A screenshot from theydontwantyouto.win

On learning the keys to Internet viral success from DJ Khaled

Last week, I wrote a piece for the Los Angeles Times about DJ Khaled. Content-wise, it’s mostly what you would expect for such a serious subject: a discussion of schadenfreude, Drake, positive body image, and an exploration of DJ Khaled’s place in late-stage capitalism.

You can read it here.

But one thing I was kinda sad about was that I didn’t get to talk about theydontwantyouto.win, a single-serving site that gives you Khaled-isms for every possible situation. So, here’s the full text of an interview between me and George Kedenburg III, the creator of the site.

We talked about vibes, believing in yourself, and the 🔑 to Internet meme success.

all art by dex digital

Dexter Thomas: Any background about yourself (where you’re from, age, occupation, school, etc) you’d like to share?

George Kedenburg: I’m 26, from NY but grew up and went to college in Florida. Now I’m out in SF working as a Product Designer at Facebook.

What inspired you to create the theydontwantyouto.win site?

GK: I had been following Khaled and I had really been enjoying the steady flow of good vibes he was putting out. I noticed it starting to spread out with people imitating him (Bieber, Taylor Swift, etc) and I thought man this is really gonna blow up. I just thought it would be cool and fun to build a place where you can come and get some keys to success at any time. DJ Khaled on-demand.

Have you heard from anyone in DJ Khaled’s camp?

GK: Khaled tweeted about the site, but other than that I haven’t heard from them.

Can you tell me a ballpark of how many hits you’re getting?

GK: The site launched on 12/16 and since then we’ve had almost 400k people visit. 26% of visitors have come back more than once* [note: this interview was conducted on January 6th, so the numbers may be different now]

Personally, the most compelling part of DJ Khaled’s ‘meme-ability’ is the ‘they don’t want you to’ part. There’s the whole ‘another one’, ‘you smart/you loyal’ stuff, etc — but the ’they don’t want you to x’ is what sticks with me. My take is that there’s something about dealing with obstacles, or ‘haters’, that is relevant to everyone. But, what do you think it is that has everyone saying ‘they don’t want you to ___’?

GK: I think it’s definitely exactly what you said. As silly as Khaled seems some times, I really think he’s coming from a place of authenticity with this stuff. He’s been working and grinding for something like 25 years, so I’m sure he’s definitely had plenty of people try to keep him down. I mean really, I’m sure no one is trying to keep him from eating his egg whites and chicken sausage, but it’s the thought that you have to only trust yourself when it comes to getting what you want.

What’s your personal favorite DJ Khaled moment?

GK: Lately it’d definitely be the jetski thing, since I think that’s what really catapulted him in to going super viral. However overall, one of my favorite Khaled moments was when he instagrammed about calling the CEO of iTunes to get bigger servers when he dropped his album.

What are the keys to success of creating a good meme spin-off site/account?

GK: You should definitely be building something like this because you want it to exist. My goal wasn’t for it to blow up, just to have it because I thought it’d be cool/funny. The other thing is to not hesitate or overthink it. I built this in one night and that was it. I could’ve spent a week or two or three making it super crazy and ridiculous, but by then the moment would’ve passed.

Anything else I should know?

GK: Don’t play yourself.

Find more from me on the LA Times main site right here.