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Epic Records Is Riding a Radio Hot Streak, With DJ Khaled at the Wheel

Variety logo Variety 6/22/2017 Shirley Halperin
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Thanks to hits by DJ Khaled (“I’m The One” [feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, & Lil Wayne]), Fifth Harmony (“Down”), Camila Cabello (“Crying in the Club”), and French Montana (“Unforgettable” [feat. Swae Lee]), Epic Records is riding an impressive streak at radio, particularly in the Urban format with an eye to Top 40.

According to the label, five spots on the Top 40 radio chart are currently held by Epic artists, with DJ Khaled looking to follow up his Justin Bieber-assisted Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 with a new track, “Wild Thoughts,” featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller. “Wild Thoughts” is currently the top most added song at the Urban Mainstream, Rhythm Crossover, and Top 40 formats. The Epic Top 40 promotion department is headed by EVP Todd Glassman; Benny Pough leads the Urban team.

“It almost felt like the ‘DJ’ moment was cooling down a touch, then erupts DJ Khaled who is redefining the genre,” says Chris Booker of Los Angeles’ 97.1 AMP Radio — the CBS-owned Top 40 station has Khaled, whose new album Grateful comes out on Friday (June 23), in heavy rotation.

Also climbing is Cabello’s first solo single, “Crying in the Club,” which interpolates Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” pre-chorus as its hook. It enters the Top 20 after four weeks. A full album, called “The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving.,” is slated for release in the fall. Her former group Fifth Harmony, meanwhile, sees “Down” (featuring Gucci Mane) close in on the top 30 in three weeks. No date yet on a third full-length by the foursome.

And making his debut on Top 40 is French Montana, whose “Unforgettable” (feat. Swae Lee), already a hit at the Urban and Rhythm formats, is poised to cross over.

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The radio hot streak is even more impressive considering that a little over a month ago, things were looking pretty shaky at Epic . The Sony Music subsidiary lost its chairman and CEO in a hasty exit on May 12, later revealed to be triggered by a sexual harassment claim made by an employee, and was left to float rudderless for a short time. Sony CEO Rob Stringer swiftly recruited Epic Records president Sylvia Rhone to steady the ship. Rhone is a 30-year veteran of the music business, who has held top posts at Elektra Records and Motown, and joined Sony Music in  2012, bringing her Vested in Culture imprint to Epic.

As for the artists, Khaled and Cabello have both voiced their support for Reid and the role he played in building their respective careers. Inside the company, sources describe relief at the continuity — and success — of ongoing projects (although Epicfest, Reid’s roster showcase/company picnic, typically held in the summer, is no longer), while artist reps credit a re-energized spirit to an old industry adage that still applies: you can’t have a hit without radio. Says Dina LaPolt, the attorney for Fifth Harmony: “Thank God for the Epic promotion department.”

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