5 Things We Learned From DJ Khaled's 'CRWN' Interview With Elliott Wilson
On Tuesday (May 21), excited DJ Khaled fans from all over NYC gathered at the legendary Apollo Theater, forming a line that stretched all the way around several Harlem blocks. The TIDAL-hosted event treated fans to a complimentary screening of the Father of Asahd: The Album Experience documentary (exclusively available on TIDAL) along with a live CRWN conversation afterwards featuring DJ Khaled. CRWN is a live interview series hosted by veteran hip-hop journalist Elliott Wilson.
The documentary gives viewers an inside look on the two-year process behind the creation of Khaled’s eleventh studio album, Father of Asahd, which boasts an incredibly star-studded tracklist that includes names like Jay-Z, Beyonce, Nipsey Hussle, Lil Wayne, J Balvin, John Legend and many more. Mainly, the film showcases the hard work and attention to detail that goes behind each and every track, shining light on Khaled’s firm position in the driver’s seat for every calculated decision made as he works to bring out the very best qualities in each artist he works with.
The sentences “This is the message I want this song to give to the world” and “I can see it already” are repeated by Khaled numerous times throughout the documentary, accurately summarizing the ambitious attitude Khaled brings to the table with each new effort. He comes into each session fully prepared, knowing exactly what he wants, how he will get it, and who he will ask. “The whole process was about saying I’ma do something, then keeping the word to myself,” he told the CRWN crowd. “A lot of people talk, but not all of them are walking that talk.”
The CRWN interview showcased rare, heartfelt stories told from Khaled’s perspective, such as the precious moments after Asahd was born, to hilarious reenactments that had the crowd erupting in laughter, including his reaction to hearing Beyonce’s feature for the first time while having to keep it cool.
Here are five things we learned from DJ Khaled’s CRWN interview, which is available in full on TIDAL now.
DJ Khaled bought the super rare “top off” Maybach solely to match the lyrics on his collab track with Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Future
In order to keep up with the elite hooks featured on his album, DJ Khaled had to walk the walk and make some purchases that showed his music translates into his real lifestyle. “So, the record is called ‘Top Off.’ This is real life. I can’t have a record called ‘Top Off,’ and not get in the Maybach with the top off,” says DJ Khaled says about his collaboration with Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Future. Khaled knew he had to get the lavish car to match up to the monster hit of a record he has coming.
“They only make like three in the U.S. and they cost like a million and five. I started breaking out in a sweat. I told Jigga I gotta go buy the car,” Khaled says as the room laughs along with him. However, DJ Khaled kept his word. “The next day, I pulled up on Jigga with the top off.”
Nipsey Hussle’s “Higher” feature is inspired by a real poolside conversation they had about family and entrepreneurship
When Elliott brings up how the collaboration between DJ Khaled, John Legend, and the late, revered rapper, Nipsey Hussle came about, Khaled delves into one specific afternoon the two had a poolside lunch. “We weren’t even talking about music. We talked about our families. Because I’m Arabic, I asked him, ‘I feel like you got Arabic mixed in you.’ He told me where he was from and what his name meant and I told him what my name meant. We started talking about our kids’ names and properties and entrepreneurship. While we were walking to the studio I said, ‘’Man, that talk we had was so beautiful. I learned so much about you. One day you should put that in a song.’” Nipsey wrote his verse then and there in the studio.
Khaled also revealed this track was the one Nipsey used to break in a very special space, as his recording session for his second verse on “Higher” served as the inaugural bars recorded in Nipsey’s newly built studio. “He told me ‘I did my second verse in my new studio. This is the first verse I ever did in this studio.’ That’s a blessing.”
While his son, Asahd, was about to be born, he called Buju Banton to help him figure out life
As DJ Khaled got the news his wife as going into labor, as expected, a million thoughts raced through his head. In the midst of all the chaos, DJ Khaled chose one person to turn to for life advice and reassurance, longtime friend Buju Banton. “I knew my life was going to change. I’m in the sprinter van and I’m trying to figure out life in five minutes. I called Buju Banton. I said, ‘My queen is about to have my biggest blessing. I need to talk to you.’ We prayed on the phone. He hit me with a talk. I had tears in my eyes.” These were the last few moments before Khaled arrived at the hospital where Asahd would soon be welcomed into the world.
Throughout the documentary, DJ Khaled highlights his close relationship he has with legendary reggae artist, Buju Banton, and also shows the process behind their collaborations. Banton is featured on both the album’s intro and outro tracks, titled “Holy Mountain” and “Holy Ground,” respectively.
We built a relationship, and we wound up being brothers for real,” Khaled says on his friendship with Banton that started decades ago. “He’s guided me through storms. He took me on tour with him. When he comes to Miami, he stays at my crib. When I go there I stay at his crib. His family is my family and my family is his family.”
Big Sean Credits DJ Khaled as the one who helped him get one of his first career-shifting hits
Towards the tail end of Father of Asahd, Khaled held off on the hooks and bridges to let Big Sean “black out on the track,“ spitting a nearly three-minute long verse on “Thank You.” The song is named after the sample it contains by Mary J. Blige, “Thank You Lord (Interlude),” and features Sean rapping about the people and experiences he’s thankful for during his journey as a man and a rapper. One of the people he made sure to thank was DJ Khaled himself, who helped out with an especially crucial moment during Sean’s humble career beginnings. “Look, I gotta thank Khaled, who back in 2010 convinced Ye, Sean should drop my last shit. It's a smash hit, add Chris to it and it's a classic,” raps Big Sean.
The track Sean is referring to is “My Last” featuring Chris Brown, the lead single off his 2011 debut album Finally Famous. “I told Sean I wanted him to thank everybody that you want to thank, as much as you can fit in,” Khaled said about the direction for the record. “He really touched me because he remembered. I remember [in 2010] Sean was sitting in the studio and he was looking kind of mad. Me and Kanye were in there and I could tell something was on Sean’s mind and I found out they were talking about his single. I worked at Def Jam at that time and I told Kanye, ‘Man, the record with Chris Brown, that’s going to be the biggest record. That shit is crazy!’ I kept telling him that’s the hit. I think at the time, they wanted [Sean] to go another direction. There’s a lot of stuff I do behind the scenes that people don’t know about.”
DJ Khaled considers himself an honorary Jamaican
DJ Khaled never shies away from an opportunity to proudly represent his Arabic roots, but his undeniable appreciation for Jamaica has also been well documented through his countless dancehall and reggae snapchats, close relationships with Jamaican artists, and records he samples and pays homage to on his hits. “I’m Arabic, I was born in America, and I’m Palestinian. But I’m also Jamaican, but I’m not really born Jamaican,” says Khaled as the Jamaican people in the crowd chant, laugh, and cheer in encouragement. “There’s no way in the world you can tell me I’m not Jamaican. My people in Jamaica really know that.”
He then goes on to talk about how he used to fly back and forth between Jamaica and America while his DJ career was picking up steam back in the day. “Kingston, I really come from that. When I was 13 years old, I was going to Kingston. When I was 16-17, I got real big in Miami, but I also got really big in Kingston. I would be in Miami doing my radio show on Friday, then fly back to Jamaica. I was sound clashing every sound.