On Friday, DJ Khaled released his 12th album ‘Khaled Khaled.‘ It’s full of big-name features and heavily produced tracks. His rollouts are well-planned promo runs leading up to the main event. He’s a hype man at heart. But as the industry has evolved, Khaled’s gameplan has to adapt.
Khaled’s had his mainstream breakout before streaming took off. From 2006 to 2010, we got top-tier tracks like “Holla At Me,” “We Takin’ Over,” and “All I Do Is Win.” The Khaled posse cut mattered. He gave artists a platform they couldn’t easily replicate at the time and got the best from them as a result.
“We the best” in the streaming era? The streaming and social media eras have disrupted the power of middlemen, which hurt Khaled’s process in two ways.
First, artists can more easily recreate what Khaled offers. Any artist can make a song at home, buy a beat on a marketplace for $250, upload the track to the streaming providers, and make money. If they want a feature, they can DM the artist and get it done quickly. They save their best bars for their solo projects. When Khaled and others ask for collabs, they are more likely to give forgettable verse, which limits the impact of a Khaled project.
Second, Khaled is now competing with all the other business interests open to artists. Fifteen years ago, Khaled could get Akon, Lil’ Wayne, Birdman, T.I., Rick Ross, and Fat Joe all together in-person on a track. Music was how most of them made money, and Khaled offered them all the best opportunities to make money.
More competition than ever. But now? Good luck. On Khaled Khaled, he still has big names like Post Malone, Meg Thee Stallion, Lil’ Baby, and DaBaby on the same track. But they probably weren’t all together in person. The Khaled verse was one of many tasks on their calendars that day. It was probably scheduled in between a new apparel partnership meeting and a tech startup that wants the rapper on their cap table. They may not hear the other artists’ verses until the final version is dropped.
But Khaled understands this more than anyone. He’s made more money at this stage in his career than anyone else.
Khaled’s albums have become hip-hop’s NBA All-Star Game. All the big stars come together for the widely marketed event. This album is expected to top the charts this week (no Tyler, The Creator this time!) But everyone gives a fraction of the effort, and it can’t match the ratings of a game of true consequence.
Read DJ Khaled’s new feature in XXL Magazine.