People are usually familiar with artists put to fame, however, only a few recognize the master-heads behind them.
Drake, The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, and more Hip Hop stars, had their careers launched by Arab producers who put their efforts and creativity into helping them become the international celebrities they are.
Meet the behind-the-scene Arab producers and entrepreneurs who are giving you the mainstream music you love to dance to.
1. Ghazi Shami
Raised in San Francisco and of Palestinian origin, Ghazi Shami was an audio engineer for local rappers in the Bay area. He then established what is now a record label and distribution company: EMPIRE Distribution.
As one of the most successful distribution companies in the world of Hip Hop, it grew to become an integral support piece for labels like Top Dawg Entertainment, specifically Kendrick Lamar’s album 'Section.80,' which ultimately launched the latter's career.
2. Amir "Cash" Esmailian and Tony W. Sal
Amir "Cash" Esmailian, 33, was born in Tehran but raised in Ottawa, Canada. He was 19 when he began managing rapper Belly (aka Ahmad Balshe,) which took him all the way to Miami.
In 2011, his best friend, Hawk, sent him MP3s of Abel Tesfaye’s (aka The Weeknd) music. He flew to Toronto to meet the young talent and never looked back. They’ve been together ever since.
Cash is not only The Weeknd’s manager, he also steers the artist’s label, XO, which shapeshifts from being a record label to a fashion movement. For the love of fashion, Cash has built his own clothing company called YCFU.
Tony W. Sal, 36, is the more business-oriented member of the team. Born in Lebanon as Wassim SAL Slaiby, he moved to Canada when he was 15 years old.
He joined The Weeknd’s managing team in 2012 to help Tesfaye’s release of 'Trilogy.' At the time, he had started his own domestic Hip Hop label, Capital Prophet Records, which had considerable success through Belly, Massari, and French Montana.
SAL now operates under Sal & CO/XO as CEO, and is also a member of the Maverick management consortium - with recording artists such as Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Pharrell Williams, and many more.
3. Noah “40” Shebib
Noah James Shebib, a.k.a. ’40,’ is a Lebanese-Canadian producer, best known for his partnership with Drake.
Shebib's very specific style of production, down-tempo and ambient, became synonymous with Drake’s signature sound.
He and Drake have forged one of the most successful collaborations in the history of rap, challenging the conventions of the typical rap sound. The three albums they made together, Thank Me Later (2010), Take Care (2011) and Nothing Was The Same (2013) all debuted at #1 on the charts across the U.S. and Canada.
Shebib has also worked with well-known artists like Lil Wayne, Alicia Keys, and DJ Khaled.
4. Oliver El-Khatib
He is originally Lebanese-Scandinavian but was born and raised in Canada.
He and Shebib have been longtime friends; as teenagers, both were part of a DJ crew called the Lebanon Dons. El-Khatib is in charge of OVO’s fashion line and has met Drake while volunteering at a clothing store called Lounge.
El Khatib isn't a fan of interviews or the limelight; he prefers the attention on his artists.
5. Rami Samir Afuni
Rami, like El Khatib, is a bit of a mysterious figure who rarely gives interviews. Born and raised in Kuwait, Afuni is originally Palestinian. He moved to the U.S. after he was accepted at the Berklee College of Music.
Afuni has produced and remixed several hits; he has co-written Kiesza’s record 'Hideaway,' produced Miley Cyrus' song 'FU,' and remixed Lady GaGa's hit 'G.U.Y.'
Fredwreck (aka Farid Karam Nassar) is a bit of a godfather when it comes to Arab producers. He got his big break when he became a chief producer for Dr. Dre’s label, Aftermath Entertainment, back during its starting days. He also worked with Snoop Dogg as a principal producer at his label, Doggystyle Records.
Fredwreck is originally Palestinian, raised in Michigan. He’s produced for artists like Britney Spears, Hillary Duff, Eminem, 50 Cent, Cypress Hill, Ice Cube, Tamer Hosny, and many more.
He returned to his roots when MTV Arabia was launched. He not only co-hosted “Hip HopNa’’ with his partner and friend, Qusai Kheder (aka Don Legend the Kamelion,) but they also hosted a weekly Arabic Hip Hop show called “Beit el Hip Hop’’ on Wanasah TV.