WHAT MAKES A HIT record soar? Is it vibrant melodies and lyrics syncing up with anthemic production? Is it the world-beating verve of a hungry new artist with a unique perspective? Is it the comforting voice of a household name or the familiarity of a beloved melody reinterpreted? Is it all just chemistry, the careful mixing, and matching of star power? These questions seem crucial to understanding the career path of DJ Khaled, the Palestinian American South Florida radio personality turned mogul, advertiser, and influencer who, 15 years ago this summer, dove into the business of star-studded rap compilations with Listennn … the Album and never looked back.
Rappers make much more music than what we hear when a proper project drops, and Khaled carries on the tradition of the executive producer who leverages relationships to put out music that might not otherwise be released. The enterprising compilation curator excels at coaxing artists into liberating gems from the vault or composing new music around a theme. Now, with a fertile ecology of leaks (and streaming services poaching the curator class), there isn’t as much of a drive to concoct commercial releases to house stars’ loosies. Musicians can always just drop a compilation of their own.
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