Riding in Miami With DJ Khaled, the Unlikely King of Snapchat

The 40-year-old DJ's fame has exploded because of his posts on the social app.

February 18, 2016, 2:43 PM

— -- An updated version of this ABC News "Nightline" report will air on July 6, 2016, at 12:37 a.m. ET.

DJ Khaled is the hip-hop producer behind some of this decade’s biggest anthems like “All I Do Is Win.”

But over the past few months, the 40-year-old DJ’s fame has skyrocketed – not because of his music, but because of 10-second videos he’s been posting on Snapchat.

Every day Khaled hilariously chronicles the minutia of his life in the popular social media app. He posts pictures and videos to his profile’s “story” -- a collection of posts that appear under a user’s name for 24 hours before they disappear.

Posts include his morning breakfast prepared by his personal chef to “elliptical talk,” where, you guessed it, he records himself using the elliptical, to chill sessions with his superstar friends, such as Kim Kardashian.

“It's definitely not an act, and I want the world to know I'm super serious,” he said, laughing. “This is just DJ Khaled. The only time you're going to see me acting is if I'm standing beside Denzel [Washington] and we have to play a role, and trust me, we going do that, too.”

DJ Khaled now has over six million followers on the app.

Many of his stories revolve around his life inside his Miami mansion, where he lives with his longtime fiancé Nicole Tuck. Khaled takes users through his gardens where he talks to his lion statue, which has kind of become its own celebrity.

“This relaxes me, when I water my plants, and talk to the lion, when I see the flowers grow and the colors when it’s sunny outside,” he said.

He is an avid sneaker collector. Among some of his high-end kicks include a $30,000 pair of Eminem Jordans.

DJ Khaled is shown here in his sneaker room inside his Miami mansion during an interview with "Nightline."
DJ Khaled is shown here in his sneaker room inside his Miami mansion during an interview with "Nightline."
ABC News

He has coined countless catchphrases like his “Keys to Success,” “Bless Up” and “Special Cloth Alert.”

“Special cloth to me is, you know, Michael Jackson, Obama…Oprah. Jay-Z, Puff Daddy, you know, people I'm inspired by,” he said.

Khaled’s massive Snapchat audience equates to marketing gold in the entertainment industry.

“With more success comes, you know, you got everybody coming. Movie deals, TV shows, endorsements, and some of them I'm going to do, some of them I'm not,” he said.

He’s already cashing in. Recently, Khaled debuted a line of merchandise called “We the Best” – t-shirts, jackets and hoodies with his catchphrases. Earlier this month, he signed an exclusive radio deal with Apple Music.

A typical day for Khaled includes a stop at Finga Licking, the Miami-based comfort food restaurant he co-owns.

“It feels good being a restaurant owner because it’s part of my dreams of being the biggest mogul,” he said. “Winning to me is easy. Winning more is the challenge.”

When he Snaps about a restaurant, it often becomes thronged with screaming fans, what Khaled called “Fan Luv.”

“Fan Luv is a powerful positive movement,” he said. “All over the world they come. It’s a force of luv.”

He’ll go out and greet fans without a bodyguard or entourage, signing everything from sneakers to cellphones.

Khaled estimated that 50 percent of his current fanbase are newcomers from Snapchat, with the other half coming from longtime fans of his music.

His first big Billboard hit was “We Takin’ Over,” featuring Akon and T.I., in 2007, but he has gone on to create hits with multiple artists including Kanye West, Nicki Minaj and Jay-Z.

When President Obama walked up to the podium at the 2013 White House Correspondents Dinner to his song, “All I Do Is Win,” Khaled said, “That’s day I officially said, ‘I made it.’”

“It confuses me and disappoints me when somebody says ‘What does he do? What does he do?’” he said. “My records are some of the biggest anthems ever. What do you think, they magically just appear? Obama walked out to my record.”

It was a major moment for Khaled, who was born to Palestinian parents in New Orleans and still cherishes his Arab heritage.

“I'm Muslim, it's the way of life,” he said. “I can't say that I follow completely perfect of the way--I'm supposed to be doing it…but I know my heart is clean and I have a clean soul and I know God got me.”

In response to those who talk about possibly banning Muslims from coming into the country, Khaled said, “That’s ignorant.”

“I think when people say that, it's just ignorant, you know?” he said. “I promote love and peace, man, that's all I'm about.”

Khaled continues to spread that signature Khaled-wisdom far and wide. He even went into Miami Gardens' Carol City Middle School to get on the PA system and announce to stunned students, “I’m taking over as your principal for the day.”

“School is like life,” his voice boomed. “You will be tested. Pass it.”

But before he left, he made sure to get that perfect Snap.

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