After a five-year hiatus, it’s time to get back to what this blog is best at: ranking my personal favorite songs from the mid-to-late-2000s!
My first three lists (the first two of which need some updating) looked at musical giants. Kanye West. Usher. T-Pain. So who better to naturally follow them up with than DJ Khaled?
Khaled Khaled obviously doesn’t have the musical talents of those other three, but I’ve always thought people gave him too much flak. He’s basically the Guy Fieri of hip-hop. Everyone likes to make fun of Fieri for his ridiculous look and donkey sauce, but he’s a genuinely nice guy who raised more than $20 million for restaurant workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Guy Fieri is the quintessential chaotic good, and I’m not sure I’d go that far for DJ Khaled, as much as I love him. But he’s at least a chaotic neutral. And he’s nothing if not a character.
For the first 10 years of his career, Khaled was just a DJ whose form of branding was screaming his name at the top of every song. But by 2015, thanks to daily posts on Snapchat — from getting lost on a jetski to giving advice in the shower — he became a living, breathing meme. His “major key” catchphrase caught on so much he wrote a book about it and became a New York Times bestseller.
Of course, his whole shtick is ridiculous and fake. All of his songs are about coming up from nothing, but as his high school classmate Joey Fatone said in a Hot Ones interview, “You know what’s funny about Khaled? People are like ‘He’s from the hood.’ His family owned a store called ‘Merry-Go-Round’ in the Florida mall. It’s not that he was rich, but he had money.”
Khaled did his own run on Hot Ones — talking big about showing the haters and never losing — and it was by far the worst performance the show has ever seen. He thought the first wing with Texas Pete was too hot and eventually dropped out after three wings — a show record — but not before uttering the iconic line: “I promise you if I stop, it doesn’t mean I gave up.”
With his newfound celebrity, Khaled got courtside seats at the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend and thoroughly embarrassed himself. Whether it’s a total lack of self-awareness about how people perceive him or a complete commitment to the bit, it all just feeds into how incredible his whole character is.
It took years, but Khaled has become ubiquitous in pop culture, something no one should have expected in the early aughts. He seems like the perfect celebrity for “The Masked Singer,” except for the fact that he’d be sent home on Week 1 when he’d yell his name or shout out his son. Maybe he’d be the perfect host to replace Nick Cannon.
Still, it’s worth remembering that DJ Khaled didn’t just get famous because of his persona. He also helped bring together deeply impressive groups of artists for iconic songs. Essentially every 2000s rapper this side of Eminem has appeared in one of his tracks, and he became synonymous with his style of featuring 20-plus artists on one album, for better and for worse.
There are plenty of examples of him overstuffing songs. Billboard Top-20 track I’m So Hood (Remix) is an honorable mention for this list, but it had about five too many featured artists and ran about two minutes too long. Still, each of the artists (Young Jeezy, Ludacris, Busta Rhymes, Big Boi, Lil Wayne, Fat Joe, Birdman, Rick Ross, and T-Pain) were integral to late-2000s hip-hop and added to the song.
It’s a shame that he doesn’t embrace that side of himself more. I got to see him live when he was the opener for Beyonce and Jay-Z’s On the Run II Tour, and only three of the songs he played in his 30-minute set were his own. His catalog is deep; he shouldn’t have to pretend to be a replacement-level DJ.
DJ Khaled may not produce deep, meaningful music, but his bubble gum rap clearly made a big mark on the music scene, especially when I first started listening to pop music. To commemorate him, I’m counting down my 10 favorite songs of him and celebrating his limited vocabulary. In all seriousness, I’d love to see anyone else’s top picks too.
(You may notice this is my first post in a while. Work and life have gotten in the way of me writing for myself, but I’m hoping to put out more of these lists in the coming months. Jason Derulo? Ariana Grande? Ne-Yo? Katy Perry? Flo Rida? Who knows what could come next?)
10. I Wish You Would
DJ Khaled (feat. Kanye West and Rick Ross) (2012)
Kiss the Ring
Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 78
I feel like this song always needs to be played at max volume because it’s made to hype you up. It feels like it has a Shepherd Tone-style audio trick where it appears to get louder every single line, and the turbulent music video only feeds into that feeling. This song features near-peak Kanye — right after MBDTF and Watch The Throne but before Yeezus and full MAGA mode — and you can feel his passion talking about Chicago. On the other side of the coin, you have Rick Ross — perhaps the only rapper faker than Khaled — pretending he wasn’t a correctional officer and delivering his iconic “hunh” and trill sounds. What more could you want?
