"This, I’ve only seen in movies,” says DJ Khaled, delighted as he rolls to a stop, top down, in the middle of Ninth Avenue in New York. He’s pointing at an open hydrant, outfitted with a spray cap, arcing a heavy stream across the street on this hot day.
Khaled is not saying this just to his carmate, but also to his phone. He made sure he could stay connected to his nearly 15 million followers on social media when he first got in a few blocks back. “Where’s the USB port?” he asked as he took a seat in the brand new $537,000 Rolls-Royce convertible he’s taking for a test drive (to be clear, he only goes online when he’s stopped). It’s all part of his devotion to his audience, which today includes a middle-aged dad on the sidewalk who drops his daughter’s hand, points and mouths “DJ Khaled.”
“I love my fans,” says Khaled, 40, his hands gripping the classically thin steering wheel of the Phantom Drophead Coupe, the British brand’s range-topping super cruiser. “They inspire me; we make a community. That’s why my new album, Major Key, was No. 1 in the country,” he says of the July release, his first to top the Billboard 200.
It likely helps that he’s seemingly up for anything, a fact made clear by his viral Snapchat videos and further evident as he plows the half-million-dollar convertible through the hydrant’s torrent, dousing the hand-rubbed Diamond Black paint, flawless seat leathers and 21-inch lacquered wheels.
“I don’t get embarrassed,” says Khaled, offering one of the secrets to success for which he is Internet-famous. “I’m just being myself. The key is to be yourself. I’m just being Khaled.”
Part of being Khaled means striving for the best, and uplifting others to do the same. A car like this, driven by a Wall Street banker, might inspire resentment. With Khaled behind the wheel, it brings joy. Fans hand him their phones for joint selfies, their babies for photo ops. As he drives by, traffic cops smile.
Khaled is used to driving conspicuously. He owns two Rolls-Royces, a Ghost sedan and a Wraith coupe, which he keeps at home in Miami. “You work hard to get a mansion because that’s where you live,” he says. “A Rolls is like having a mansion on wheels.” The brand signifies indissoluble stolidity. “It’s timeless, iconic,” he says. “Even if you drive it a lot, it stays brand new.”
A secondhand car — a Honda — is how Khaled learned to drive in New Orleans, where he grew up. When he started making money as a DJ, he bought a BMW M3. “It was fast, sporty, but still classy,” he says. Bentleys and Maybachs followed as he achieved success as an artist and producer.
His garage also includes a Range Rover for his fiancee, who is pregnant with a boy, due this fall. He laughs at the thought of adding a minivan. “We’re going to be in a Rolls-Royce,” he says. “My son’s going to be in a Rolls-Royce when he’s born. He’s going to have everything he wants.”
The fall also will welcome the arrival of two new videos, one with him and Nas called “Nas Album Done,” and one for his new Billboard Hot 100 single, “Do You Mind,” featuring Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, August Alsina, Future, Rick Ross and Jeremih. Both videos will have the feel of “a short film,” says Khaled.
With the coming presidential election, he also will continue showing support for “his” candidate Hillary Clinton, whom he publicly has endorsed. “Obama is my president, and I wish he could stay there forever,” he says. “But I feel like Obama is telling us we should rock with Hillary.”
Suddenly, Khaled is thronged by a troupe of elated teens on bicycles as he pulls up to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. They almost seem as if they’ve been following his bread-crumb social media trail. “Khaled! DJ Khaled!” they cheer, popping wheelies. They ask him to join on their Snapchats, to give shout-outs to friends. In striving to stay connected to his community Khaled must get tired. “I do,” he says, his dark eyes widening. “I wish I had one of those selfie sticks for Snapchat — you could push it and Snap at the same time.” Perhaps Rolls-Royce could customize one for the family wagon.
DJ Khaled’s Drop-Top Playlist
The first thing the DJ does when he gets into a car? Sync up his phone. “Other people have different joys — they might go play golf,” he says. “Not me. I [love] driving a Drophead with blue skies and this vibe.”
“Hate Me Now” -- Nas
“Victory” -- Puff Daddy
The Black Album -- Jay Z
“Maybach Music” -- Rick Ross