At 6'7" Tony Robbins stands head and shoulders above DJ Khaled. Robbins—if you know him from infomercials, his books, or a cameo in the movie Shallow Hal—defies Hollywood proportions. He’s taller than you’d think. Bigger. Barrel-chested, with a jawline that resembles Easter Island’s basalt stone statues. It’s not just that Robbins’ hands make an iPhone 6S Plus look like a playing card. It’s that the 56-year-old possesses the type of energy that sucks the air out of a room. You instantly want to please him. If some of us are afflicted with resting bitch face, the best-selling author and pal to Oprah and Richard Branson has resting inspirational face: wide smile, eyes lit up from the inside, a gaze that roves for the shyest person, the one most in need of self-actualization and the least likely to pipe up.
DJ Khaled, however, is not by any stretch of the imagination shy. Dubbed hip-hop’s answer to Robbins, he’s captivated his more than six million followers on Snapchatwith 10-second motivational maxims on professional decorum (“Don’t ever play yourself”), avoiding negativity (the omnipresent haters he calls “They”), and self-care (“It’s simple: Give thanks and use Dove” and, “have a lot of pillows”).
At 40, the Miami-based producer behind team-up mega anthems like “We Takin’ Over” and “All I Do Is Win” is zeitgeisting with astonishing propulsion. The founder of We the Best Records, Khaled—née Khaled Mohamed Khaled—has been a hip-hop mainstay for well over 10 years with a ninth studio album, Major Key, slated for a July 29 release. Khaled is one of those rare figures in hip-hop that is near-universally, multi-generationally beloved. He can happily work with Drake and Meek Mill regardless of their beef. He’s managed by Jay Z but his music is not exclusive to the Roc Nation impresario’s content platform, Tidal; Khaled, to Jimmy Iovine and Larry Jackson’s delight, is a part of the Apple Music family.
There are words used to describe both Robbins and Khaled—passionate, charismatic, blustery. Khaled had been an admirer of Robbins, and in turn Robbins wanted to meet Khaled to see what he was about. Seated at Harmony Gold Theater on Sunset in Los Angeles, the two stare intently into each other’s eyes. They’re talking quietly—having a moment. Khaled would call it cloth talk: the tête-à-tête between two unique, powerful men or “special cloths.” To characterize their interaction as a lovefest would be an understatement; there is also a mission at hand.
“Either you grow or you die,” says Robbins in an impeccably tailored blazer, selvedge jeans, and a crisp white pocket square. Khaled, similarly dapper in a black suit, nods.
Robbins, who calls himself not a motivational speaker but rather a life and business strategist, has flown in to Los Angeles on his private jet from promoting his Netflix documentary, I Am Not Your Guru, and the paperback release of Money: Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom. In turn, Khaled is in town after traversing the U.S. on his We the Best Tour bus as part of Beyoncé’s Formation Tour. He hasn’t slept—instead spending the night in the studio—and is completing his own business book, The Keys [Ed. note: Mary H.K. Choi is co-writing The Keys with DJ Khaled]. But despite Khaled’s propensity for “new deal alerts”—social media messages about his innumberable projects—right now he’s focused. To wit: He’s not even Snapchatting.
“We’re achievers and achievers don’t suffer,” says Robbins, leaning in. “We don’t have fear. We just get stressed.”
It’s been years—he guesses it was around age eight or nine—since Khaled has been on an airplane. It’s one of the least publicized aspects of his life, though he’ll talk about it when pressed. He doesn’t like the turbulence. Loathes the anxiety. He’s got enough on his plate: A rapidly growing empire, a kid on the way with his fianceé Nicole Tuck. And though it takes three days on the road to go commune with his fan army—Fan Luv—on the West Coast from his native Florida, he vows that he’ll get on a plane only when he loses a little weight (an ongoing and thoroughly endearing saga on his snaps).
Robbins insists he can help
Khaled: One of my favorite songs is by Mavado. The song is called “Progress.” It’s something that I work out to every day. Progress is definitely the answer. Once you start losing reality, when you start losing reality with yourself, sometimes people just get dizzy. For instance, I’m in Beverly Hills right now at a hotel. I told myself, “Man, it’s so beautiful out here. If I ever moved to L.A., I would probably want to buy a house in Beverly Hills.” The thing is, once I leave Beverly Hills, [I realize] there’s no bodegas in Beverly Hills. Once I leave L.A. and go back to Miami or if I go visit New York, it’s like, “Oh man, there’s the bodega.” What I’m saying is that you can’t forget the reality. Sometimes people take success and forget about reality.