In October 2015, DJ Khaled’s eighth album, “I Changed a Lot,” debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard album chart, moving an unremarkable 19,000 copies in its first week.
It was the lowest-selling album of Khaled’s career.
The LP’s tepid performance suggested that the once-ubiquitous Miami DJ — who boasted several platinum-selling hip-hop posse cuts (“We Takin’ Over,” “All I Do Is Win,” “I’m on One”) between 2007 and 2011 — had steadily lost his tastemaker’s touch in popular culture.
Everything changed in December 2015, when Khaled got lost on a jet ski in the Atlantic Ocean and took to Snapchat to document his journey to safety. Khaled’s footage of the event went viral.
Now, with over six million followers on Snapchat, Khaled’s daily presence on the app and other social media has proven to be a colossally rejuvenating marketing tool for the 41-year-old producer.
In July 2016, buoyed by his millions of new followers and revived visibility, Khaled rode a wave of popularity to his first number-one album, “Major Key.”
On the strength of his biggest single to date, “I’m the One,” his new tenth album “Grateful” (out this Friday) is looking like it will be the blockbuster event of his career.
Here are four ways DJ Khaled has recaptured the charts and revitalized his career:
He has turned Snapchat and social media into a powerful marketing force.
By rapidly accumulating over 15 million followers across Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram, DJ Khaled has been able to resurrect a career that appeared somewhat lifeless just two years ago.
Deemed the “King of Snapchat” by Coca-Cola Senior VP for Content Emmanuel Seuge, Khaled has used the app to share self-help advice dotted with his many catchphrases (“Major Key,” “We the Best,” “Bless Up”), promote various consumer products, and tease behind-the-scenes studio updates.
“Being authentic always wins,” Khaled told CNBC last week of his social-media presence. “When people see somebody that is just real, they love it. It ain’t no act. It ain’t no fake.”
He’s gone after the biggest names in the industry with “persistence.”
Since his first album “Listennn…” was released in 2006, Khaled has routinely attracted hip-hop stars like Lil Wayne, Kanye West, and Drake. But to get the upper-upper-echelon artists — namely JAY-Z, Beyoncé, and Rihanna — he’s had to put in years of effort and networking.
I spoke to Khaled briefly last year and asked him to elaborate on how he bought a condo and stayed in New York for a year just to get a verse from JAY-Z on his 2015 single “They Don’t Love You Know More.”
“Yeah. I stayed in New York for a year to pull that off. Persistence and passion and dedication,” he told Business Insider of the effort. “It’s something I wanted to do for myself and the culture and the fans. It’s JAY-Z. All his verses are forever.”
He’s moved away from making traditional hip-hop and forged inventive pop hits.
Known for most of his career for facilitating conventional hip-hop group tracks, Khaled has moved more toward the mainstream this year by assembling a diverse collection of artists for innovative pop singles that sound like nothing he’s made before.
Khaled’s single “I’m the One,” featuring Chance the Rapper, Lil Wayne, Quavo, and Justin Bieber, became his first ever No. 1 single in May.
His most recent single “Wild Thoughts” pairs him with pop superstar Rihanna for the first time ever and features R&B singer Bryson Tiller and a guitar sample from Carlos Santana.