The Motormouth of the South

DJ Khaled is taking over, 200 words a minute and one guest-star at a time

He gets another call. The DJ who'd just interviewed him wants Khaled to do an additional drop. "Can I do this real quick?" Khaled asks me. "Uh yeah, go ahead," he tells the DJ. "But I'm doing the Village . . . what's this called again? The Village Voice interview too."

Soon, Khaled and his assistant drive across the street to the 99 Jamz studio in a black Cadillac Escalade. Yes, it's sittin' on Ds. At 6 p.m., on what happens to be Haitian Flag Day, the theme to "The Takeover" (a take on Dennis Edwards's "Don't Look Any Further" with verses by Trick Daddy, Busta Rhymes, et al) blasts through the station's control room. Khaled cracks his mic and ID's himself: "Yeah it's DJ Khaled, the Don Dada, the Big Dawg Pitbull, Terror Squadian a/k/a We the Best!"

Then the menacing, fire engine–siren synths of "We Takin' Over" take over. If this were the remix—featuring R. Kelly, Akon, T-Pain, Young Jeezy, and very special guest Lil' Kim, we'd hear R. Kelly chanting Khaled's name as if it were part of the Salatu-I-Fajr, the Muslim early-morning prayer. But this is the original, which climaxes with Lil Wayne's verse. A group of us can't help but rap along:

The artist in a rare moment of close-mouthedness
photo: Koch Records
The artist in a rare moment of close-mouthedness

I am the beast
Feed me rappers or feed me beats
I'm untamed I need a leash
I'm insane I need a shrink
I love brain I need a leech
Why complain on easy streets
I don't even talk I let the Visa speak
And I like my Sprite Easter pink

A few minutes later, while R. Kelly's "I'm a Flirt" is on the air, Khaled hits up r&b singer T-Pain on his cell phone. "We the best, T-Pain! T-Pain, talk to me," Khaled yells, surrounded by mix-show DJs. "Yo, Pain. Yo, listen. When I say the whole world loves the remix, all they're talking about is that remix! It's the biggest thing in the game right now. R. Kelly, Akon, T-Pain, Young Jizzle? Yo, Pain, what do you want me to do? Stop? Never, Pain. Yo, Pain, Pain, talk to me man! [Pain lets out a hearty laugh.] Where you at?"

"I'm in Tallahassee," T-Pain replies, audible through Khaled's phone .

"You're in your hometown?" shouts Khaled.

"Yeah, my sister's getting married tomorrow and I'm going to the wedding," T-Pain says.

"We need to perform that 'We Takin' Over' right there," Khaled says to raucous laughs in the studio. "Perform that 'We Takin' Over' at that wedding, Pain." T-Pain cracks up again.

Khaled's a member of New York rapper Fat Joe's Terror Squad, and talks openly about the influence New York City rappers and DJs have had on him. "Kid Capri I always looked up to big time," he says. "I think he's one of the greatest club DJs. When he was DJ'ing a party I was like, 'Man, this dude is going in.'" He also thinks Hot 97's DJ Funkmaster Flex took the radio game to another level. Some have even dubbed Khaled "The Funkmaster Flex of Miami"—he's also a member of Flex's DJ crew, the Big Dawg Pitbulls.

As to the schism between Northern and Southern hip-hop, Khaled seems to want to squash all that with We the Best's final track, "New York" (featuring Jadakiss, Ja Rule, and Fat Joe). "I'm about unity man!" Khaled implores. It's something of a reprise of Ja Rule's "New York" lineup from 2004, and Ja is like: " I can't believe niggas saying N.Y. fell off/And L.A. came back/The South is runnin' shit/Then one blood rule/The shit is all developing." New York hip-hop is often influenced by Southern hip-hop (the snappiness of Mims's "This is Why I'm Hot"), while Southern hip-hop continually borrows from the classic New York sound—on Khaled's "New York," Cool and Dre appropriate what sounds like the beat from Whodini's 1984 hit "Friends," the chorus announcing "New York is back!" while Khaled shouts out his New York peeps, solemn as a proclaimer of names at a commencement ceremony: Funkmaster Flex! DJ Enuff! Mister Cee! Cipha Sounds! Green Lantern! DJ Absolut! DJ Camilo! Kay Slay! Envy! Jabba! Bobby Konders! Jazzy Joyce! Cocoa Chanel! Angie Martinez! Fatman Scoop! Miss Jones! Ralph McDaniels! DJ Clue! Red Alert! DJ Kid Capri! DJ SNS! Ron G! Doo Wop! Double R! Big Mike! DJ Clark Kent, I got you! DJ Threat! Jam Master Jay! Big Pun! B.I.G! We the Best!

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