DJ Khaled is a very pure man with a very pure heart who exudes positive energy like the sun. I am not. I am not like this. In many ways I am the anti-Khaled: ornery, negative, bleak. I revel in schadenfreude while Khaled celebrates the wins of his friends. Khaled is a pure laser beam of self-confidence stuffed into the body of a soft-faced teddybear; I am doughy and full of doubt. Khaled is open about his struggles with anxiety; I put my metaphorical head in the metaphorical sand and refuse to acknowledge mine. So you could say – and this is a bold statement, I know – you could say that I am not DJ Khaled. This is because I am not DJ Khaled.
But how could I – a man who is not DJ Khaled, remember – how could I become more like DJ Khaled? How? How, how, how? How? How, though?
Believe in this for it is real. We howled to the heavens and asked for guidance, and they delivered it to us. DJ Khaled has written a book.
I have read this book. I did this in a single afternoon because I want to be a better man. I put DJ Khaled's advice in my head like water and let it trickle through me like a mountain. Walk with me now on the journey, through the journey of more success.
The first thing we have to talk about is the opening line of this book, because this is the best opening line of any book ever written. How many times have you sat down and tried to write a book? I'll be honest with you, I'll say it: three. I've tried three times. And every time I open a blank Word document and I go to write the first line and:
You know, there is a lot of pressure on a first line. This goes for articles, too. I spend entire mornings in the office on opening lines. Editors walk slowly behind my desk. "Joel," they say. "We're worried you don't ever do anything." Shh, I say. Hush. I click through Twitter a few more times. Tap out a first draft. No. Back again. Try over. And then DJ Khaled comes and fucking blows the world apart by opening his book with "WALK WITH ME NOW ON THE PATHWAY TO MORE SUCCESS," the most perfect sentence ever written – opening or not – and now, truly, is there ever any point ever trying? Will I – a writer – ever write a better opening line than DJ Khaled – a DJ – just did? No I will not. So everything I write from now on will, necessarily, be trash. So the pressure is off.
Don't you see? The most I can ever shoot for now is second best.
Don't you see how DJ Khaled permeates everything, changes everything? Don't you see now that this man is a gift?
We are on page one and I can tell you it is going to get a hell of a lot more real from now on.
The Keys is, ostensibly, a self-help book, a life guide. Through it are woven elements of Khaled's biography, sure – little vignettes where "having self belief" is the moral of every story, times in Khaled's life when he has struggled then turned it around by really, really believing in himself, and also DJing – but it is primarily to help you, and me, and Young World (young people). DJ Khaled calls young people "Young World" because he is a visionary and the English language turns to putty in his hands, and also because he talks in a series of cod catchphrases, which, when stitched together in the latter stages of The Keys, is actually quite head spinning.
I mean let's look at my notes, here:
Young world = young people
Secure the bag = get money
Wire = still not 100 percent sure what the wire is but it is integral to bag security
Snapchat = an opportunity
Hustle = work
Rick Ross = icon
Special cloth = being a unique person
Bless up = both a salutation and an actual blessing to God
Overstand = understand, but more
Fan Luv = positivity from his fans
Angels = his flowers
Play yourself = the act of self-sabotage
Another one = another one
Earlier in the book, in an incredibly offhand way, he said he wants people to call him "Billi" now, because he is going to be a billionaire. I love him with my whole, whole heart.
And then there is "they". Khaled talks about "they" a lot, although the concept of "they" is harder to define. Surface level, "they" is haters. But it's deeper than that: "they" might not even know they are "they". Friends could turn into "they" in front of your very eyes. "They", essentially, is a feeling of negativity that permeates from one person to another and clouds their success. If someone is stopping you from being successful, or hating you for your success, then they are "they".
I am closely analysing my life here. Who is the "they" in my life? Apart from the comments section on our Facebook posts? Truly, I don't have any "they". My close circle is strong and good. My girlfriend is great and very supportive. My family don't get in my way. Who hates me enough to want to see me fail? Who, truly, is holding me back from being a success?
Hold up: I am.
I am my own "they".
I played myself.
You go through waves, reading The Keys. As it starts you are like: heh. Oh, DJ Khaled. What are you like, with your funny little words and sayings! And then you move through, chapter after chapter of telling you to ignore haters and be good with finance, and you go: Hmm. I mean there is a lot of good advice here. Very basic, straightforward advice. But good advice. Around the page 150 mark you start to convince yourself that DJ Khaled is Jesus. And then, by the end, the fourth phase, you start to think that DJ Khaled's relentless positivity and self-belief is actually Quite a Lot to Deal With, and it all gets a bit much, and you have to stay 20 minutes after work just to stare at a wall for a second and regain equilibrium.
I cannot quite decide if DJ Khaled is God or not, but I know he is important.
There are a lot of lessons in The Keys. Important ones, central to the Khaledian philosophy, the one that followers centuries from now will study and pore over (temples, banging out "All I Do Is Win" 20 hours a day, will welcome Khaled devotees, in shiny bomber jackets and with tite fades, where they will sit cross-legged in front of a placid garden of flowers and extend a single pinky finger to the sky, the finger clad always in jewels, the hand soft and manicured and the colour of tea, and they will whisper like an incantation, over and over again, until they find enlightenment there: another one. Another one, another one, another one).
These lessons are: "I REMEMBER" (remember things); STAY AWAY FROM "THEY" (self explanatory); BE YOURSELF (s/e); DON'T EVER PLAY YOURSELF (don't mess up your own success with short term-ism, greed and foolishness [this chapter is tacked to a long story where DJ Khaled got a driving fine]); SECURE THE BAG (be wise with money, but also always be wanting money. Also: money isn't everything. It's a confusing chapter. Money is a real double-edger, here.); DON'T COMPLAIN (don't ever complain); RESPECT THE CODE; WEATHER THE STORM; STAY HUMBLE.
