Larry King's Interview with DJ Khaled Was the Pinnacle of All Journalism
Forget Frost/Nixon. This is the new standard for all interviews.
I’ve loved the charming, horny Larry King since I first read his foreword to the book, Tough Jews, in which he reminisces on growing up in Brooklyn with future Jewish gangsters. More recently, he’s been crushing it on WTF with Marc Maron, Norm Macdonald Live, and the Howard Stern show with magnificently told yarns of chilling with the icons of our time. The King has the memory of a Viagra-addled elephant, and isn’t afraid to mix it up with anyone. He also hosts Larry King Now, which he created with Carlos fucking Slim. King consistently gets some of the coolest guests of any interview show available—Matthew McConaughey, Wiz Khalifa, Pusha T, T.I., The Miz, Kevin Bacon, etc.—to sit down for extended pieces without any the charmlessness of something like a Charlie Rose interview, which can seem like the guest is being interviewed by a leather bag stuffed with cement. While some criticize King for his seemingly softball style, his technique of asking more open-ended questions and allowing for the guest to respond lengthily has lead to some fairly charming exchanges. It also allows the guests to actually come off as humans. Except, of course, when his guest is DJ Khaled.
I know what you’re thinking, dear reader, “Wait, we all know DJ Khaled is a mind-numbing fuckboy who doesn’t do shit. Is Larry King aware of this?” Larry is aware of this, and instead of contesting it, gives Khaled just enough rope to hang himself. He refers to him as a genius at several points, and calls him as “DJ,” as if it were his given name. Initially, the sincere-as-ever King is excited to interview the so-called anthem king. And, best of all, we get to hear Larry exclaim, “We the best!” a few times. However, around the time DJ Khaled starts comparing Ace Hood to Nas, Larry gets visibly exhausted when he realizes he’s been sucked into the self-promotional vortex that is the DJ Khaled multiverse.
Larry throws a one-two barrage of comically easy questions at the outset of the interview—“Your new album's called, I’ve Changed a Lot. How have you changed?” “How do you manage the egos of all these different rappers?”—that lead to typical Khaled non-answers and perplexing platitudes about how he’s turning his life around.
Larry goes in to ask the question that Khaled fans have been familiar with for years now: “What is it that you do?”
K: “I don’t rap. I put the whole record together. I don’t call it a rap, I call it doin’ the Khaled. You know I might be on the hook, might be on the intro. I’m like the Barry Gordy, the Quincy Jones of Hip-Hop.”
L: “But they never went on and did their own voice on their own cuts.”
K: “Well I do.”
L: [Larry’s trademark laugh] “Cause you’re Khaled.” [Larry Points.]
K: “That’s right.”
They get into an about the genius of Jay Z. “Were you subservient to him?” Larry asks, stirring up images of a Khaled/Jay S&M-toy filled dungeon. Khaled responds, “I feel like we relate, since I’m a genius as well. We’re both Sagittarius.” Shockingly, King doesn’t follow up on Khaled’s belief in astrology.
King asks Khaled to go down a list of rapper superlatives, not unlike something you’d find in the back pages of a high school yearbook. Kanye is the biggest perfectionist, and the most production savvy. Khaled is the wildest. He is also the “peacemaker.” Drake is the most particular, he wanted things his way. No clashing though, only love/superiority/achievement/aptitude/raw, unfiltered bestness.
Larry then goes into Khaled’s WTB culture: “You release your albums through your own label called ‘We the Best.’ How did you know you’d be the best?”
“It’s the truth, it’s been like eight summers. And just like you, Larry King you know you the best ain’t nobody can have a show like you. It’s something that I said I was going to do from the start.”
“What’s the key to having a successful label?”
“Caring...caring for the hip-hop culture. Caring about the artist. Caring about the sound. Caring about the way things are marketed.
If there’s one thing we don’t give Khaled enough credit for, it’s how much he cares.
Larry asks Khaled about his Muslim faith, to which he responds that he is devout, but could do a better job at it. He prays more than ten times a day, whenever he walks in and out of a room.
He then tries to get a conversation going on the Middle East, but it devolves quickly, as it becomes clear that Khaled has no idea his home country of Palestine is currently embroiled in one of the most intense global conflicts that will ever occur in our lifetime:
“Do you get involved politically with the Middle East?”
“I get involved with peace. I’m all about unity. I’m all about love. And I want my people to be good.”
“Here’s what puzzles me. I’m Jewish. You’re Palestinian. We’re cousins. We go back to Isaac and Esau. We go back a long way. Why can’t we get together?”
“In my eyes, I don’t see why it’s a problem. I’m sitting here with you right now, and we don’t have a problem. I respect you, you respect me, and that’s how life should be. You know what I’m sayin’? …[The world] needs more people like me to say, ‘Yo, let’s come together, let’s do some things.” While I admire Khaled’s optimism and hope, it’s a little bit of a stretch to attempt to connect his collecting of hip-hop talent to the bridging of Jewish and Arab cultures. Perhaps I am wrong, though.
Khaled laments that the situation can hurt his people. The reason Khaled believes in a two-state solution is because he’s gotta have faith and he’s gotta have hope, he says, as Larry King’s eyes glaze over and he assumes his final form, that of a journalistic lizard-king in suspenders, whose gaze turns lesser beings to stone.
The highlight of the interview comes when Larry, completely out of nowhere, asks Khaled, “How did you gain all the weight?” Khaled’s thoughtful response: “Just eating a lot, you know what I’m sayin’.” This is certainly the first Larry King interview I’ve seen where Larry essentially asks the guest, “How did you get so fat?”
The rest of the interview involves Khaled’s new line of Bang and Olufsun headphones. Larry pricelessly puts them on his head and looks to be in absolute awe at the comfort of the headpieces. “They’re the best!” Khaled explains. Eventually, after Khaled declines to expand on his business dealings with B + O, Larry runs out of steam on this line of questioning and places the headphones down on the table, dejectedly muttering, “We the best...OK…”.
The show ends with a segment called, “If You Only Knew,” in which Khaled answers random rapid-fire questions. Khaled reveals that his guilty pleasure is eating chocolate chip ice cream. His first job was as a clothes seller at a flea market. He even in sales at Champs, where he pawned off his mixtapes. His favorite rappers to work with are Rick Ross and Ace Hood. Khaled admits that his biggest screw-up on the air was when he predicted that the Heat were going to win in the finals.
“What does rap culture mean to you?” Larry asks. “Rap is life,” Khaled responds. “What does being Muslim mean to you?” Larry asks. “Muslim is life,” Khaled responds. When Larry asks Khaled to reveal something that we don’t know about him, he contemplates this, and comes back with “I’m not so hype all the time.” Larry does not look entirely convinced and responds with, “Really?” The interview ends with one final headphone promotion, and with Larry deadpanning, “We The Best.” We learned nothing from Larry King’s interview with DJ Khaled, but we also learned everything. It was the We the Best of times, it was the We the Worst of times.
Jonathan Peltz is Noisey's reluctant Miami correspondent and in-house expert on Greek mythology. He's on Twitter - @thecrazypman