In 2015, DJ Khaled began his one-man war against “they.” At the time, no one really knew who he was referring to when he mentioned “they,” but according to Khaled, “they” didn’t want you to have, or do, a damn thing. While celebrating the success of his 2014 single “Hold You Down,” Khaled broke it down simple and plain: “They don’t want you to win. They don’t want you to have the No. 1 record in the country. They don’t want you get healthy. They don’t want you to exercise. And they don’t want you to have that view.” Hell, based on this collection of videos he posted on Snapchat, “they” don’t even want you to have breakfast.
Khaled’s chef Dee Hodges told Bon Appetit in 2015 that she thinks “‘they’ are whoever is bringing negative energy to positive vibes.” Khaled expressed a similar sentiment while explaining “they” on Ellen the following year: “‘They’ are the people that don’t believe in you, that say that you won’t succeed. We stay away from ‘they.'”
With the release of Rick Ross’ “Idols Become Rivals,” from his new album Rather You Than Me, there’s a new definition of the word—let Twitter tell it. Per a joke circulating social media—one that requires some creative connecting of dots—”they” has meant Birdman all along.
Now the timeline outlined above is crucial. In 2015, Khaled released his eighth studio album, I Changed a Lot. The project marked the end of a string of releases through We the Best/Cash Money; the three prior albums—2011’s We the Best Forever, 2012’s Kiss the Ring, and 2013’s Suffering From Success—were all joint releases through Cash Money. And what was the lead single for I Changed a Lot? The smash hit “They Don’t Love You No More,” which not only featured Jay Z but also had MMG capo Rick Ross and Meek Mill along for the ride. The French Montana-laced hook went “ever since a nigga hit the top/pussy niggas wanna see me in a box” and “should be your favorite, now you just hatin’.”
At the time, Khaled kept it cool. During a May 2015 visit to The Breakfast Club, he pointed out that he’d not been on Cash Money “for a minute,” saying he’s “with We the Best. I promote them every day. I’m not signed to Cash Money at all… Lil Wayne and Birdman, that’s family to me. The world know that.” Elsewhere in the interview, when asked about Wayne and Birdman’s beef, Khaled was neutral: “Lil Wayne is my brother. Birdman, that’s family. It’s not my business. I pray for greatness. Those two people know who I am; I don’t get involved. I feel like people who comment, it’s not their business.”
Khaled said two real things there: “I don’t get involved” and “everything is beautiful.” When Khaled talks about success, he’s a true motivational speaker—there’s a reason we had him and Tony Robbins together on a cover. He’s not one to breed negativity on his social channels or with his overall message. In October 2015, when asked by The Breakfast Club if he was going to choose a side in the Drake/Meek Mill beef, Khaled expanded on his positive stance: “From the beginning of me coming in the game, I’ve always promoted unity by my records. If it becomes a situation where it gets a lot of heat involved, I’ll be the guy trying to resolve it. You’ll never hear me on both sides diss somebody.”
Since going viral, Khaled has been the guy who wants you to take the door off the hinges, rip the hinges off, and put them in the fuckboy’s hands if they try to stop your progress. Take the fight to “they” by showing and proving, if you will. Does that manifest itself in, hypothetically speaking, Khaled and Birdman having a difference of opinions that leads to Khaled cutting ties with Cash Money, and going on a “they” campaign? Maybe. Could Ross have hit Khaled like, “I’m going to put xyz in a rhyme about you and Baby, you cool with that?” Maybe. Did Khaled OK it? Who knows.
Ultimately, this “they”-defining business is just the stuff of rap conversations. Twitter’s having fun running with this theory (because rap Twitter can’t resist an opportunity to joke with DJ Khaled), to the point where unraveling this story has pushed enjoying Ross’ latest to the sidelines.
We reached out to a rep for Khaled for comment. But if Khaled’s not here to speak negatively about anyone, especially people he considers family, we’ll likely never know.