DJ Khaled & Ace Hood: Training Day

Miami's music emperor shows his protege—and us—how it's done.

Story: Alex Bernstein

Photography: Michael Pisarri

Sparking his career in 2003 at a Miami-based radio station, DJ Khaled has progressively built an empire. From radio personality to record label executive, he’s an entrepreneur who shows no signs of hittin’ the brakes—in case you didn’t already pick up a hint of his business philosophy from his track “All I Do Is Win,” or from We The Best, one of his half dozen labels. Plain and simple, Khaled has enough determination to flip the game on its face and still keep enough momentum to rise even higher. There’s no plateau in sight.

However internally focused Khaled seems, he takes equal pride in helping a protégé excel and in creating a star, bringing a new addition to his cabinet, Antoine McColister—or, as you’ve heard by now, Ace Hood. Being huddled in the shadow of Khaled’s wing has given Ace a quick boost to the top. At just 23 years old, Ace has proven to be a solid endeavor for Khaled, both on the business and music fronts. Together, this overachieving duo plans to conquer the industry, while rollin’ fresh in a fleet of cars that you’d sooner expect to see in the Prince of Dubai’s garage.

RIDES: How do you feel about all your recent success? DJ Khaled To be honest, it feels great with all the accomplishments and goals I’ve achieved. But at the same time, to walk in my shoes is not an easy thing. You got a lot of excitement with a lot of stress, which is part of everyday life and what people go through, and the stress to win, meaning it’s actually part of winning. It’s exciting because I set goals to accomplish every year, and then they become victories. It puts you at a different height in the game every year, and I’ve been doing that. It’s been working, and I’ve been winning.

Do you buy cars just to spend money or because you’re emotionally connected to them? DJK I love cars; I think my cars represent who I am. My personal car is a Phantom—you know, top dog, it represents what I represent. I like the luxury. The cars are how we glorify our success. I remember I used to have a Honda, and that became a BMW, the BMW became a Bentley, and the Bentley became a Rolls-Royce.

Can you discuss more? DJK It’s all me. I gotta have a boss car. I gotta have a Phantom and a Maybach, mostly at all times. And for day-to-day office work and all that stuff, it would be that Range Rover, if I just feel like driving. I don’t like to drive, though. I mean, I don’t mind driving, but I’d just rather be in the back on my BlackBerry. It’s kinda like my office; really, the only place I can get stuff done is in that backseat.

Speaking of getting stuff done, what was it about Ace Hood that made you want to take him further? DJK When I met him, he had a glow to him. There are certain reasons why I pick artists, and he had a glow, some energy where he had potential to be a superstar. His voice is hungry—you can hear it in his voice that he wants this bad, and I like that. I like someone that’s ready to hustle hard.

It takes more to win than just being a hustler, though, right? DJK Yeah, he’s a great performer and everything, and he’s a great person. I’m happy I can help him out to live his dreams and achieve his goals, and my goal is to make him one of the greatest. He’s young, and I love it because you’re gonna see the growth with Ace in his career. From the day I signed him until now, you can see the growth and the progress, and he’s gonna get greater and greater. You know what happens after that: People start talking different.

Do you enjoy doing your own thing more than collaborating? DJK I enjoy it all, man! I love to make hits. Whether it’s for me or me giving it to somebody else on the team, I just love putting out this great music and breaking new barriers. And the great thing about all this is being so consistent and not stopping.

So, Ace, has your life been completely transformed since you met Khaled back in ’07? Ace Hood Of course, yeah, man, it transformed majorly. I’m the first artist on We The Best Music Group, signed to Def Jam now, a few albums out. And now I’m workin’ on my third. I’m having lots of fun. I feel like I’m living a dream.

Khaled said he sees a lot of hustle in you, and “Hustle Hard” is blowing up pretty big. Is that about your life? AH My life, man, truly what I’ve been through and my past experiences. You know what I mean—of being in the music business with its ups and downs. “Hustle Hard” is definitely a snippet of who I am as a person, as far as being a hustler.

Hustling lets you rock an SLS, an S-class and a Camaro? AH Yeah, I love a Mercedes. The SLS is fly; you just look at it and know what’s up. I feel like the S-class represents Mr. Hood, and the Camaro represents A-Hood. You know what I mean? I feel like it’s two different ones, swaggin’, but I definitely feel like the Camaro is just…it’s just not too much. It’s nice, it’s sexy, but it’s still got that aggressiveness toward it, you feel me?

We like that—different whips for different personalities. Is there any car that you’re dyin’ to pick up? AH The Rolls-Royce Ghost. I’m gonna get it at the end of the year, I promise you. I love that car, I just gotta have it.

Khaled, what’s up next for the both of you? DJK Right now I’m working on my album that’s coming out this summer. It’s called We the Best Forever. It’s probably gonna be the biggest record of my career. I’m excited about it. I’m also working on Ace’s album, Blood, Sweat and Tears, which is coming out this summer, August 9—it’s coming out amazing. He’s got a new record out there called “Go N Get It,” too. It inspires you to hustle.

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