DJ Khaled Cherishes Fatherhood and is a Proud, Protective Papa: 'When We Listen to Hip-Hop, It’s Always the Clean Versions'
Mega producer DJ Khaled and his wife, Nicole, open up pandemic parenting, teaching their two little boys about hard work and responsibilities, and helping them enjoy their childhood as much as possible.
“I always wanted to be a dad,” says DJ Khaled with deep sincerity, but also so happily that you feel as if he can hardly believe his luck. “I couldn’t wait to have kids—it’s something I’d been talking about most of my adult life.” The 45-year-old music producer and entrepreneur has many claims to fame, among them hits with Rihanna, Cardi B, Jay-Z, Drake, and Justin Bieber; American Music awards; Nickelodeon awards; BET awards; a Grammy; and a best-selling self-help book, The Keys, in which he shares his secrets for achieving greatness. His new album, his twelfth, is simply Khaled Khaled. So beloved is Khaled’s braggadocious public persona that he’s played himself in everything from Geico commercials to Pitch Perfect 3. Still, if there’s one role he’s taken on that’s most endeared him to fans, it’s his full-throttle enthusiasm for fatherhood.
Khaled’s millions of followers on Instagram and Snapchat are regularly treated to domestic scenes of life at home in Florida with sons Asahd, 4, and Aalam, who turns 1 in January. There’s Dad and Asahd having heart-to-heart conversations in the golf cart! There’s baby Aalam beaming and sucking his pacifier! There’s Khaled’s wife and “Queen,” Nicole Tuck, taking Asahd up the stairs for books and bedtime! Meanwhile, Khaled’s commentary is unironically steeped in adoration.
“I love you Asahd!”
“I love you Aalam!”
“Daddy’s so proud of you!”
“Mommy Daddy love you so much!”
When Parents caught up with Khaled and Nicole at 8 p.m. on a school night, they were unwinding after dinner. Aalam had already been tucked into his crib, but Asahd had somehow evaded bedtime and was still curled up next to Nicole on the sofa. “I didn’t realize what time it was,” she admits with a laugh. “But he wanted to hang out with us, so I’m letting him hang out for a little while. The other night Khaled and I had plans to go for sushi, and he jumped in the car with us, in his pajamas.”
“We didn’t stop him,” says the music mogul. “The Khaleds, always together.”
We hear that you set up a pod school for Asahd and some classmates.
Nicole: In March, when Asahd’s preschool sent everybody home, I was doing the Zoom classes with him every single day. I thought to myself, “This cannot be the best we can do!” So I organized a learning pod at our house with other quarantined families. We have seven kids and two teachers. And it’s absolutely amazing!
Khaled: Nicole did everything. We turned a guesthouse on our property into a little schoolhouse. It’s perfect because we have a playground right there too.
What are some daily rituals in the Khaled household?
Khaled: I start every morning off praying. Then I come downstairs and kiss Nicole, Asahd, and Aalam and I get the music vibing. These days we’ve been listening to a lot of reggae and salsa. Also Sade and Aretha Franklin. Music is a big part of our life. I have my turntables and I let Asahd scratch the records.
What’s your favorite father-son time with Asahd?
Khaled: We do this thing after lunch where we drive around together in the golf cart, just him and me. That’s our time. He tells me everything he’s doing and what he’s been thinking about. And I talk to him about how proud we are of him and how good he’s doing in school, and how great he is at being a big brother. It’s real peaceful. It’s kind of our man-to-man time.
You often talk about the importance of hustle. But Asahd and Aalam are growing up with a lot of privilege. Asahd has had his own Jordan apparel line—the Jordan x Asahd collection—since he was in diapers. How do you square the two?
Khaled: The kids see Daddy work all day in the studio. Especially now with the pandemic, I’m doing all my office work and meetings right in the backyard, so they see me nonstop working. I explain to Asahd, “Yo, Daddy’s got to work to make sure that everything’s good.” I want the kids to know that Mommy and Daddy work hard and that we want them to work hard when they grow up, to take care of their own families.
