Hear Me Out: DJ Khaled on His Sneaker Obsession

DJ Khaled might be famous for his ridiculous ad-libs, but the guy also has a pretty serious sneaker collection. Of course, haters will hate, but for someone of this level who’s been in the music industry as long as Khaled has, that just comes with the territory. He might not be one of the most influential style icons out, but he surely has the pulse of the sneaker game in his palm.

This holiday season, Khaled got a chance to reunite with Champs Sports for a special holiday commercial campaign. Amazingly, the dude’s first job back in the day was actually with Champs Sports, so in a sense this was coming full circle. While on set at the Mall of America with Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Andrew Wiggins from the Timberwolves, we caught up with Khaled to talk about his love of sneakers, the best sneaker collectors out right now, and how he went from working at Champs Sports to becoming one of the most recognizable music personalities in the game.

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Talk a little bit about what you’ve been up to today, and what you’re working on with Champs Sports.
Today’s been an amazing day, working with Andrew Wiggins and my brother Antonio Brown and Champs. I don’t know if people know, my first job was [with] Champs Sports. When I got the phone call to be a part of their campaign, it was tears of joy… another victory, another dream come true. It’s exciting man, because this is the lifestyle that we live, music, sports, and I’m a big fan of Antonio Brown especially. He’s out of Miami, came from Miami, and he’s representing us at Miami.

Talking about you coming up at Champs Sports, do you remember when you were working there when kids would come in what kind of shoes they were looking to get?
Yeah I remember everything about my Champs job. Back in [those] days, Timberland sweatshirts were like, so dope. It was Timberland sweatshirts and Timbos, and of course Nike and adidas. Everything with the lifestyle of sports, but at the same time, it was and still today is what’s in fashion.

Me having a job there was crazy. I don’t know if I should say this, but I don’t work there [anymore]. I used to sell my mixtapes when I used to sell the sneakers. Somebody would buy a sneaker and I would put a mixtape in there to promote my music. People would actually come see me at Champs to grab a mixtape, because they knew they could catch me over there. That’s back in the days when I was hustlin’ real hard… still am though.

Word. Everyone’s seen the Complex video where you’re talking in your sneaker room. How many sneakers do you think you have?
I don’t know the exact number of sneakers I have, but I have thousands. I have a storage room of sneakers, I got in my house two huge rooms, high ceilings filled with sneakers… and I got one room that I really made, I took my time building the room from wood floors, to putting the “We The Best” lifestyle logo, to making certain shelves for like the Jordans and the Yeezys. Everything I have, it’s part of my life. I’m going to be 100-something years old wearing sneakers, it is what it is.

At the same time, I love collecting and I love trading too. I wear my sneakers as well, all of ‘em, every chance I get. I think it’s just part of everything I’m about, from my music to lifestyle to fashion, you know?

I know you’re a big Jordan/Nike guy, let’s talk about the Air Maxes real quick. Do you have a favorite, a favorite colorway?
My friend J-Ones he’s the Air Max guy in the crew, but I have a lot of Air Maxes. I don’t know if I have a favorite but I have a bunch of ‘em, the ones with all the rainbow colors, black and purple, the all-blacks to the black and yellow one… I like ‘em all. Those I wear with certain type of jeans, so I don’t have a favorite.

Do you remember your first pair?
I don’t remember my first pair of Air Maxes, no. I have a lot of ‘em.

Today we’ve been talking with Antonio Brown, talk about that relationship and how y’all linked up.
That’s my brother, man. A friend of mine Stan hooked me up with Antonio years ago. Before he got to the NFL, he used to come by the studio, we’d hang out… he liked “We The Best,” he’s part of the family.

The amazing thing about Antonio Brown, what’s so inspiring is that, I remember when they drafted him. We thought he was going to get drafted in the top three, top five. I think they drafted him later on in the draft. I was there to see when he didn’t get what he wanted, meaning as in the draft pick. Which was, you know, a blessing that he got in the draft.