Best line (Kanye West):
“The block is at war, post-traumatic stress
Ran up outta pills, rob that CVS
N****s getting bust over In God We Trust
We believe in God, but do God believe in us?
If we believe enough, will we ever get to know him?
That lean got us dozing, we forget that we the chosen”
Honorable mention line (Rick Ross):
“My money on another level
In the streets out here I’m hotter than the fucking devil”
DJ Khaled Word Count: 12
I’M SO SERIOUS!
AYO YEEZY POP YOUR SHIT!!!
9. I’m On
DJ Khaled (feat. Nas) (2008)
Billboard Hot 100 Peak: N/A
I’m On never charted well and never got a music video, but it’s still a personal favorite of mine. DJ Khaled’s third album, “We Global,” was a big step up from his first two albums, and that was signified in some ways by his ability to attract Nas to perform with/for him. The beat is contagious, and the hook is a pleasant surprise by little-known producer Dre. Khaled also plays the role of the hype man during the bridge, which helps him get up to an astonishing 49 words in this song.
Best line (Nas):
“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 shit
Tell her tonight, we gonna see Nas return to his murder shit”
Honorable mention line (Nas):
“Money fall out the sky when I speak
Got a valet, can’t leave mine out in these streets
Can’t carpool, the crew is too deep
Why tuck it all in? The jewels are too sweet”
DJ Khaled Word Count: 49
WE THE BEST SEASON HAS RETURNED!
WE GLOBAL NOW, WE GLOBAL! (x2)
WE INTERNATIONAL NOW, INTERNATIONAL! (x2)
COME ON!! (x9)
8. Hold You Down
DJ Khaled (feat. Chris Brown, August Alsina, Future, and Jeremih) (2014)
I Changed a Lot
Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 39
DJ Khaled produced a remix of this song with Usher, who sung the hook way better than Chris Brown did, but let’s be real: This song ranks so high because of the incredible music video. Unfortunately, Khaled took it down off his original channel, but thankfully someone was able to splice it back together. You really need to check it out for yourself, but DJ Khaled keeps calling a woman (who clearly doesn’t want to talk to him) smart and loyal, a line he loves so much that he eventually repurposes into a motivational speech. He keeps throwing money at her (although not enough to buy her, her mom, and her whole family houses) and is desperate for her to say his name. The whole thing is a work of art. It happens to feature some R&B legends and another great beat, but mostly the music video is iconic.
Best line (August Alsina):
“Sit in my whip and see the stars
Show me just who you are
You know who really hold you down
And when you not around
I’ll hold you down”
Honorable mention line (Future):
“I’m the one that’s gon’ hold you down
Put you in that Ghost so you enjoy the town”
DJ Khaled Word Count: 20
WE THE BEST MUSIC!!
ANOTHER ONE! (x2)
RIGHT NOW! (x4)
7. I’m on One
DJ Khaled (feat. Drake, Rick Ross, and Lil Wayne) (2011)
We the Best Forever
Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 10
This song was DJ Khaled’s breakout, his and Rick Ross’ first Billboard No. 1 single, albeit Drake’s sixth and Lil Wayne’s 12th. Never forget how great Lil Wayne is (although maybe you can forget his “The Masked Singer” performance). I’m on One was able to rise up the charts because of the incredible star power on the track and Drake’s easily memorizable hook. There’s a long history of lean in rap music, but my guess is this is one the first songs about it to earn a Grammy nom. You can also really tell this song is from 2011 because of the Four Loko product placement in the music video.
Best line (Rick Ross):
“Walking on the clouds, suspended in thin air
Do ones beneath me recognize the red bottoms I wear?”
Honorable mention line (Drake):
“Yeah and I’ll be right here in my spot
With a little more cash than I already got
Trippin’ off you ’cause you had your shot”
DJ Khaled Word Count: 2
6. I’m the One
DJ Khaled (feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne) (2017)
Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 1
I’m The One was a landmark song for Khaled because it’s his first and only Billboard No. 1 song. To my mind, it also marked the moment that he lept from “DJ with a massive Rolodex” to a true pop star. No one could avoid Khaled on the radio or in random commercials. Even the music video is chock full of product placement for Kandypens, Ciroc Summer Colada, and Bumbu Rum, although I enjoy the fact that Chance’s Gucci belt that he raps about is blurred out. It’s also just a catchy jam.
