By the time DJ Khaled entered the room, I had already listened to “I Got The Keys” at least 26 times. The music video for the second single off his new album, featuring Jay Z and Future, had been playing on loop for the last two hours as journalists, friends and Epic Records employees filed into the New York City studio and awaited the DJ of the hour.
No one seemed particularly happy about the constantly looping sound of Future rapping “KEYS KEYS KEYS” over and over and over ― one reporter even left the room because he couldn’t take it anymore ― but no one could really do anything about it, either. This was DJ Khaled’s listening party, and if he wanted “I Got The Keys” to be playing on loop, “I Got The Keys” was going to play on loop.
The room outside the studio was littered with reminders that this was a DJ Khaled event ― one in which he was going to unveil his new, ninth studio album, “Major Key,” which premiered to the general public Friday. Directly underneath the TV that continued to scream “KEYS KEY KEYS” sat a pyramid made up of exactly 49 samples of Ciroc Apple vodka. On the table in front of it, four larger bottles of Ciroc Apple sat next to three white-and-gold bottles of DJ Khaled’s own champagne, a product of his recent partnership with Luc Belaire.
I had come to the listening party because I had been offered the opportunity to interview DJ Khaled afterward, which was exciting because I had a lot of questions for the hip-hip-producer-turned-Snapchat-superstar. Had he always been so optimistic? Has his confidence ever wavered? What does he find so therapeutic about watering plants? Who are the “they” he always refers to? Why don’t they want him to be successful? Are jet skis scary?
Once Khaled arrived, the 30 or so people in attendance squished into the studio, which was decorated with tea candles, quaint bouquets and a Luc Belaire banner. On the table in the middle of the room was another obligatory supply of Luc Belaire champagne and Ciroc Apple. Some people had T-shirts and caps that said “We The Best” on them. If there were ever a time to listen to an entire album’s worth of DJ Khaled music straight through, this was it.
Before the listening started, Khaled swiveled around in his studio chair and told us how much he appreciated everyone in attendance. I appreciated that. He called us tastemakers. He explained that he couldn’t fit everyone on to the album that he wanted to, which makes sense because almost every single rapper alive is on “Major Key.” We took a Snapchat to celebrate the occasion. DJ Khaled, I have to say, seems like a nice man. He also seems to be the world’s biggest DJ Khaled fan.
As we prepared to get underway, DJ Khaled asked if the attendees wanted to hear the album’s first track, “I Got The Keys,” in its entirety or just in part. The question caused an understandably nervous laughter amongst the small crowd, considering it’s all we had been listening to for the last two hours. Of course, no one at the DJ Khaled listening party was going to tell DJ Khaled not to play “I Got The Keys” in its entirety, so we listened to the song in its entirety again. Once you’ve heard “I Got The Keys” 20-plus times, once more can’t hurt, can it?
The answer, I found out, is yes. But only because DJ Khaled played the song (and the rest of the album) at a volume I have never heard anything played at before. In fact, I think that the hour I spent listening to “Major Key” was the loudest hour of my life. Is this how all listening parties are? I have no idea. At points, I saw people’s eyes enlarge, but that might have been because they liked something they heard. The album is pretty good, after all.
DJ Khaled interspersed a bit of conversation in between each track ― maybe to keep things light, maybe because showing anyone your music for the first time is scary, even if you’re DJ Khaled. We learned that DJ Khaled hopes “Major Key” will lead to three straight No. 1 singles. We learned DJ Khaled was extremely excited Jay Z agreed to participate in ― what else? ― the “I Got The Keys” video. After a couple of tracks, DJ Khaled stopped the music and asked if we understood what he was trying to do with the album, noting the first songs featured Jay, Future, Drake and Nas. He never gave us a straight answer to his own question, but I think what he was trying to do with the album was put a lot of famous rappers on it. Rappers on the album include the aforementioned plus Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, J. Cole, Yo Gotti, Jadakiss, Fabolous, Fat Joe, Travis Scott, Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, Wale, Nicki Minaj, Jeremih and Rick Ross, among others. Even Meghan Trainor is on this damn album. Say what you will, DJ Khaled has a lot of friends.
When we had finally made our way through all 14 tracks of the album, DJ Khaled asked us to toast, on Snapchat, to it. He raised a bottle of Ciroc Apple in one hand and a bottle of his Luc Belaire champagne in the other. The snap happened, then he placed both bottles down without sipping either. Major key.
After the listening party had ended, people cleared out of the studio. Busta Rhymes had showed up at some point, although he stayed in the background. A publicist said I would get my one-on-one interview with DJ Khaled soon, so I scribbled down some final questions. I was nervous!
A couple minutes later, however, my nervousness turned to panic when the rapper Travis Scott entered the room unannounced. He was hyped, but not as hyped as people were to be in the presence of Travis Scott. DJ Khaled turned the album back on to show it to Travis. Travis started dancing around in excitement. Smoke started to fill the air. Someone nervously yelled, “This is on the record!”
Soon after that, I realized my chances of snagging an interview were diminishing at a rapid pace. DJ Khaled’s people shooed us out of the studio and closed the door for undisclosed reasons. Then, they let us back in. Then, we were kicked out again. Your guess is as good as mine. A publicist tried to assure me the interview was still on, but the doubt in his voice was hard to ignore. Eventually, DJ Khaled declared that it was time to go eat. His publicist pulled DJ Khaled aside and told him that he first had to talk to me. Understandably, DJ Khaled didn’t want to talk to me. He wanted to eat dinner. DJ Khaled told the publicist to schedule some time for me to come to his hotel to talk to him. Unsure if DJ Khaled really wanted me to come to the hotel or was just feigning interest, the publicist asked him to clarify in that sort of are-you-telling-the-truth-or-not kind of way: You really want this guy to come to your hotel? DJ Khaled says yes, although it’s unclear if he meant it or just didn’t want to say no, which would not be particularly DJ-Khaled-esque.
The next day, I emailed the publicists to ask when I should come to the hotel, knowing DJ Khaled was only in town for a little over a week. I got a response, but not one about an interview. A couple days after that, I followed up once more just in case the message had been buried. But instead of receiving a time to meet DJ Khaled at his hotel, I was told they would see if I could get 10 to 15 minutes on the phone. Soon, the potential interview was minimized to five minutes. Then it disappeared altogether. On Thursday, DJ Khaled had his album release party. On Friday, the day his album dropped, he left New York City. It’s no one’s fault, really, but I guess they, whoever they are, just don’t want me to interview DJ Khaled.