Over the last 20 years, DJ Khaled started from the bottom of the map (Florida, specifically) and grinded his way to the top of the rap game to assume his role as a pop culture icon. Since his early days as a radio DJ on WEDR in Miami, Khaled crafted hit after hit to establish himself as a world-renowned DJ, super producer, and now, Grammy-nominated artist. With his tenth album Grateful dropping on June 23, Khaled is set to outdo himself, especially with his singles like “Shining,” Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 “I’m The One” and new Drake collaboration “To The Max” soundtracking the summer.
While it’s easy to list his smash hits within the last three years, real fans of Khaled a.k.a. the Don Dada will always remember the early classics that molded the foundation of his music career dating back to his 2006 debut LP Listennn… The Album. His first single “Holla At Me,” featuring Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Pitbull, Paul Wall, Fat Joe and produced by Cool & Dre, quickly took over the airwaves, and set a new standard for the Miami hip-hop scene.
Khaled’s first three albums were vital to his career. After his introductory album dropped via Terror Squad and Koch Records, Khaled’s second LP, 2007’s We The Best, hosted monumental records like “We Takin’ Over” and “I’m So Hood.” His third album, 2008’s We Global became the first LP to be released through his own imprint We The Best Music Group, and the rest is history.
In honor of the 10th anniversary of Khaled’s We The Best album and his latest Billboard cover story, here are 10 of DJ Khaled’s deep cuts.
1. “Grammy Family” ft. Kanye West, Consequence and John Legend (2006)
When Khaled dropped his debut album Listennn…, the former Terror Squad DJ hit the ground running to bring the most revered artists together for an epic record. Khaled brought G.O.O.D. Music’s Consequence, John Legend, and Kanye West together to form the official “Grammy Family” a little over a year after West won his first Grammy award in 2005. Not only did he throw down bars, but West also collaborated with musician and composer Jon Brion to produce the gritty record.
2. “B-tch I’m from Dade County” ft. Dre, Trick Daddy, Trina, Rick Ross, Brisco, Flo Rida and C-Ride (2007)
Khaled’s dedication to making anthems for Miami has been obvious since day one, but the 10th track off his second album We The Best easily became the 305’s theme song. The former 99 JAMZ DJ was the first to bring all of South Florida’s legends together on one record, which includes Trick Daddy, Trina, Rick Ross, Brisco, Flo Rida, Dre of Cool-N-Dre and Carol City rapper C-Ride.
3. “Where You At” ft. Freeway & The Clipse (2006)
“Where You At” with Freeway and The Clipse has got to be one of the rarest records featured on his debut LP. First of all, Khaled was the only DJ/artist from Miami to link with No Malice and Pusha T before The Clipse split Additionally, Khaled helped bridge the gap between Philadelphia (with Freeway) and Miami before Philly’s own Meek Mill was even a thought in anyone’s mind. Freeway opens the Khaled-produced record with grimy bars over the synthesized organs followed by braggadocio bars from the Clipse brothers.
4. “Hit ‘Em Up” ft. Bun B & Paul Wall (2007)
DJ Khaled remained loyal to Miami on We The Best, but he also veered outside of state lines to cook up records for other cities like Houston. Khaled channeled the Southwest for his banger with UGK rapper Bun B and Houston native Paul Wall. The Runners assisted in piecing together the second collaboration between Khaled and the grill master. The only thing missing to make this record complete was the late Pimp C.
5. “Brown Paper Bag” ft. Dre, Young Jeezy, Juelz Santana, Fat Joe, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne (2007)
After his lead singles like “I’m So Hood” and “We Takin’ Over” dominated the airwaves, Khaled served up another golden slab of lyrical greatness off We The Best with the Yvonne Elliman-sampling “Brown Paper Bag.” The track became a classic anthem for every hustler not just in Miami, but around the nation. Khaled enlisted the bawse Rick Ross, Terror Squad chief Fat Joe, and Young Money CEO Lil Wayne to team up with Young Jeezy and Dipset rapper Juelz Santana to rap about their paper-chasing over Cool & Dre’s distinct instrumental.
6. “F–k the Other Side” ft. Trick Daddy and The Dunk Ryders (2007)
By 2008, Khaled was dead set on becoming a worldwide phenomenon but he refused to leave his Dade County family behind. “F–k The Other Side,” featuring top veteran Trick Daddy and the Dunk Ryders, is the rowdiest record to come from Khaled’s third album We Global. The intro to the song alone, produced by GoldRu$h, is enough to make the hood go crazy. Trick Daddy’s rough hook and the Dunk Ryders’ catchy verses make it a real hood anthem.
7. “I’m On” ft. Nas
For those not familiar with Khaled’s lengthy catalog, the Snapchat king and the Queensbridge legend go way back. They’ve been on a first-name basis since 2008 when they first linked up for “I’m On.” Their underrated cut from Khaled’s We Global album gave Nas another opportunity to sound off with deadly bars on another Cool & Dre instrumental months after they produced his single “Make The World Go Round” featuring The Game and Chris Brown off Untitled. “Show you how to bubble off of large investments,” raps Nasir. “Ya heard me, and this journey, I’m the journalist/Line around the block to hear the words of the herbalist/Send ya girl to the Dominicans to perm her sh*t/Tell her tonight, we gonna see Nas return to his murder sh-t.”
8. “Go Ahead” ft. Fabolous, Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Flo Rida, & Lloyd (2008)
If there’s one thing Khaled is good at, it’s putting together locomotive records that turn crowds all the way up. When he went global on his third studio album, Khaled recruited Rick Ross, Flo Rida, Fabolous and Fat Joe to throw down on The Runners-produced club banger. He also got Lloyd to hold down the hook while everyone traded verses. While the album’s lead singles “Go Hard” and “Out Here Grindin’” hogged the spotlight, “Go Ahead” remained a pre-game anthem.
9. “Blood Money” ft. Rick Ross, Brisco, Ace Hood, & Birdman
“Blood Money” is another unique reminder of a classic era in Miami hip-hop. It was a time when everything Birdman touched turned to gold, and Rick Ross was just beginning to impact the world outside of Dade County. Opa Locka native Brisco’s career was finally gaining momentum under Poe Boy Music Group and Cash Money Records. Meanwhile, then-rookie Ace Hood was the front-runner of Khaled’s freshly established We The Best Music Group. With South Florida rep Isaac Opus behind the boards, Khaled gave both Miami’s established and rising artists an opportunity to shine with the Cash Money Millionaire’s full co-sign.
10. “MIA” ft. Lil Wayne (2006)
Lil Wayne’s beloved contribution to DJ Khaled’s debut album perfectly explains why he calls the 305 his second home. In the DVLP and Filthy-produced “MIA,” Wayne describes his role as a South Beach soldier who rolls up and down Ocean Drive surrounded by Porsches, Rolls Royces and the finest women on Earth. He’s on the beach all day and spends his nights at Club LIV, but he also cruises through cities like Little Haiti, Fort Lauderdale, Liberty City, and Opa Locka. Weezy’s first solo track with Khaled opened the door for the Young Money founder to hop on other major collaborations with Khaled from “Fed Up” all the way up to his latest collaboration “I’m The One.”