Best line (Chance the Rapper):
“Uh, she beat her face up with that new Chanel
She like the price, she see the ice, it make her coochie melt
When I met her in the club I asked her who she felt
Then she went and put that booty on that Gucci belt”
Honorable mention line (Quavo):
“I make your dreams come true when you wake up
And your look’s just the same without no makeup
Had to pull up on your mama, see what you’re made of
Ain’t gotta worry ’bout ’em commas ’cause my cake up”
DJ Khaled Word Count: 34
WE THE BEST MUSIC!!!
ANOTHER ONE!! (x2)
LET’S RIDE! LET’S RIDE! (x3)
I’M THE ONE!! (x4)
5. Go Hard
DJ Khaled (feat. Kanye West and T-Pain) (2008)
Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 69
I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my rankings over the years. Tastes change, and I’ve better appreciated older songs that came out before I followed these artists. But no mistake was bigger than leaving Go Hard off my Top 25 Songs (feat. T-Pain). This song absolutely slaps. We’ve got a ton of peak DJ Khaled screaming throughout the song. We’ve got peak top-hatted T-Pain on the music video with a memorable hook that includes the lines “Makin’ money ain’t shit to me / This is in my veins and it gets to my heart.” And, of course, we get near-peak Kanye with his iconic line about George Bush. A regrettable r-word aside, this song is near-perfect and demarcates the clear top five on this list. But in light of his half-hearted presidential run/publicity stunt, it’s worth remember that Kanye is/was a musical genius, but he is most definitely not a political genius just because he happened to feel the pulse of much of America on Hurricane Katrina. This is still an anti-vax man who thinks slavery is a choice, so let’s appreciate Ye for his early albums and that’s about it.
Best line (Kanye West):
“I guess it’s gon be what it’s gon be
But here’s one thing y’all got to hear
Imma tell you like George Bush told me
Fuck y’all n****s, I’m out of here”
Honorable mention line (Kanye West):
“This is dope as it get
Dope as a motherfuckin’ acid trip
Fly as fifty-seven passengers
This finna be another classic, bitch”
DJ Khaled Word Count: 103
WE THE BEST!! (x2)
I’M GOIN’ IN! (x4)
I DO IT FOR THE HOOD!
CUZ THE HOOD TOLD ME I SHOULD!!
IF YOU REP YOUR HOOD AND YOU GOIN’ HARD!
IF THEY HATIN’ ON YOU, DON’T STRESS!!
TELL THEM N****S THAT WE THE BEST!!
YOU CAN’T STOP THIS!
FUCK THE REST, WE RUN THIS GAME!!
KANYE WEST, KHALED, AND PAIN!!!
I GO HARD FOR THE HOOD!!
I GO HARD FOR THE STREETS!!!
I GO HARD FOR THE GHETTO!!!
KANYE WEST, T-PAIN, DJ KHALED!!
WE WON’T STOP!!!
WE CAN’T STOP!!!
4. No Brainer
DJ Khaled (feat. Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, and Quavo) (2018)
Father of Asahd
Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 5
Empire Strikes Back. The Dark Knight. No Brainer. It’s rare, but the sequel can be better than the original. Khaled ran back the entire I’m the One group minus Lil Wayne (regrettably), and it makes for a very solid upgrade on an already great song, even if it didn’t chart nearly as well. Each of the three featured artists shines with their own style in this upbeat bop. The only shame is Justin Bieber looks like Zack Greinke with a mustache in the music video. Fun fact: In the same interview DJ Khaled announced that he was releasing this song, he also told Conan O’Brien that he was going to create his own line of soap (and wanted his own flower). Sadly, the fans are still waiting.
Best line (Chance the Rapper):
“Don’t look rich, I ain’t got no chain
Not on the list, I ain’t got no name
But we in this bitch, bitch, I’m not no lame
And I keep it Ben Franklin, I’m not gon’ change
Lot of these hoes is messy
I just want you and your bestie
Y’all don’t gotta answer for whenever you text me
It’s multiple choice and they all wanna test me”
Honorable mention line (Justin Bieber):
“Walked down, had me sittin’ up
Demanded my attention, had to give it up
Look like somebody designed you
Drop-dead gorgeous, you make me wanna live it up”
DJ Khaled Word Count: 31
WE THE BEST MUSIC!!
