It seems as if every song flooding radio airwaves and streaming services has an air horn intro and a DJ name drop. Though the act was once synonymous with hip-hop mixtapes, the prevalence of DJ shoutouts seems to grow with each new album release. Phrases like “Mike Will Made It” and “We got London on da Track” have become familiar DJ samples that preface the latest hits. Even a series of memes has emerged poking fun at the rising DJ name drop culture, as exemplified in Kanye’s song “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1.”
Despite its prevalence, not all fans are on board. Have DJ shoutouts become egotistical interruptions that ruin a song’s hype, or are they legitimate introductions to a DJ’s production? A&E columnists Artiom Arutiunov and Nina Crosby discuss the validity of DJ name drops in this week’s “Love | Hate.”
Every so often, an iconic phenomenon emerges within a generation as the quintessential embodiment of cultural sentiment: Leonardo Da Vinci’s work in the Italian Renaissance, Salvador Dali’s renowned Surrealism and, of course, DJ Metro Boomin’s name drop at the beginning of the hottest beats.
DJ name drops have become a pop culture sensation that acknowledges and embraces the effort put into crafting and perfecting beats. A shoutout is not only a decisive moment to hype up an audience, but a specific branding tool of hyper-presentation.
DJs no longer hide in the shadows of studio credits and brief hype man stunts at shows. A shoutout entrenches itself in your mind and illuminates the pride of the producers who worked tirelessly on a track. Trap-A-Holics’ notorious “Damn son, where’d you find this?” provides a good laugh and is a reminder to appreciate the artistry of the production.
Having a DJ christen a song with their name has become the stamp of approval for modern musicians. Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” features Metro Boomin’ production on the glorious “Father Stretch My Hands pt. 1,” with Future slurring “If young Metro don’t trust you, I’m gon’ shoot you.” Metro effortlessly marries the transition from gospel praise to bass banger as his introduction assures the listener that they’re about to experience metaphysical enlightenment.
DJ shoutouts have even eclipsed the songs themselves, as exemplified by Snapchat sensation and mid-2000s hit maker DJ Khaled. Though Khaled has an extensive discography, fans nowadays celebrate his DJ shoutouts more than his music. Exclaiming “We the Best!” produces green apple emojis and the conspiratorial reference to “they.” Khaled’s name drop on a record serves to heighten the popularity of the song and broaden the audience – “a key to success,” in the words of Khaled. Expanding and branding creates a celebrity appeal around DJs, which allows them to market their songs outside of already famous musician features.
Musicians and fans alike have recognized the importance of claiming ownership over art. A DJ name drop is no different than an artist signing their work or students writing their names atop essays. Plus, it’s hard to resist the pop cultural fun of bragging. When DJ Drama works with artists like Childish Gambino, Lil Wayne and The Neighbourhood, you can’t blame him for wanting to let the world know that they came to him for his influential production.
I mean, if you were the coolest DJ in the world, wouldn’t you make sure everyone knew?
– Nina Crosby
The blaring air horns at the beginning of Drake’s 2009 mega-hit “Forever” caught the ears of many, but the cacophony should have stopped there. Instead, it kindled a prevalent trend of trite DJ shoutouts.
Every production feature of a song should serve as some kind of embellishment, but in most cases, DJ shoutouts are an egotistical waste of time, doing nothing to benefit the music.
DJ tags have the noticeable effect of taking away from the momentum of a song. Take two prominent DJs, DJ Esco and Funkmaster Flex – both are celebrated in the field for working with artists like Future, Dr. Dre and Eminem. But for all the work they have done behind the scenes, their front stage contributions sound more like clamorous interventions than mediums of promotion.
In particular, Esco’s haphazard name drops on Future’s most recent mixtape, “Purple Reign,” occur right before the beat drop, completely undermining the escalation of the music. In another case, producer Young Chop’s toddler-voiced tags could not sound more out of place in songs about fame, money, women and other questionable topics.
It should also be noted that a DJ’s work does not go unacknowledged. A large proportion of shoutouts appear on mixtapes which list the DJ’s name on the mixtape cover. Additionally, it is customary for songs to include a “prod. by” at the end of their title. Undoubtedly, DJs have numerous ways to market their name without damaging the music itself.
Perhaps the biggest problem I have with DJ shoutouts is they can make a collection of tracks simply unlistenable. When the same ear-piercing name drop kicks off every song, listening to the music can be more laborious than entertaining.
As someone who recreationally DJs at social events, I rarely play songs that incessantly remind the public of a DJ’s name in a corny low-pitched voice and over a flurry of dissonant sounds.
Although some high-caliber producers have crafted catchy DJ tags, they can still give off an air of amateurism. Leaving irrelevant shoutouts on the finished product indicates that the DJ knowingly included detrimental material on every track. No matter how serious or good the song may be, I can’t help but roll my eyes.
DJ Khaled and his posse may never forget to mark every song with the infamous “We the Best” tag, but clearly, “they” don’t want you to enjoy the music to the fullest.
– Artiom Arutiunov