Nicole: We show them every day what it is to work. It’s not like we shield them from business.
- RELATED: How to Raise a Kid With Ambition
What about household responsibilities and things like that?
Nicole: Asahd definitely has chores. Even though we have housekeepers, he knows how to make his bed. And he puts away his toys. Actually, he’s more organized than we are.
Khaled: And he wants to help make us breakfast. He loves to make chocolate-chip pancakes. That’s his specialty.
Let’s talk about limits. How do you tell Asahd “No”? Do you ever have to go Supernanny on him and put him on the naughty step?
Nicole: It’s amazing that we have never had to put him in a corner or anything like that. The most I ever have to say is, “Okay, I’m going to count.” And as soon as I say, “One,” that’s it. I don’t even have to go to “Two.”
Khaled: He’s such a good kid. We are so blessed it’s unbelievable.
Khaled, you’ve talked about your parents’ immigration story from Palestine. Your mom and dad came to the country with almost nothing and worked hard to build a clothing business from the ground up.
Khaled: Yeah, my family started selling clothes out of the flea market in New Orleans and ended up getting their own store in a popular mall in Orlando. As a kid I worked in the store, marking pants up to get hemmed, pulling suits off racks, opening boxes, putting price tags on clothes. I saw how hard they worked seven days a week, never one day off. But they still raised me and my brothers and sisters. It was incredible.
So hard work is one value you deinitely got from your parents. What else would you say you got from your families?
Khaled: First, that God is love and God is great. You know what I’m saying? And also that family is everything. Your siblings, your mother, your father, are everything.
Nicole: And education and dedication. My mom was involved with the PTA and a substitute teacher in my school. Now she’s 75 and still doing headstands in yoga! My dad is 85 and working full-time. Thanks to our parents’ strengths, we learn daily how to be better parents ourselves.
Do you worry about your boys growing up too fast?
Nicole: I do try and keep life as traditional as possible, because we live in a very hectic world. I want them to enjoy being kids as long as they possibly can. I try to keep it like how we grew up as much as possible.
Khaled: Yes, because they learn so fast, you know what I’m saying? So we’re protective. We’re definitely cautious about the TV, and when we listen to hip-hop, it’s always the clean versions of everything. That’s mandatory!
What’s Asahd watching?
Nicole: His favorite shows are PAW Patrol and PJ Masks. Yesterday it was raining, so we had a Cars marathon. He was in his pajamas all day long and we watched Cars, Cars 2, and Cars 3.
And what about books?
Nicole: He makes me read 10 books every night before bed, and he’s serious about it being 10—he will go through and count them. These days it’s a lot of Dr. Seuss—Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? and Green Eggs and Ham, which he knows by heart. When I read it out loud to the class the other day, he was saying the words with me and everyone was like, “Stop, Asahd!”
- RELATED: 30 Best Children's Books of 2020
So if each of you could describe your parenting style in one word, what would it be?
Khaled: True. I always tell the kids, we are so blessed to have Mommy.
Everything You Need to Know About DJ Khaled's Family
First Person Awake in the House: Aalam
Food Both Boys Love: Pastina pasta
One Part of Parent Duty I Don’t Totally Enjoy: Changing diapers
What Asahd is Learning in Preschool: Spanish, math, and phonics
Parenting Phrase I Might Overuse: “Time for bed.”
Nicole’s Parenting Specialty: Being the backbone of this family
What Baby Aalam is Into These Days: Learning how to walk
Things That Always Makes My Boys Laugh: “Yes boy! Yes boy! Yes boy!”
What My Sons Do That Make Me Laugh: They bring me joy every single day.
Childhood Tradition That I Pass On: Put God and family first.
Biggest Fashion Lover in the Family Is: All of us.
I’m Starting 2021 With: My family.
This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's January 2021 issue as “DJ Khaled, Family is the Best.” Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here