Record producers use various metaphors to explain what they do. Some compare the job to being an interpreter, others to directing traffic. Malay, who was closely involved with the creation of two of 2016’s most talked-about albums, thinks of himself as a babysitter.
“When I’m making a record with someone, the record is basically their child,” he said recently. “So how do you get them to trust someone they just met?
“It’s like, ‘Hey, I don’t really know you — but want me to take care of your baby?’”
For Frank Ocean and Zayn, that prospect was a reassuring one.
The two singers, among pop’s most guarded and skeptical, called separately on Malay this year for help...