THR Names Music's 35 Top Hitmakers
This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Calling Mike Caren a hitmaker doesn’t give him enough credit -- hit whisperer is more like it, scouting out yet-to-break styles and sounds and ushering them into the Top 40.
When Southern rap was largely seen as the province of regional independent imprints, Caren A&R’d his first hit single for Trick Daddy. A half-decade later, he signed T.I. to Atlantic, a partnership that triggered the Southern takeover of the charts during the 00s. “As soon as there is a chorus that you can’t get out of your head, I know it’s a hit,” says Caren, now president of worldwide A&R for Warner Music Group. “A chorus you wake up singing is like a pot of gold.”
The 35-year old innately understands the demands of both artists and executives. As a producer and songwriter, his name has loomed in the credits of T.I.’s Grammy-winning, “Swagga Like Us,” Asher Roth’s platinum-certified, “I Love College,” Kanye West’s “Hell of a Life,” and an array of multi-platinum Flo Rida singles.
“He’s got great knowledge of the past and present and is always looking to the future with creating sounds,” Flo Rida says. “I just love to see his emotions when he tells me a record is going be smash because he’s never failed me.”
While jumping from label to label is industry norm, Caren has had astonishing longevity at Atlantic. Hired at 17 as the manager of rap marketing for label subsidiary, Big Beat, he’s ascended the ranks to oversee hit streaks from Wiz Khalifa, Trey Songz, Bruno Mars, and Lupe Fiasco. He also presided over the construction of five studios at Atlantic’s Hollywood offices, offering an improved feedback loop and ease of collaboration for its artists.
“Having worked in a different part of the business gets you respect from the artists, makes you compassionate for their struggles, and offers a different set of relationships to solve problems and create opportunities,” Caren says. “I try to be a student of the culture and at heart, I’m still a fan.”Click here to read THR's complete Pop's Top 35 Hitmakers list.