Let me get this out of the way. I’m 35 years old. This puts meat the tail end of being a millennial (technically) but honestly I identify way more with Generation X than anything. Personally, I think Snapchat’s insistence on Selfies and Hipster-influenced culture is annoying. Kids don’t go to events for the experience anymore — they just go to prove to their friends that they were there. I’ll never understand that. If I had a lawn, I would tell these kids to get off it.
However, as someone who bills himself as a digital strategist, I have been diving deeper into the platform and I’m warming to it. Snapchat is the best social media network in 2016. With it’s context-aware filters and facial recognition technology, it has completely changed the way we interact in 2016.
However you cannot talk about Snapchat without talking about DJ Khaled. The Miami-based producer and DJ had a glorious stint in the mid to late 2000s with radio hits such as “We Takin’ Over,” and the stadium anthem “All I Do Is Win,” collaborating with an all-star list of hip-hop luminaries.
But honestly, most people in the audience of NYU’s Skirball Center (for a panel session with journalist Elliot Wilson) know little of Khaled’s success. They know of him primarily as a Snapchat king. Khaled, who jumped on the social network 6 months ago, has parlayed his following into deals with Apple Music, Epic Records, and a slot on Beyonce’s upcoming stadium tour.
The kids love Khaled, but they are buying not just into his bombastic personality, but his motivational memes, his “major keys” to life, and his “journey to success”. Sitting in the audience of kids mostly 10 years my junior felt like being in church. Khaled’s references to God, self-determination, perseverance, and positivity feels more akin to a Joel Osteen sermon than a Q&A with a rap producer.
He speaks directly to kids who are growing up in one of the deepest recessions in recent memory. College tuition debt is skyrocketing, wage growth is stagnant, housing costs are skyrocketing. For many, the future is uncertain. Khaled’s unparalleled positivity is a beacon of hope.
For people of color, his message resonates even deeper. Khaled’s mentions of his archenemy “they” is a shot to the barrel of the negative forces that we face. Whether it’s failing schools, the police, or those in society the prejudge or underestimate you, Khaled always stresses that “they” should never get you down.
As a somewhat failed entrepreneur battling mild depression, Khaled won me over. His sheer calls for the audience to “never give up,” and “never give in” to adversity is coming a very important point in my life. I’m sold.
Older people need to realize why figures like Khaled (and Bernie Sanders) are drawing huge crowds. Even with adversity, this new generation continues to create their own version of The American Dream, even as many of us believe it’s no longer possible.
So my advice to us fellow “olds.” — Don’t deny the power of DJ Khaled. Embrace it. Listen to him and the people who follow him. You might just learn something.