Who Is the Real Asahd Khaled?
To celebrate his first birthday, we spoke with the young producer to make sense of being the baby don, mogul and icon.
A while ago I was thinking about how, when someone's an important cultural figure, one of a few prestige publications will usually capitalize on their prominence by sending a writer to spend time with them and then write about it in a very serious and smart way. I noticed that Asahd Khaled—icon, legend, mogul, boss—fits this criteria, but nobody has profiled him yet?? Well, until now, when I definitely went to meet this one-year-old child and find out how he's surfed this wave of success.
In 2017, the cultural landscape is saturated with constant noise, and silence is rare. Some influential figures—Beyoncé, Frank Ocean—are selective about when they speak and what they show to the world, making their voices all the more powerful when they do decide to talk. It's a discerning move that often marks them out as people of thoughtfulness and prestige, as though they are above adding to the continuous drone of opinions. Another, I believe, can be added to their number. That person is Asahd Tuck Khaled.
There are many ways to describe Asahd Khaled. His father, the eminent rap and R&B producer DJ Khaled, offers a few. A don. A mogul. An icon. And while his 1.6 million Instagram followers and circle of friends and admirers among whom Nicki Minaj and Migos are counted would certainly agree, Asahd, in public at least, remains humble, happy, and unbothered. He is an individual of few words, and though he keeps fans abreast of his activities with online updates (recently: "Thanks @esquire for having me as part of your century of style feature!!!!") he still carries with him an air of mystery. And so the question remains: beneath the gold chains and Gucci, who is Asahd Khaled?
There is a simple answer. He is the son of DJ Khaled and Nicole Tuck, born on October 23, 2016. But his was no ordinary birth. He arrived in the world with a global audience watching, via his father's Snapchat channel. The account had previously gained internet prominence for the elder Khaled's unrelenting positivity, life tips ("major keys"), and one particularly gripping saga involving a jetski. Asahd quickly took to the family penchant for social media, launching his own Instagram account at under three months old—his first post was captioned "Bless Up World, I'm Here!"—and he has a knack for self-representation. Perhaps that is why, despite now having spent a full year in the public eye, Mr Khaled has not yet granted any journalist a full interview: though he is a keen Instagram user, he's also particularly private, and has so far been successful in sharing his life with the world directly, without press mediation.
But now, I have been invited to meet Khaled at his home in Los Angeles, in an attempt to get to know a human who has raised so many questions ("Is this nine-month-old's necklace worth more than my home?"), and yet so far, answered none. I approach the assignment with trepidation: how does one approach a megastar? Will he show diva-like tendencies? Can he even talk? I am determined to find out.
On my first two visits to the LA mansion where Khaled resides with his parents and extensive team, my attempts at entry are thwarted by a security guard who tells me, sternly, that it is "nap time." My third visit catches him at a more convenient break in his schedule (I'm slotted in between Rihanna and bath time), and I'm granted entry.
I join Mr Khaled in his home studio, where he is joined by a number of other musicians. I am told that Quavo has just left. Asahd is sat in a solid gold high-chair, dressed casually in head-to-toe Gucci, holding court and working the room. He emanates charisma, and has a million-dollar smile—or at least, he will when all his teeth come in. He's going through his daily business of listening to beats crafted by his father, submitted to him for a final "yes" or "no."
This is a process previously described by Khaled Sr. earlier this year, when Asahd was four months old. He told Jimmy Kimmel back in March, "He's in the studio listening to songs with me, going over the business part of it, if the vocals are right, if the beats are right, if the energy's right." It's a thrill to see it happening in reality, especially now that Asahd is older, more experienced, and no longer in need of his father's guidance. He is indeed an enigmatic producer, often giving little more than a smile in order to signal his approval (though his assistants are on hand to check that this figurative thumbs-up is not just wind.)
Asahd is the executive producer of his father's platinum-selling album GRATEFUL, the cover of which pictures him unwinding in a pool. At exactly eight months old, he was also credited as an artist on the LP's final track "Asahd Talk (Thank You Asahd)." I mention that this bests Blue Ivy Carter, who was almost two years old when she appeared on her first song, "Blue," from her mother's self-titled album—Mr. Khaled diplomatically declines to comment, as he is busy eating a mashed banana, and screaming. I try a different, wider-reaching tack: "You've accomplished so much at an exceptionally young age. It seems like there might be pressure inherent in such early success."
