The Tragic Tale of DJ Khaled  

Monday, July 19, 2010

An inspirational story about overcoming adversity.If you listen to as much Top 40 radio as I do, you've probably heard DJ Khaled's1 song "All I Do is Win." What you might not have noticed is the tragic undercurrent of that song, emphasizing the unique pain of DJ Khaled's life.

The tragedy is apparent right from the first line of the song:

All I do is win win win, no matter what
At first glance, this may sound like DJ Khaled lives a charmed life, successful in anything he puts his mind to. And I'm sure that was probably how Khaled felt when he first discovered this quirk of his existence. However, as any Twilight Zone fan will tell you, a world without loss--or even the possibility of loss, is not necessarily a pleasant one. Errors are what allow us to grow as people, and the chance of loss is what makes games and sports thrilling, what gives value to our possessions, what makes us cherish the things we have.

Sure, having an unbroken lifetime winning streak would be nice for the money and prestige--and Khaled says as much, noting that he's "got money on [his] mind"--but it would certainly become boring after awhile. Khaled's next line makes this clear, saying of money that he "can never get enough." His inability to lose has taken the thrill and satisfaction out of his moneymaking endeavors, leaving his desire for cash insatiable. No longer can he find a sense of accomplishment in his work, no longer does his calling fulfill him, he now works to continue accumulating money the way an addict continuously increases his dosage to try to outpace his body's acclimation to the drug and get the same high that much smaller doses once offered. Eventually, addicts become so inured to the sensation that they must keep using just to feel normal; this is how money has become to perpetual winner DJ Khaled.

But the really sad detail is in Khaled's almost supernatural influence on other people. As he explains:
And every time I step up in the building,
[sic] hands go up
And they stay there
Were this a simple manner of people recognizing Khaled's inability to lose and expressing immediate surrender, it would be one thing. But were that the case, we would only expect those who planned to compete with Khaled to throw their hands into the air in a show of acquiescence. No, the truth is far more bizarre: due to some unknown force, upon the moment DJ Khaled enters a building, everyone inside--through no volition of their own--puts their hands in the air and makes them stay there.

The more one thinks about such an ability, the more apparent its nuisance becomes. Leaving aside the problem of body odor, imagine trying to eat at a restaurant where none of the other patrons, nor the cooks or wait staff, can lower their arms below their heads. Picture attending a hockey match where everyone is high-sticking or a basketball game where 'the wave' is hampered by the crowd's inability to put their arms down. DJ Khaled must bag his own groceries. When DJ Khaled goes to dances, the song is "YYYY." There are sex acts that DJ Khaled can only enjoy outdoors.

And do you know how many unfortunate misunderstandings have happened due to routine trips to the bank? DJ Khaled just wants to make a deposit, but all any passing police officer sees is a black guy in a bank where everyone else has their hands up.

Sure, there's some enjoyment to be had with this unusual ability. By repeatedly entering and exiting a building in quick succession, DJ Khaled can cause everyone to rapidly raise and lower their hands. The backing vocals reference this explicitly--"up, down, up, down, up, down"--but the novelty of that game wears thin rather quickly.

Khaled has persevered in the face of this adversity, finding solace in a musical career, where large numbers of people holding their hands in the air signify adulation and excitement. Off the stage, however, his ability is far more a curse than a blessing.

So next time you hear "All I Do is Win," make sure you appreciate DJ Khaled's courage in making his condition public and taking ownership of it. For me, if I ever find myself with my hands uncontrollably held in the air, I'll know that DJ Khaled must be in the building. Should that happen, I'll seek him out, tell him how inspired I am by his strength in the face of adversity, and while I may not be able to shake his hand, I can always wave.

1. And a cornucopia of guest stars. Little-known fact: rap's primary influences were African music, Disco, Funk/Soul, and The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.

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