But then we start to run on the fumes of Khaled's lessons – the significance of his teachings weakens a little as the book wears on. We are told to KEEP TWO ROOMS COOKING AT THE SAME TIME (you think this means "work on two things at once", don't you? But it doesn't. It's something about... energy. I don't know. There's a story about him producing an album and he had people in two rooms. I didn't really get it.); TEMPTATION IS A TYPE OF "THEY" (the more Khaled raves about "they", the more "that man who wears six coats and yells outside of Greggs" he sounds); SNAPCHAT (Snapchat is a key); MAJOR KEY FOR REAL – DON'T DRIVE YOUR JETSKI IN THE DARK. There is a chapter about pillows and the importance of pillows.
There are sub-lessons scattered through like raisins in a cake, though: BE HUMBLE (but also be convinced that you are the best, and frequently say "You Are The Best" to will it into being true, Noel-Edmonds-and-the-universe style); GOOD ENERGY ATTRACTS GOOD ENERGY; KEEP YOUR FACE CLEAN (think this is partly literal – there is a lot about grooming in there, because we are talking about a man who gets two haircuts a week minimum – but also it's about staying sober, alert, clear-headed, pure hearted: keep your house in order, keep your face clean); STAY PERSISTENT; LOVE and GOOD ENERGY are important pillars of the Khaled tent, a concept that can otherwise be described as VIBES; PATIENCE IS A TALENT; HAVE A LONG MEMORY.
They are good, clean lessons couched in the language of self-help, and, honestly, as a one-hit motivational punch, it's kind of brilliant. It's just 208 pages of DJ Khaled saying "to be more successful, just be really, really DJ Khaled-y about it". Like, there's a section where he says owning a house is great but mortgages are bad – which I think is him advocating the buying of Miami oceanside mansions in cash only, which is the most DJ Khaled thing ever – interwoven with stories about how he slept in his car when he was hustling his way up, because he had to.
By now I am fully converted to the church of Khaled. Powerful people hop on the mic to speak glowingly about him: Jay-Z, who Khaled reveres like a saint, gives a guest key ("HONESTY"); Fat Joe drops by to say how he knew the first day he met him that Khaled was special (special cloth). Rick Ross, who DJ Khaled sometimes jet-skis to the house of to have lunch with, and good god I would pay every penny I have to my name to attend such an event, gets in to say Khaled has been his knucklehead since the day.
Everything I read about Khaled makes me like him more. I am convinced he is the best friend in the world. The Khaled we often see is a stitch-fit of memes, one gigantic blaring image of Khaled, Khaled in all white saying "congratulations, you played yourself" into a sneaker – but his positivity is more than a façade: it's a way of life that's got him here, that gets him collaborations, then leads to banger after banger. The major key that Khaled doesn't touch on is: goodness follows after goodness. Be good and good shit will come to you, bless up.
The 1980s were an insane time where it was impossible to make a bad song, and no more is that evident than in the 1984 Mr T bang-a-rang "Treat Your Mother Right". Here is the video: see T, stiff-legged and pulling a microphone from what I can only assume is his actual full ass, gruffly muttering: "M is for the moan and the miserable groan from the pain that she felt when I was born" over an absolutely ten-on-ten synth track. I mean, my dude: why in the fuck would you open a pro-Mother banger with a line about your mam tearing herself to shreds birthing you?
But we're getting off-topic. The point is, Mr. T – along with Hulk Hogan, who did an entire album about exercise – was part of a wave of weird 80s wholesomeness that I think we are circling back round to as the world gets meaner and meaner. Look at YouTube, where the young world's icons are curious, edgeless, nü-Blue Peter presenters, cheerful sexless creatures who document their every car journey and baking day. Look at Taylor Swift. Look at all the stats saying kids are drinking less and doing fewer drugs. The next generation coming up is shying away from this awful world by retreating into a sort of cultural hygge. And blaring out at the front of the pack, honking the horn of his GT and yelling "ANOTHER ONE" into the blazing Florida sun, their King, their Lord, their wholesome, positive, sunbeam of a God: DJ Khaled.
It's 6.50PM and I've completed The Key. I feel energised, born anew. I feel positive. There's an awards ceremony I am going to and I am convinced I am going to win. Why turn up to an awards ceremony unless you are going to win? This is the Tao of Khaled. I sing "All I do is win, win, win / no matter what" under my breath. I turn down free beer and wine. "I drink to celebrate, now," I say, gravely. Keep your face clean. Keep your heart clean. Clear eyes, full hearts can't lose. I am with my friends. I will let them share in my success. They will walk with me now on the pathway to more success. Success will lead to bag security. Maybe I— maybe, after I win this, I will actually write that book. Khaled can write a book. Why can't I write a book? I'm too preoccupied with first lines. There is a Khaled quote running through my head: "Those who have a hundred percent chance of losing are the people who never try." He's right. How can I win if I don't even play?
It starts now. It starts with this success. Success leads to more success. A win is followed by a win. I am DJ Khaled now, his spirit imbues me. I am strong and I am humble. I am powerful and positive. I am looking up, not down. Forward, not back. "They" don't want me to win, so I'm going to win. And then I'm going to win again. And again. And buy a house in Miami, next to DJ Khaled and Rick Ross. And have lunch with them every day. I can see it: me, in a tropical shirt, not even close to buttons, billowing in the wind as I lean Jesus-arms out the top of a Maybach. Will it into existence and so it shall be. I am ready for my new life as a suc—
We lose. Fuck DJ Khaled and fuck this rotten industry.
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