"Assssblurabub herrrrg," says Khaled, rocking in his seat enthusiastically, though I'm unsure whether that's because he emphatically agrees, or because someone is waving a teddy bear at him behind my head. "Blabuwap BAHHH." It's a start, though I am beginning to understand that it will be difficult to get a straight response from someone who has kept traditional media at arm's length since birth.
Finished with business for the day, the entourage disperses, and Asahd is moved to a black matte baby bouncer so that we can speak more candidly. Talking to him, I get the sense that what we see on social media is, largely, the real Asahd. He is jovial, and genuinely pleased to be where he is, though this naturally spikes my interest in occasions where he has shown another side to himself. I am thinking specifically of footage obtained by the controversial celebrity news agency TMZ in June, which saw him writhing and crying upon being introduced to the singer Justin Bieber, who has worked on a number of songs with his father.
The accompanying article on the TMZ website points out that Khaled "famously never cries or fusses in public," and certainly, he is usually known for his composure. What was it about Bieber, I ask, that allowed the mask to slip? Asahd gurgles, seemingly embarrassed at the memory. "Agallllabap abawabawaAAA bluuuur," he tells me. At the time, he had posed with Bieber for a complimentary Instagram post which even teased the prospect of the two artists working together, though the leaked video tells a different story of their meeting. And as he grows distracted by something shiny on his personal assistant's necklace, it's clear that Asahd no longer wishes to talk about the incident, but he does add, when pressed, that his relationship with Bieber is now "haaagnabababababa."
Asked about his other celebrity associates, however, Asahd is livelier: Nicki Minaj, who declares herself "obsessed" with Khaled, is "gaaaawaaaaaaba," while he energetically describes Rihanna as "BAHbluuup," and says rapper Fat Joe, who he gifted a bag from the streetwear brand Supreme for his recent birthday, is "paaaalabapuhhhh" and "BAAAALP."
What's striking, however, is that while he's happy to discuss his well-known friends, and is more than comfortable in the world of renown and excess he inhabits (his easy, unfazed demeanor on stage is proof of that) it's clear that Asahd also understands the importance of giving back. Along with his father, he attended a relief concert for those affected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and to celebrate his first birthday, as well as enjoying an exclusive party thrown for him by children's luxury brand Tot Living by Haute Living in Miami, Florida, he has teamed with the global charity UNICEF.
In the days leading up to his birthday, he announced the partnership on Instagram, stating that donations made in his name would go directly towards benefitting children in needy parts of the world. He has since posted saying "Thank you so much for the 1st birthday gifts so far! Together with @UNICEF, we can get warm blankets, story books, and life-saving vaccines to help my other baby friends around the world. Send a birthday gift today via the link in my bio."
It's astounding generosity from someone so young, so I wonder: does Asahd believe that his charitable nature has been passed down to him from his genial father? "BAaaLAPba gaawew baaa," he concurs. As I continue, asking what else he believes he has learned from his famous father, Asahd grows fidgety and restless, and he soon drifts off to sleep. It's been a long few hours, particularly for a one-year-old, and I take this as my cue to leave, gathering my things, and treading out of the room as quietly as possible, avoiding the Adidas-branded squeak toys on the floor.
As I say my goodbyes to his assistant and am about to leave, Asahd stops me with a wail. I turn around to look at him. He is awake again, and suddenly pensive, gazing past me and into the distantly-setting sun through the glass doors which I am about to walk out of. I am immediately aware that he has something important to say. In a deep, commanding voice I have not heard him use yet, he tells me:
"I did not answer your question about my father in a satisfactory manner and I would like to. Much has been made of our relationship. I admire him for what he has done for changing perceptions of fatherhood and masculinity in our time, but most of all I am proud of what he has instilled in me. As a result, I feel as though I understand universal truths, and have genuinely unlocked in myself a possibility for untold fulfilment and happiness, because I have learned the greatest lesson of all: the deepest faith is that which we have in ourselves."
And with that, right on schedule, he's swept off for bath time.
You can donate to Asahd's UNICEF fund here .