Loyalty pays off, and DJ Khaled is proof of that.
While soaking up the sun from his Miami home, the “God Did” hitmaker spoke with FN via Zoom in late October, one month before the debut of his first Jordan Brand footwear and apparel range. Khaled — who has been a Jordan Brand ambassador since 2015 — revealed why he has an unwavering commitment to Jordan Brand.
“I’m loyal to the inspiration and motivation that [Michael Jordan] gives me and gives the world — and that’s forever. What he’s done on the basketball court, his sneakers and all the beautiful things he’s done for the communities. That’s such an inspiration to me,” Khaled told FN. “As far as the brand, I represent everything they represent. It’s been a dream of mine to partner up because I love sneakers, but also because I love what they’re about. The team is about love, unity, motivation, inspiration and greatness. My loyalty is forever.”
Khaled’s relationship with the company extends back to 2007, when rapper Fat Joe introduced him to Reggie Saunders, VP of entertainment marketing at Jordan Brand. Since their first encounter, Saunders said he’s been inspired by everything that Khaled represents.
“We all know how super positive he is — what you see is what you get. He is authentic and it shines through,” Saunders said, reflecting on a key moment with MJ himself back at the 2012 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, Fla.
“T-Pain was performing, and Khaled and Pain were close. Khaled was standing next to me, MJ is standing next to me, and T-Pain went to do ‘All I Do Is Win.’ MJ looked at me and goes, ‘You better tell your boy to get out there,’” Saunders recalled. “Khaled was shy back then. I pushed him up there and he ended up performing the song. MJ was like, ‘That dude is incredible.’”
Khaled admits it’s difficult to pinpoint a specific event in his relationship with Jordan Brand that stands out, but said his favorite moments are talking with Saunders about his ambitions with the company — and how to achieve them.
In 2017, one of his dreams came to fruition when Saunders brought Khaled to Beaverton, Ore. — the home of Nike Inc. — to create two Air Jordan 3 friends-and-family colorways.
“It meant so much to me to see [Khaled’s record company] “We The Best” and Jordan logos together. It put a battery in my back and inspired me. We talked about this s–t over 10 years and it finally happened,” Khaled said.
Fast forward to 2022, and Khaled’s first retail release will arrive by month’s end. Jordan Brand will drop his take on the Air Jordan 5 silhouette on Cyber Monday.
“The Jordan 5 is classic, it’s iconic. I felt like the 5 was a great way for me to step in the game,” Khaled said. “What I love about the 5, to me, it’s an all-purpose sneaker.”
He continued, “I thought about the 5s that I love — the ‘Grape,’ Supreme did a dope 5, the great Virgil [Abloh] did incredible 5s. And before we made the final decision, I went and got reinspired by MJ when he was wearing them. How MJ looked when he had them on, what type of dunks and layups and shots he was
doing in them.”
With the model selected, Khaled opted to go big like with everything he does, creating two different colorways that will arrive at retail: “Crimson Bliss” — which was shock dropped via SNKRS on Nov. 3 — and “Sail.”
“I like saying Another One. Another One stands for another win, another blessing, another hit, another smash. I felt like if I was going to make one, I’ve got to be able to be me and give them another one,” Khaled said.
Khaled’s Air Jordan 5s feature luxurious materials, such as buttery soft leather on the inside of the tongue and quilted linings.
“It’s We The Best and Jordan, so I can’t play when it comes down to quality.” When you ask for the best products, it’s going to go over budget. Reggie got on the phone with MJ, I told him about the leather and everything — ‘Budget approved,’” Khaled said.
The sneakers will retail for $225 in men’s sizing and will also come in grade school ($160), preschool ($95) and toddler sizing ($75). The sneakers will release via the SNKRS app and at select global retailers.
Aside from the “Crimson Bliss” and “Sail” looks that consumers can shop, Khaled and Jordan Brand created another two friends-and-family Air Jordan 5s — one executed in a blue “Polar” hue and the other in “Court Purple” — that are limited to 23 pairs each. The collection of four, Khaled explained, are near and dear to him.
“It’s Miami, it’s DJ Khaled and it represents the love and the light. When I do landscaping, I would want those colors in a batch of flowers,” Khaled said.
All I Do Is Win
Aside from footwear, Khaled’s debut collection features apparel, including T-shirts, shorts, hoodies, a track jacket and track pants. The prices range from $40-$150.
The footwear and apparel range is titled “Keep Going,” which is representative of the consistency that both MJ and Khaled embody in their respective careers. What’s more, the “Keep Going” theme is a nod to how success doesn’t happen overnight.
“The world is moving so fast and there’s so much distortion. We’ve got to keep going,” Khaled said. “To keep going, that takes a lot of work. To stay positive 24 hours a day, it takes a lot of work. To spread love, to uplift the next brother and sister, that takes work. Since I became a father, I know that one of my purposes is to find a way to make the world a better place. If it’s me posting up my sneakers or me showing my beautiful family and bringing a smile to somebody’s face, I want to find a way to make the world better.”
To promote the collection, Jordan Brand and Khaled created a campaign titled “Camp Khaled,” shot at Coral Gables High School. The effort features Khaled alongside five girls and five boys from the high school’s basketball teams.
“‘Camp Khaled’ is basically me talking to the young world, inspiring them, motivating them and letting them know teamwork makes the dream work. Those young kings and queens, the youth, they’re the future, they are the new leaders, the next Michael Jordan, the next Khaled,” he said. “It’s not about just the trophy we put on our shelves. The trophy is the dream. The trophy is the goal you accomplished, the trophy is that you got up this morning and you gave it your all.”
It’s this sense of purpose and infectious energy that stands out to Jordan Brand president Craig Williams.
“Jordan Brand, ultimately, is an optimistic brand about today and the future, and Khaled is the same way,” Williams said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen the guy have a bad day. It’s cool from a consumer and community perspective when you can be around that energy, and it helps uplift you and propel you forward.”
That’s his goal with “Camp Khaled,” which extends far beyond a marketing message.
“Me and my wife, we have a foundation called We The Best Foundation. We’re doing music programs and teaming up with Overtown Youth Center [in Miami]. I’m working on getting my own We The Best basketball courts for the youth. I’m working on some things with Team Jordan. This is something we do all the time, year-round. It’s always ‘Camp Khaled.’”
Although his collection’s debut is weeks away, Khaled already has his eye on the future.
“My first sneaker release that’s going to be in stores — it’s like my first championship ring with the team. Jordan got six, so I’ve got more work to do,” Khaled said. “After this 5 comes out, we’re going to do it big. Why would you think we’re not going to keep doing it big? Who said we ain’t working on another number for you as we do this?”
But Khaled doesn’t want to limit his work with Jordan Brand to product.
“I want to continue to grow with this team in all aspects. I want to do more community work. If it’s speaking, talking to the kids or anything Michael Jordan’s involved in, I want to stand beside it. There’s no limit,” Khaled said.