DJ Khaled? is chest deep in his free-flowing pool, dripping in kilos of gold. “You mind if I talk to you from the pool?” says the rapper-producer and We the Best Music Group founder. “I swim almost every day when I’m here.” It’s his calm before the imminent release of a new single in May from his upcoming album, I’ve Changed a Lot.
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“It’s going to be this summer’s anthem,” promises Khaled, 39, who has collaborated with more than a dozen artists including Kanye West, Nas?, Drake and Lil Wayne, and has sold 1.2 million albums in the United States, according to Nielsen Music.
While he won’t give away the title of the track, he will say that it’s a project with “three other megastars. Make that superstars. This is big shit. This is Billboard shit. I’m going to own the summer.”
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He already owns this six-bedroom, seven-bathroom, gated Mediterranean-style palazzo, where he resides year-round with longtime girlfriend Nicole Tuck, 39, a former wardrobe stylist. “I always dreamed of living in Miami — on the water,” the New Orleans native says. “This house represents years of hustling, grinding, hard work.”
The almost 7,000-square-foot manse, located in a south Florida suburb, is a far cry from his early digs, when he started spinning records in South Beach nightclubs. He often made only $100 a week and some nights had to sleep in his black Honda Civic.
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“But I’m a winner,” he says, grinning with religious fervor. “I love winning so much. This year, I’m going to make my record label, We the Best, into a brand. A logo. A lifestyle.” Fresh off a headphone collaboration with Bang & Olufsen, Khaled will launch his own We the Best T-shirt line in 2015. He says his dream is to make We the Best, which he founded in 2006, the equivalent of Nike’s Just Do It. “I want to appeal to everyone,” he says. “Because I’m not saying I’m the best, but we the best. You know what I’m saying?”
Khaled, photographed April 13 in Miami, turned a guest room into a shoe shrine for some of his “10,000 sneakers.” He buys up to three of the exact same pair and says his favorites are Nike Air Jordans. “Fresh sneakers are important on a man. It’s like a new pair of boxers or a new pair of socks.“
Khaled is proud of his Palestinian roots. “I love stuff from the Holy Land. It makes me feel blessed,” he says of the prayer rug that contains “100 names of Allah.”
“It’s all real gold, real diamonds,” says Khaled of his go-to pieces, crafted by Pristine Jewelers in New York.
“I relax here. I pray, I meditate,” he says of the pool that overlooks Miami’s Intracoastal Waterway.
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“If I’m in the ‘hood I like Chef Creole‘s Haitian rice and stewed chicken,” says Khaled. “For a date night with my girlfriend, we go to Zuma for Japanese.”
“Drive past the madness of South Beach and head north to Golden Beach,” says Khaled of the area where musicians including Ricky Martin reside. His other favorite spot? Sunny Isles, also known as the Florida Riviera.
“LIV and STORY, especially if I’m DJing that night,” says Khaled of the spots where such celebs as Miley Cyrus, Diddy and Pharrell Williams have partied.
This story originally appeared in the May 2 issue of Billboard.