Why DJ Khaled Hates Young Rappers

DJ Khaled was on Power 105's morning show yesterday promoting his new single “How Many Times,” featuring Chris Brown, Big Sean and Lil Wayne.

My first reaction to this was: “Gee, Khaled really just works with the same people over and over again. Hasn’t he released the same song 15 times now?

Turns out, there’s a reason why the walking “we the best!”-shouting DJ’s laundry list of new-ish collaborators is so small — younger artists just don’t give a fuck about doing a song with DJ Khaled.

Asked by Angela Yee how difficult it was to corral talent for a song, he said:

The newer generation is harder than the big boys. They respect, of course. But you’d be surprised, the process to get it done.

Khaled says that in his era, nominally the nineties and early-2000's, rappers understood that being in the business came with certain set of responsibilities. They did things for the pioneers and elders maybe not because they wanted to, but because it was what they were supposed to do.

I come from the real era, where it got created from. I listen to Nas, Biggie, Jay-Z, Tupac and Rick Ross. Everyone else comes second. I come from the code — respect the code. [This] generation hasn’t been raised with a respect of the code.

Why don’t new artists know how to act? The internet, of course. Armed with a turn-key solution for recording, promotion and distribution, they don’t really have to work the same way older artists did. So, they don’t learn the proper social graces of the oldschool record business.

Some of the [newer artists] haven’t been educated right. Because of the way the game is now — it’s changed. These new artists don’t even want record deals no more. Back in the days, you wanted to be on Def Jam or Bad Boy. They’re raised with this new thing — everything is at the table for them. Even with money, it’s just there now.

Khaled isn’t mad, per se. It’s just the reality of the business now. When records blow up via viral Vine clips, Instagram videos, tweets and Snapchat snaps, what is the incentive for collaborating with one little ol’ DJ down in South Florida? Or any DJ for that matter?

I come from the era where there was no Instagram. I had to go to each club or each radio station and sit out front, get my record on a mixtape or press up [CDs]. I come from a grind. Not saying they’re not grinding, but it’s a lot more comfortable and accessible for them right now.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it is a thing. And while no new artist would suggest that the era of knocking on record label doors was more fun than the way it is now — record a song, upload a song, promote a song, move on to the next song — Khaled may have a point.

There’s a certain appreciation and respect you maintain for other people in your field when you know how hard they've worked to get where they are. But when a lot of that work is removed and the process becomes too easy, it all becomes very frivolous. You don’t care about much, because you never really had to care at all. What’s more, there’s an odd sense of entitlement too.

Add it all up and it sounds like Khaled wants new rappers to either get off his lawn, or come play much faster on his when he invites them over. Which may never happen again. Because the reality is new rappers nowadays are far too busy tending lawns of their own. Lawns they made by themselves, via the internet, with even more for them to do, for less money. And like Jay-Z once said — when the grass is cut, the snakes will show. So in that way, young or old, rap is just the same as it ever was.

Even DJ Khaled knows that.

DJ Khaled Interview with Power 105

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.