RESPECT. Interview: Zaytoven talks Atlanta & Upcoming Projects

Atlanta, Georgia is quickly solidifying itself as one of the most popular and unique markets for Hip-Hop. While it seemingly produces talented artists at a factory rate, It’s Atlanta’s producers that truly gives the city and its artists the sound so craved by the Hip-Hop community. Super-producer Zaytoven took some time from feeding the streets of Atlanta to talk with RESPECT. about upcoming projects, the past year and what 2016 will hold for one of Atlanta’s most reliable and talented producers. Check out the interview below.

‘Real Sisters’ – Future (Prod. Zaytoven)

RESPECT.: What keeps you so loyal to Atlanta’s hip-hop scene? Does the city offer something the rest of the country just can’t?

Zaytoven: “What keeps me loyal to the Atlanta Hip-Hop scene is, I think that’s where my sound has formulated, and that’s really the same reason why nowhere else can offer me what Atlanta offers me. Its cause what cultivated my sound is the flavor, and swag, and lingo that comes out of Atlanta. That’s what created my sound. That’s why I’m so loyal to it and that’s why I wouldn’t go anywhere else, cause I couldn’t get that from somewhere else.”

RESPECT.: More than ever, producers in Hip-Hop hold a crucial influence on the popularity of songs and artists. What are your thoughts on the fact that now the right producer can do just as much for your song as a well-known feature in 2016?

Zaytoven: “Ahh I love it man, its bringing it back to the producers. Back when Timbaland and Pharrell or Dr. Dre was popular, with them being your premiere producer on your song, you could be a nobody or somebody, and people are going to be really excited for your song, and want to hear your song because of the producer. So it’s a good thing its back to that right now, cause it gives us more identity, lets us make more money, helps us be in the forefront more, and helps us stick around longer.”

RESPECT.: What does it take to become a super-producer such as yourself? and do you see yourself as a super-producer?

Zaytoven: “I think what it takes to become a super producer is, breaking the unknown artist. The title is thrown around so loosely now, that anybody that makes one big song is a super-producer now. But I think it really takes cultivating the artist and not just doing it one time, but doing it over and over again, with various artists and being successful in that, and that’s what makes you a super-producer.”

RESPECT.: What pushes you towards Trap, more than any other sub-genre of Hip-Hop?

Zaytoven: “Trap to me has more soul and feeling in it. Even though its 808 driven, and its bass driven, and the music is probably talking about selling drugs or hustling a certain way, it still has a feeling to it. It has a certain struggle to it and it has a soul in it. It’s just its own thing and that’s what drives me to it.”

RESPECT.: Working with rising stars and artists on the cusp of major success has become a regular occurrence for you and something your fans have learned to love. What do you specifically look for in an artist before you start building with them?

Zaytoven: “It’s a certain thing that’s called the “it” factor, and with the “it” factor it’s not so much that you can see it, or hear it. It’s not that I look for an artist that raps so good or artists that can do one thing that’s so good, it just a total package. When I see an artist and I hear what they’re saying, they don’t even have to be a great rapper, but if they look the part and it goes with what they’re saying and the way they move and how they carry themselves, to me that’s the “it” factor I’m looking for. It’s hard to say exactly what the It factor is, it’s just when your around that person or you see that person or you hear em, you know they got something special.”

RESPECT.: One of the biggest stories of 2015 was Future’s work ethic. He released 5 mixtapes, including Beast Mode which you produced top to bottom. What do you think of other artists now attempting a similar strategy and work ethic?

Zaytoven: “It goes back to Gucci Mane, maybe in ’08, when Gucci just started putting out a whole lot of mixtapes, just song after song, mixtape after mixtape. And that just shows whatever artist is trying to make it, or somebody that’s trying to stay relevant, you got to work and put out music, cause the fans and the audience now don’t listen to stuff as long as we used to. We’re always looking for something new, I think that with the technology we get bored fast. It’s now to the point where Future showed you got to work, and got to stay consistently putting out good music, just to stay relevant or stay hot.”

RESPECT.: Since your Instagram post last August with Future, there has been a lot of rumors circulating over the possibility of Beast Mode 2, are there any details you can give us?

Zaytoven: “Not Really. All I can say is me and Future recorded at least a hundred songs together. We maybe had about fifty songs when we did Beast Mode, so there’s a lot of songs that didn’t go on Beast Mode that I probably liked more. And then we’ve been recording periodically throughout the year, time and time again. We just got so many records, I think when the timing is right or when Future feels like that needs to be presented again, it will come out.”

‘Oooooh’ – Future Ft. Scooter (Prod. Zaytoven)

RESPECT.: Your appearing in BMI’s Producer Battle with Drumma Boy on April 5th. Can you tell us a bit about it and how you got involved?

Zaytoven: “My buddy Byron Wright called and asked me, did I want to headline for a producer battle. Cause last year I went and they had Mannie Fresh, DJ Toomp and KLC. So when he asked me I was like “Yeah i’ll do it, I’d love to do it.” He said V”Cool cause I want to verse you with Drumma Boy cause both of you have been in the game for so long, lasted this long, and are still relevant in the game.” Drumma Boy is a long time friend of mine and with that respect doing the music, so I wouldn’t have it any other way. He’d be the perfect guy I’d want to do this event with. I’m excited about it.”

RESPECT.: On April 30th yourself, Sonny Digital, and Metro-Boomin will be at a round-table discussion in NYC hosted by Red Bull. What is this discussion about? and what do you hope it will achieve?