The whole inspiring thing about the whole situation was, he kept pushing, and he told me like, “Khaled, we gon’ be good, we gon’ be great, and we gon’ be the best and we gon’ win.” And the thing is that the way he got drafted, his first play if I’m not mistaken was a touchdown. The next year, a year later, everything changed for him. He ended up being the No. 1 wide receiver in the league, in the game.

The reason why it’s so inspiring is usually you would think that would happen with the first pick in the draft or the second or the third. And Antonio Brown, basically somebody made a mistake, but Pittsburgh didn’t because they got ‘em.

What I’m saying is, he is the best. And that’s inspiring because it’s kinda like my story. When I was coming up in the game, they never opened the door for me, I always had to kick the door down. For all the young world out there, I think Antonio Brown’s story is amazing, and now look at him. When I see him I just smile, and when you see him smile you just see the greatness and the glow on him. It’s inspiring, every day I talk about Antonio Brown.

It’s crazy to come back 360 here. When did you realize the shoe game was your passion?
Shoe game’s been my passion from birth, ever since I came out my momma’s stomach I’ve been wearing sneakers. Sometimes you collect sneakers you don’t even notice it because you have so many, [but] I’ve always kept my sneakers. I cared if I scuffed ’em up, I would clean ’em, somebody stepped on ’em I would go crazy, or sometimes I would want to keep them in the box and never wear them for a while… that’s just a natural thing. And then in time I become a grown man, a young king, I realized, “Damn, I got all these Jordans and all these adidas and all these sneakers” and I would never want to throw ’em away. I try to keep them as crispy as possible and save some, so just growing up I realized, man I loved sneakers. And of course, the game changed, it got more exciting. When Instagram came out people started stuntin’ more, but I’ve been doin that [since] before that. Now [that] we got social media to promote our sneakers, you’re going to see a lot more… but I’m one of the day one guys.

I know you have the crispiest sneakers, but if there’s somebody out there who could give you a run for your money, who would it be?
There’s a lot of people out there that collect a lot of sneakers that I respect. Clark Kent, Fat Joe, Greg Street, Mayor… there’s a guy, a friend of mine, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say, I don’t think you know him, this guy has a serious collection, his name’s Barney. And then you got a lot of people out there that hustle sneakers, like Chris Smokes and Benjamin Kicks, that’s the young world. I respect a lot of people, everybody [has] their own ways of who [has] the most sneakers or who [has] the exclusive. Me, I just got what I want and what I love, and I’m glad I’m friends with these people because I might trade with them. We might swap sneakers or they might put me up on game on sneakers. Right now, my whole goal is to one day have my own Jordan that I can give to the world. Even if it’s 10 pieces, or two pieces, or 23 pieces, or 100 pieces, one day I’m going to try to accomplish that goal.

You travel a lot, where would you say, what city has the most style and sneaker swag?
I’m going to say Miami because I rep Miami. But New York got a strong sneaker swag, Miami got strong sneaker swag, L.A. got one… I dob’t think if it’s specific states, I think everybody got one. Sneakers, it’s a lifestyle. Right now I’m in Minnesota, Minneapolis and there’s sneakers all over the place. I think everybody, it don’t matter what city or what country, this sneaker thing is real.

Speaking about Miami, what is a sneaker right now that’s a Miami-inspired sneaker? What are you rocking when you leave the house?
I got these Jordans, they’re so fly, it’s like white with different colors. On the back you can bend the Jordan logo and it says “305” and then the other side has the Florida logo. Those are exclusive, they only made a certain amount, and that’s just like… Miami. And they’re so exclusive and I got ‘em, you know?

What’s in store for adidas in the future?
Shout out to adidas, man, they’ve been doing their thing from the shoes to the clothing. I’ve always been an adidas fan just from the Run-DMC days, the classics. And I always owned all the classic adidas jumpsuits, and I still wear ’em every day, I think they’re forever timeless. Right now I got the new fly stuff, and the new kicks. I love ’em because they’re comfortable, they made it where it’s like if I want to be in the sports vibe, or I want to be casual vibe, meaning as in I could wear it on some business, but I also can play some sports with it. And it’s just super comfortable and I love their apparel, the jumpsuits, the sweatpants. And of course shoutout to Yeezy, with his whole line over there, it’s incredible.

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