybody has their politics, but I’m gonna do what I can do to support and break every artist. The difference with me is, when I play the record, people respect it. My co-sign is big. I earned that throughout the years.
Is it tough to see Fat Joe make hits but not sell records?
You gotta give Joe his credit for being in the game so long and staying relevant. “Make It Rain” was a top five hit record. Every album he drops he has a huge hit. He can sell one record or three million—he’s got one of the hottest records for the year every time he drops an album. Joe’s just as hit maker. He’s so relevant. You see him on TV, in magazines, [he’s got] endorsement deals. He’s about to do movies and TV shows. He’s definitely somebody I look up to. You can’t take away his props because of sales. If we’re comparing spins on a record, Joe is top five. I can name a bunch of big artists that don’t have a hit record like Joe. They sell records, but they don’t have a bigger hit. Look at Billboard magazine, you’ll see Joe ever year when he drops an album, he owns that. So maybe these record companies aren’t finding the niche to market him in a certain way. But I don’t even think it’s that. I think it’s the way records are sold now. If he’s selling 300,000 or 400,000 now, that means he would have sold four million [back in the day].
How do you feel about Remy Ma leaving Terror Squad?
Remy Ma wanted to leave Terror Squad and Joe’s the type of person that if you don’t want to be down, nobody is gonna hold you back. God bless you. But to this day, I really don’t understand why she wanted to leave Terror Squad. I thought she was in great hands. Terror Squad is a family and we support Remy Martin. She did well with Terror Squad. Maybe she’s unhappy with her last album, but you can’t blame that on Terror Squad. I felt like she’s been cosigned from Big Pun to Fat Joe and other people courtesy of Fat Joe. In this music business, you have to respect the fact you wouldn’t know a Remy Martin if you didn’t know a Big Pun or Fat Joe. I’m not saying you might not know [her] later, but at that time, you know [her] through Big Pun and Fat Joe. Big Pun found her and brought her to the crew. Joe helped the situation. You have to always respect the fact that if somebody doesn’t want to be apart of that, you gotta let them go. She asked to leave and we wish her so much luck. She’s very talented. There’s no beef or anything like that.