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DJ Khaled Takes His Talents to Def Jam

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
The Miami mogul has partnered with hip-hop’s most storied label, also landing a Global Creative Consultant role at UMG.

On Sunday night in downtown Los Angeles, DJ Khaled appeared at the Grammy Awards with his beloved wife and cherished children.

Seated firmly in the front row next to his friend of two decades, Fat Joe, the brazen breadwinner turned heads as he turned up. Rotating unreleased Air Jordans on foot while catching cameras at every angle thanks to innate viral ability, Khaled was in his element, even if he left Crypto Arena empty-handed.

Though the highlight for many was his grand closing crescendo of “God Did,” another moment may have been more prophetic.

Amid the show’s Questlove-led celebration of 50 years of hip-hop, no one in the arena was more excited or more engaged than DJ Khaled himself.

DJ Khaled Def Jam
Johnny Nunez/FilmMagic

Born barely before the genre grew from crates and cardboard to sky pagers then skyscrapers, Khaled’s ascent in the industry has equally eloped with his love of the music.

Able to enunciate lines lamented by LL Cool J from the ’80s all the way aligning the top artists of today, Khaled is hip-hop to the core.

That’s why today’s news is no surprise. First reported by Variety, DJ Khaled is taking his talents to Def Jam.

Following forays with Koch, Terror Squad, and Young Money, Khaled has worked with Sony Music as a signee of Epic Records in recent years, ranging from 2016’s momentous Major Key to 2022’s Grammy-nominated God Did.

This new deal is a joint venture with Universal Music Group that brings his We the Best imprint to the house that Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin built.

At UMG, Khaled will also work as a Global Creative Consultant across all labels.

For Khaled, the move to Def Jam is somewhat of a homecoming. Early in his career, he served as an A&R at Def Jam South, appointed as President of said division in February 2009. During that run, he was credited on pivotal albums for Rick Ross, namely Deeper Than Rap and Teflon Don, as well as introducing fellow Floridian Ace Hood.

Moving forward, all of Khaled’s compilation albums will release through Def Jam.

This means much for the legacy label as it looks to build a brighter future off the strength of its era-enduring signee.

“DJ Khaled occupies the rarified air of cultural icon,” Def Jam chairman Tunji Balogun told Variety. “His uncanny ability to continuously have his finger on the pulse of the culture and to reach audiences all over the world in innovative yet authentic ways, his remarkable savvy for marketing, promotion… everything he touches is absolutely second to none.”

While Khaled critics may condemn his online antics or overbearing presence on records, no one can question his work ethic and ability to build relationships.

Still in the meeting, Khaled brings a Magic Johnson level of excitement to the boardroom and a mogul status that spans generations. As a heritage company like Def Jam looks to remain relevant approaching its 40th year of existence, Khaled’s clout proves powerful when pertaining to young talent.

Conversely, as Universal Music Group looks to leverage talent across genres in an increasingly fluid yet frugal landscape, Khaled possesses the ability to pair artists of opposing aesthetics and clear samples said to be untouchable.

Check the resume, he is the best at both as his imprint alludes. This business bodes well for all involved.

Doug Peters/PA Images via Getty Images

“I’ve always invested in myself and pushed my brand to different heights,” Khaled told Variety. “But the way I structure my deals, it’s a blessing and a benefit for both partners.”

This benefit for both partners is perhaps more enticing in alluding to his ability to make waves beyond music.

Aesthetically, this has been seen in sportswear for the better part of a decade with his exposure and relationships continuing to result in collaborations and checks.

After years of alliance to Champs Sports, he’s recently taken on a role with Snipes, while also always working with Jordan Brand on co-branded moments.

As a philanthropist, Khaled’s We The Best Foundation and Roc Nation have just announced an inaugural scholarship program.

While famous friends like Jay Z have gone from hero to homie, it’s perhaps Puff Daddy that aligns most with Khaled in this next stage of life in his new role at UMG.

“I can help the whole Universal system, not just musically, but for TV, films, marketing,” Khaled continued. “I have relationships with every artist. I have relationships with everybody behind the scenes, from A&Rs to executives to radio to marketing. I’m here to spread my talent.”

Forever on one and now calling plays for two teams, Khaled’s coming for more.

The takeover continues.

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About The Author
Ian Stonebrook
Ian Stonebrook
Ian Stonebrook is a Staff Writer covering culture, sports, and fashion for Boardroom. Prior to signing on, Ian spent a decade at Nice Kicks as a writer and editor. Over the course of his career, he's been published by the likes of Complex, Jordan Brand, GOAT, Cali BBQ Media, SoleSavy, and 19Nine. Ian spends all his free time hooping and he's heard on multiple occasions that Drake and Nas have read his work, so that's pretty tight.