Zaytoven: “What it’s about, I’m really not sure yet. What I’m hoping that it achieves is, it lets people know that we really come together, and we’re the guys that really make a difference in this music right now. I’m hoping it sheds a light on that, and further sheds a light on that producers mean just as much as these artists now.”

RESPECT.: It’s quite clear your talent and interests exceed simply Hip-Hop production. Can you give us some details on the sequel to your film, Birds of a Feather?

Zaytoven: “I haven’t fully finished the script yet. But it’s really just about somebody like me, that’s been in the game for so long, and how you can fall off or not be as popular as you were at one time, then a new producer comes in. I’ve seen it with my own eyes how the game is. New guys come in and they be the hot guy right now. But at the same time, with somebody like me whose so challenging, and still wants to be on top and competitive, it shows how I can be redeemed and how I [can] come back to work even harder to get back on top. Music is being made different now-a-days, people are using technology a lot more than talent and I just wanted to show how a producer can really fall off or get the life taken away from him, but then come back using really gifted talent and hustling a certain way. That’s what mainly I think Birds of a Feather 2 is going to be about.”

‘I Still Got It’ – Usher Ft. Migos (Prod. Zaytoven)

RESPECT.: Production Ad-libs are quickly becoming an essential element to any producer, thanks in large to Metro-Boomin and DJ Mustard. Do you approve of this new obsession, and can you explain the inspiration for yours?

Zaytoven: “Those are tags that helps out the producer, and shows how closely the artist worked with the producer. But I had those same things back in maybe 2004, 2005 all the way up to when Gucci Mane got locked up. Every track we used to do together was “Zaytoven”, “Zay-T on the track”. It’s the same thing, these are just tags that the artist gives up or uses on this track that we do. It shows that the artist is really rocking with us and that they’re really proud of what we’re doing, they got they’re chest out when they’re saying our name, and money can’t pay for that.”

RESPECT.: You produce for the biggest names in Atlanta, and across the country. Do you prefer working with lesser or more established artists?

Zaytoven: “A lot of times lesser. More established money wise, but what keeps me innovative, and what keeps me coming with something new and fresh is the lesser known artist. It’s cause they come with something new, they come in a different way you never heard of before, that’s why I always continue working with the guys you probably never heard of before they blow up. Then when they blow up you say “ohh Zaytoven been working with em this whole time”. Its cause they bring something different man, they bring something fresh.”

RESPECT.: There are a ton of big producers in Atlanta right now with yourself, Sonny Digital, Metro-Boomin and Mike Will Made It. How would you say your sound differs from other popular producers in Atlanta?

Zaytoven: “I think their sound is more so digital and computer based, I think all the guys you named use the product Fruity Loops to produce on. I’m still a guy that uses analog equipment. I still play the keyboard, the old analog NPC, so a lot of my stuff is really just me playing, and its melody driven with my skills on the piano and producing that way. It’s an old school way of producing but I think that’s what’s kept me in the game, its cause there’s nobody else really doing that. I started the change but I said, if I start changing I’ll just sound like everybody else and loose who I am. Since people love the sound, let me stick to what I’m doing.”

RESPECT.: 2015 was of course a big year for you, is there any moment or project that stood out above the rest?

Zaytoven: Beast Mode, definitely.”

RESPECT.: Looking to the future, what is one specific goal you hope to achieve in 2016?

Zaytoven: “Not really, there’s not just one goal I have this year man. A lot of doors have opened up for me and of course I want to finish my third movie and have that on Netflix. I have a thing I’m doing now that’s called “Zaytoven’s Producer Camp” and I just want to see that grow more and more. And of course this year you’re going to see me producing for a lot of guys you probably never seen me producer for.”

RESPECT.: Any advice for young producers putting in work and trying make a name?

Zaytoven: “Yes and its creating their own sound. I always tell producers, what helps create your own sound is finding a new artist that’s on the come up or, you know that they’re serious about trying to make it in the music industry, or that y’all gel together and got chemistry. Then work with that guy to help him make it in the game. Cause to me, most producers where they get they’re sound or name from, is from an artist. With me its Gucci Mane, with Snoop Dogg its Dr. Dre, that’s what brings the sound in and makes it stick for so long. I always encourage producers to team up with an artist that they gel with, and that can definitely get them a spot in the game.”

RESPECT.: Who have you been working with in the studio recently? can you share any details?

Zaytoven: “Man I’m just working with so many people I don’t even want to just start naming one, and then forget the rest of them. I’m just working with so many people now, it’s almost everybody you can think of in the Rap/Hip-Hop game.

‘Conceited’ – Gucci Mane (Zaytoven)

As Atlanta’s Hip-Hop scene continues to grow and flourish, Zaytoven is sculpting it in a way only a true visionary can. His continuous cultivation of new and exciting artists and they’re sound, is one of the reasons why his city and his fans just can’t seem to get enough. When it comes to reliability, hit-making and authenticity, Zaytoven effortlessly rises above the rest. It’s impossible to know who the next Hip-Hop sensation will be however, there’s a pretty good chance Zaytoven is already with them cooking up their first big hit.


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About TJ Mroz

- Honors, Communications (Wilfrid Laurier University) - Program Director, Radio Laurier (Waterloo & Brantford Campus) - Host of The Rap Up (Radio Laurier) - Amateur Hip-Hop artist - Email: - Twitter: @TeeJmroz