DJ Khaled on ‘Growing Up’ in Miami, His Early Struggles and the Song That Changed His Life

By: Denise Warner

From his early years in Miami to becoming one of the biggest producers in music, DJ Khaled has quite the story to tell.

Khaled, who just released his 12th studio album Khaled, Khaled, sat with Billboard for “Growing Up,” where he details his childhood memories with his parents in Florida, his time working in New Orleans at a record store, and the music that made him successful.

“Miami raised me. My mom and dad came to America with maybe less than $20 in their pockets. My dad was a hustler, you know what I’m saying? My mom was a hustler, too,” Khaled says. “What’s so beautiful about it was that they came from nothing, and from there they got a store in a shopping center. So I would sleep at the store, I would wake up at the store and I would just see them work seven days a week.”

But it was his family’s struggles that made him strive for success. “My parents went through a situation where … everything they worked hard for got taken away. My parents had to start over. For me to see at that early age taught me to become who I am today, and that’s why I’m so focused and dialed in.”

So where did his passion for music begin? “I remember when I first fell in love with deejaying. I’ll never forget one of my first concerts, I think it was Run DMC, LL Cool J and Beastie Boys. I was so deep into my music at an early age, around 12, but really started messing with the turntables and beat machines around 13 and 14. I was all in.”

At age 17, he was kicked out of his apartment because he was playing music too loud and he couldn’t pay the rent. He went to live with his parents in New Orleans and started working at a record store, where he would just end up deejaying all day.

“People used to come into the store just to watch me deejay.”

That store is where he met Lil Wayne, who later appeared on Khaled’s first single, “Holla at Me Baby.”

Khaled also reminisces about “We Takin’ Over,” the single from his second album, We the Best, that he says changed his life.

“That record was ahead of its time. And it was the biggest artists at that time,” he says of the song, which features Akon, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Baby and Lil Wayne.

Now that he has a family of his own — Khaled shares 4-year-old Asahd and 1-year-old Alam with wife Nicole Tuck — the hip-hop producer says he’s hungrier than ever. “It’s not about me no more, it’s not about Khaled. It’s about my kids and my queen.”

On his 11th studio album, Father of Asahd, Khaled explains that it meant so much to him — both working with the late Nipsey Hussle and with his oldest, who executive produced the album.

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