"I Can Pretty Much Tell You That This Won't Fly."

A playlist for your day, The Three Beginnings, and The Ballad of Tallahassee Pain

Est. Read Time: 7 Minutes. Read Time brought to you once again by the Ashburton Energy + Hair Logistics Group, in association with the Bradley Hills Bureau of Corrections. If you like the Sternal Journal, forward it to a friend. They can find the Best of 2020 list here

Hiya Sternal Journalists,

Last week, I presented the idea for my epic essay, What We The Best About When We The Best About DJ Khaled, an opportunity for me to finally blurt out and explain all of my thoughts on the topic. I also said that this week, I would talk about the three beginnings to my love for the Miami-by-way-of-New-Orleans mega hitmaker.

As with most Sternal Journals and most conversations I have, writing about these beginnings led me down countless other paths and I realized this thing might be bigger even than I was expecting it to be.

Don’t worry, I’m still going to fulfill my promise:

The Three Beginnings To My Love of DJ Khaled

  1. Summer 2010. Standing on a table at a Buckhead bar in an Atlanta strip mall, the moment I first heard the pause between T-Pain saying “Everybody’s hands go UP”

    and [pause]

    “AND THEY STAY THERE, AND THEY SAY YEAH.” The entire bar went wild. The placement of that pause is a masterclass in dramatic tension and music theory. Even though T-Pain sings the hook on “All I Do Is Win,” it is DJ Khaled’s song and DJ Khaled’s pause.

  2. Spring 2014. In my improv 201 class, when I had been talking a lot about how much I love the serenity of Rick Ross’ persona on Instagram—wading in pools and eating pears—and a friend said, “If you like that, you should check out DJ Khaled’s snapchat.” Major key alert.

  3. Winter 2015. I pitched “The Key is To Not Panic // DJ Khaled Lost At Sea,” a cinematic critical analysis of the day DJ Khaled got literally lost at sea on his jetski while trying to get home from Rick Ross’ villa.

    I pitched it to The Atlantic (“This sounds interesting but isn't quite in line with the kinds of stories we cover at The Atlantic.”), Salon, Vulture, EW, Buzzfeed, Slate, and The AV Club (“I can pretty much tell you that this won't fly. I don't know that it's common knowledge w/ our readers.”) 

    I just reread the pitch and will probably republish it as a laugh in a future journal, but here’s a little sample:

    The version that does justice to Khaled Lost at Sea calls it what it truly is: one of the greatest pieces of Snapchat storytelling we've ever seen. Most of the coverage of KLAS begins when he is already on the jet ski, leaving Rick Ross' house. But that's like starting The Bridge Over The River Kwai when the bridge explodes. You get to see the action, but miss the set up and the emotional investment entirely. 

    Damn, 26-year-old Julian. You went for it. You got the name of The Bridge on the River Kwai slightly wrong, but you went for it.

    Suffice it to say, they din’t want me to write about DJ Khaled.

And these three beginnings, while not exhaustive, touch upon quite a lot of the things I talk about when I talk about DJ Khaled: genuine love of his music, love of music in general, what makes music good, auteurship, T-Pain, Rick Ross, jet skis, hustling, being drunk, social media, social media addiction, the masks we wear on social media and how those masks can parasitically infuse with the faces beneath them, and of course, searching for meaning where our obsessions exceed the obsessions of others.

I’m still not sure how I’ll break all of this down. That’s a Future Julian problem. It’s not impossible these essays will be sketches of an outline for a memoir about DJ Khaled. You wouldn’t put it past me. You know that. Or I’ll just cap it at a number of words and number of essays and write as much as I can in those parameters.

If you have editorial thoughts, please let me know. But for now! As this is an early edition because it is probably one of the most cathartic days we’ve had in a while—a time when most people at least in the United States who have wanted to get vaccinated are fully vaccinated and we can gather for a three-day weekend with much less guilt than we used to, I present to a gift that I came across in my research:

Julian’s Exhaustive List of T-Pain Hits From His College Years (2006-2010)

I’d like to do a whole essay on “All I Do Is Win,” and part of that will involve exploring just how ascendant T-Pain was at the time. The song is a museum. In addition to T-Pain’s hook is Luda/Ross/Snoop’s verses and Nasty Beatmakerz’ nasty beat. All are works of art. DJ Khaled curated the collection and Frank Gehry’d the damn museum.

But that little piece of writing they have at museums next to each piece? for T-Pain’s chorus, it would explain that it cannot be fully experienced without acknowledging the history; that in 2010, all T-Pain was doing was winning. In the prior four years, from ages 20-24, T-Pain had released or been heavily featured on the following:

  • “Buy You a Drank”

  • “U and Dat”

  • “I’m a Flirt”

  • “I’m So Hood”

  • “Cyclone”

  • “Bartender”

  • “Kiss Kiss”

  • “Good Life”

  • “One More Drink”

  • “Blame It”

  • “Chopped ‘n Skrewed”

  • “I’m On a Boat”

  • “Hustler’s Anthem 09”

  • “All The Above”

There’s more to say about all of that, but for today, in a weekend of potential gatherings, perhaps the first time in a while you’ve had to search for a party playlist, I present these bangers to you in the first official Sternal Journal Playlist.

And in case that’s nor your speed, here are some other things I enjoyed this wee:


Senna. Film. This 2010 documentary about Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna is wild in both the story and the footage they had access to. I’ve never been a fan of auto racing, but I was gripped by this. There are explosions, there is pettiness, there is passion. And it’s all real. There’s certainly some spoilery things you might come across if you google him, but I knew most of them and still really enjoyed it.

The Improvement Association. Podcast. I’m 3 episodes into this 5-part series from Serial Productions and The New York Times (re: that, I think Serial just realized people didn’t want new seasons of Serial, so they started releasing miniseries that are definitely new seasons of Serial, but they aren’t calling it that). It’s about what claims of election fraud, like we saw on a national scale, can do on the county level. Also includes much pettiness and passion. No explosions.

Dish City Season 3. Podcast. I have always told you all how much I love this WAMU podcast about the D.C. food scene, but they’ve dedicated an entire season to delivery, why it happens, and how it got this way. A lot of fascinating history stuff (the New York restaurant owner who pioneered the idea of slipping menus under doors; the old mechanisms of keeping pizza hot while in transit causing multiple car fires), but also Ruth and Patrick just do a wonderful job of contextualizing it all, grounding it in their experiences which are for the most part also our experiences.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Short Story. I guess I should have mentioned that the “What We The Best About When We The Best About DJ Khaled” is a convoluted allusion to this Raymond Chandler short story. I read it for the first time recently. It’s very good. For the runners out there, there’s also Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a wonderful memoir about the exertive challenges of putting one foot or word in front of the other.

Okay, that’s all for now! Please enjoy your day, your weekend, and if you’re in the mood, some T-Pain.

Much love!