By Sydney Tomlinson
Egg whites, turkey bacon, and water— the breakfast they don’t want us to have. Cocoa butter, apples, Listerine, plants, and more are major keys to success. Vibes, elliptical talk, hammock talk, and cloth talk are favorite shticks. Catchphrases include: “Win more,” “Another one,” and “Bless up.” These are the buzzwords that have become DJ Khaled’s Snapchat legacy.
During January Term, sophomore Audrey Lupton and I lived as DJ Khaled for the day in the best way we know how— through his now-notorious Snapchat “keys to more success.” If you don’t follow Khaled on Snapchat, let us be the first to tell you that you are missing out on a hilarious and genuinely motivational pop culture phenomenon. (His Snapchat handle is @djkhaled305.) Although I can’t definitively say that this day felt more successful than any other, it was equal parts fun and thought-provoking. As The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica rightly stated, “no one has mastered Snapchat… like DJ Khaled, who has become a social media celebrity in a way that outpaces his musical fame.”
DJ Khaled has been a highly successful producer, record label executive, and, of course, DJ, for many years. Born in 1975 in New Orleans as Khaled Mohamed Khaled, he worked at a record store in New Orleans in the ‘90s before leaving to DJ and host radio shows. Since then, he has released his own albums, as well as worked with the biggest names in hip-hop, including Kanye West, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Drake, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and many more.
His newfound social media fame has skyrocketed his notoriety; he has become a household name for the Millennial generation in just a few short months, perhaps weeks. “The name DJ Khaled became synonymous with a kind of unedited self-approval and idealism, and the public loved him for it,” wrote Lizzie Plaugic for The Verge. But, as is almost inevitable with the Internet, most of his Snapchat slogans have also become memes, and have, in turn, been equally mocked and utilized by countless social-media users, including Justin Bieber, Jimmy Fallon, and Hillary Clinton; even Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has found a way to be a part of the action.
Of all his expressions, the constant use of “they” is parodied the most often. He discusses “they” in terms of the numerous tasks “they don’t want us to” do and the objects and luxuries “they don’t want us to” have, as well as advice on the keys “they” have “tried to hide from us” and the negative impacts “they” will have on one’s life if one isn’t careful and alert. Admittedly, the endless barrage of warnings about this mysterious, anonymous enemy is strange, and even laughable, at first, but upon consideration, these may be the most honest statements Khaled makes.
There are many obstacles on the road to conventional success in America. Whether you call this “the pathway of more success” or the American Dream, the reality of roadblocks one must face in the pursuit of this success is rarely disputed; additionally, these are often varied based upon the different experiences of groups of people. While Khaled may not intentionally be making statements on institutional racism in America, it is not outside the realm of possibility. Of course, everyone has their own “they,” their own struggles, but for people of color in the U.S., these obstacles can be both institutional and pervasive; not only do people of color have to face the universal hardships of human life, but in addition, there are constant hurdles that must be overcome due to the systemic racism that remains, and these may represent a portion of Khaled’s “they.”
While there has been no shortage of negative responses to his new Internet fame, he has also gained a loyal following of honest, forward-looking young people in search of their own success. Caramanica argues for the true positivity and encouragement of Khaled’s Snapchat catchphrases; “His Snapchat is a renewable source of relentless positivity, a kind of choose-your-own adventure motivational talk.” Perhaps the true key to Khaled’s own success is his persistent positivity, coupled with his even more determined ambition and work ethic. He shows us the keys, but always reminds us that “they” have tried to hide them from us, because “they” don’t want us to succeed; positivity is important, yet it is just as important to work hard, because success does not come easily.
Only time will tell how long Khaled’s fifteen minutes of digital fame will last, but as we embark on our own journeys to more success this semester, there are many lessons that can be taken from his words of wisdom. Whether you’re hoping to go out with a bang at the end of your four years or simply aiming to maintain your GPA, finding your own keys to success and staying positive just might make the difference. In Khaled’s own words: “Start your day off with positive vibes, with a positive mindset, more wins. If anybody like ‘they’ tries to come around you with their negative vibes, tell them to get off the premises.” As second semester begins, here’s to “another one.”