PUT EM HIGH! (x4)
IT’S WE THE BEST MUSIC!!!
IT’S FATHER OF ASAHD!!
3. Out Here Grindin
DJ Khaled (feat. Akon, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, Lil Boosie, Trick Daddy, Ace Hood, and Plies) (2008)
Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 38
Now we’re really getting to the old, good stuff. Out Here Grindin stretches the limit of how many rappers you can cram in one song, but the end product is excellent since he keeps everyone to just eight bars. That, combined with Akon delivering an iconic hook and Khaled talking about being from the streets? We’ve got another trifecta. This song may not have the lasting power of some of his more recent hits, but it was huge for him at the time and is quintessential DJ Khaled. The music video’s comical, ample, dated green screen use is just the cherry on top, even if it causes us to lose Lil Wayne’s cackling feature. In case you’re like me and were wondering what Akon is up to these days, apparently he’s working to build a town called Akon City in Senegal that runs entirely on his eponymous cryptocurrency, Akoin. That sounds like a scam that would put Fyre Festival to shame, but the project has already secured $6 billion in funding for constriction, so you can put that on your bucket list when it’s scheduled to be completed in a few years.
Best line (Rick Ross):
“Smash it deal with the realest, shoppin’ like it’s still December
Diplomat on the fender of the Phantom I’m the winner
I do it for the hood, I do it cause you can’t
You suckers wish you could, Ricky Ross it’s in the bank”
Honorable mention line (Akon):
“I ain’t splittin’ nothin’ with nobody
Homey, I gotta get me me (cause I’m out here grindin)
I ain’t slept in eight days, I can go for eight weeks
Ain’t nothin’ to me, cause I am the streets”
DJ Khaled Word Count: 17
WE THE BEST SEASON HAS RETURNED!!
I DO THIS FOR THE STREETS!
2. All I Do Is Win
DJ Khaled (feat. T-Pain, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, and Rick Ross) (2010)
Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 24
What more is there to say about this anthem that hasn’t been pointed out in my T-Pain list? Just like everybody feels required to play I’m On A Boat whenever they’re on a boat, teams in any sport will play this song without fail after a win. It’s honestly brilliant marketing by DJ Khaled. Everyone knows the hook, and he’ll surely get nice paychecks for decades off royalties. Maybe artists should make more music that becomes mandatory at niche events. A rap about a Bar Mitzvah party? A R&B ballad about a father-daughter dance? I feel like these could be million-dollar ideas, and if anyone could assemble a dream team of mid-aughts rappers, DJ Khaled could pull it off.
Best line (Snoop Dogg):
“Time and time again while I’m sipping on this gin
Al Davis said it best, ‘Just win baby, win!'”
Honorable mention line (Ludacris):
“And I’m on this foolish track, so I spit my foolish flow
My hands go up and down, like strippers’ booties go
My verses still be servin’, tight like a million virgins
Last time on the Khaled remix, now I’m on the original version”
DJ Khaled Word Count: 14
WE THE BEST!!
ALL WE DO IS WIN!!
1. We Takin’ Over
DJ Khaled (feat. Akon, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, and Lil Wayne) (2007)
We the Best
Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 28
I totally understand if anyone has All I Do Is Win or a newer song at the top of their list, but We Takin’ Over is the perfect DJ Khaled song to me. Stuffed to the brim with six big-name rappers, Khaled’s first top-30 hit has an infectious beat and memorable hook. The music video is worth a watch at the beginning if for no other reason than the radio announcement that DJ Khaled is “wanted by an evil assailant group affiliated with censoring the powerful voice of the people.” Could this be Nappy Boi radio? We do get a T-Pain cameo later in the video. All five verses shine, and Lil Wayne’s 16 bars are some of the best in any Khaled song. And lastly, I have to shout out Fat Joe for the inexplicable idea that some people call our favorite DJ “Khaleed.” Just incredible stuff all the way around.
Best line (Lil Wayne):
“I don’t even talk, I let the Visa speak
And I like my Sprite Easter-pink
And my wrist-wear Chopard but the Muller’s cooler
I have more jewels than your jeweler
Touch and I will bust your medulla
That’s a bullet hole, it is not a tumor
Red light, red light, stop your rumors
I stay on track like a box of Pumas”
Honorable mention line:
“Some say ‘Khaled,’ some say ‘Khaleed'”
DJ Khaled Word Count: 12
WE THE BEST!!!
WE TAKIN OVER!!