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Time was when the Weeknd and his XO team were literally going hungry trying to make it in the music industry. Well, things done changed. What began as an unofficial imprint through which Abel Tesfaye released his original trilogy of mixtapes in 2011 (House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence) has transmogrified into a widely revered cultural empire—today XO is at once a record label, fashion mark, creative incubator, and symbol that can often be found tattooed on fans and strippers alike. The Weeknd's new album, After Hours, broke the record for most pre-saves in Apple Music history (over one million). It's safe to say that these days, XO is eating.
"Now I'm in Tribeca like I'm JAY-Z," Tesfaye croons on After Hours track "Snowchild." And if we're really gonna go there and place him in the same pantheon as Hov, then fuck it—we may as well consider XO his Roc Nation. Okay, so the Weeknd and his manager Amir "Cash" Esmailian haven't quite signed a Rihanna or J. Cole yet, but their roster is nonetheless impressive: they've got low-key one of the finest writers in hip-hop (Belly), the first Canadian-Indian rapper to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 (Nav), one of the most exciting new duos in the game (88Glam), and a critically-acclaimed R&B visionary (Black Atlass). Hey, it's a solid start.
Still in its relatively nascent stages, XO Records has already amassed a mighty catalogue of bangers. Now that After Hours is out, let's take a look at the 20 best.