Zaytoven was born in the wrong and the right era at the same time. The multi-talented creator who’s had two diametrically opposed hands in the music of his local church and the bangers Trap rappers alike, is always looking for new outlets to express himself. Born in Germany and spending large portions of his life in California’s Bay Area as well as Atlanta has allowed him to blend various musical influences that have kept him relevant for years and will keep him ahead of future producers for plenty more.
Regardless of the company he keeps, he’s maintained his devotion for the church. But don’t think that since he’s made a name for himself by providing some of the biggest hits for Gucci Mane and other Atlanta rappers that that’s all he has in his arsenal. As he looks for an R&B singer to develop, he’s schooling another young producer and considering a third feature film.
Read our interview below with the always hungry artist/producer, Zaytoven, before he adds another item to his already length resume.
The Close Ties Between Zaytoven & The Church
HipHopDX: Let’s discuss your introduction to music, when you were a child. Your father was a preacher and your mom was a choir director. Did you start on the piano because you wanted to or because your parents wanted you to be a part of the church as well?
Zaytoven: Nah, it was something I wanted to do. I was at church so much — choir rehearsals because my mom was the choir director and my dad was preaching. So typically when you’re at church so much at that age, you’re looking for something to do to keep you entertained. I started off playing the drums. That’s what I really wanted to do at first. But that was the same instrument all the other little boys wanted to go play. It was a line to try and play the drums. So Sunday morning service, you might get to play one song. Looking over at the keyboard and the organs, nobody really wanted to play them. So I said, “Let me learn how to play the organ or the keyboard.”
DX: Are you still involved with the church?
Zaytoven: Yeah, most definitely. I’m still the main musician at the church I play at. I’m there every Sunday — two services a Sunday, sometimes three. Choir rehearsals on Tuesday and any other event that they have, I make myself available.
DX: Have you had a chance to compose any music for the church?
Zaytoven: Most definitely. Me and the choir director, we come up with songs all the time.
DX: Has it been difficult to separate church life from studio life?
Zaytoven: No, not really. I grew up in church. Things that I value and believe in haven’t changed at all. It doesn’t matter who I’m around. That’s one thing about being a producer: I’m there to help produce a song but I don’t have to be involved in everything that goes on.
Zaytoven Chronicles His Unique Production Sound & Longevity In Rap Game
DX: That’s admirable. I know that it’s one thing to be a Christian rapper like Lecrae and live the life you preach but another to be a producer with trapstars and then work in the house of God…
Zaytoven: I don’t even know how I’ve become this huge Trap producer.
DX: Right. I know you are capable of doing stuff besides Trap and you’ve expressed doing that. Have you considered doing a project, strictly outside of Trap?
Zaytoven: Those are things in the works now. I’m trying to find different avenues putting out different types of music that I can do.
DX: I know you’re big on attaching yourself to a young artist and developing with him/her. Have you found a R&B singer to do that with?
Zaytoven: I’m still working on that right now.
DX: Back when you lived in California, JT the Bigga Figga mentored you as a producer. Have you taken on anyone under your wing in a similar fashion?
Zaytoven: There’s a producer named Cassius Jay. He’s getting well known here in Atlanta. I took him under my wing. He’s a church musician also. He reminds me of myself.
DX: You have a very interesting sound in your production that mixes both the south’s Trap sound and the Bay Area, where you come from. How would you explain that mixture, in your own words?
Zaytoven: It’s kind of whatever I’m feeling. I try to attach the Bay area into what I do. Like the west coast, now and when I was growing up, it was musical. The sound in Atlanta is certainly more Trapped out and the bass is real heavy. I try to blend that together. That’s what makes my sound.
DX: It’s definitely got some G-Funk in there, as well.
Zaytoven: It’s real funky and musical.
DX: I’ve noticed that a lot of Top 40 Hip-Hop songs have that feel to it now like Chris Brown’s “Loyal” and Tinashe‘s “2 On.” It’s got southern drums kits but those melodic lines. Do you feel like you’re ahead of your time and people are catching up now?
Zaytoven: Yup, that’s what they’re doing. I’ve heard so many songs that sound like something I’ve done a milion times.
DX: Is it frustrating?
Zaytoven: Yeah and no. It’s fascinating to hear other people from other genres hear what I do and almost copy me. Other times, I feel like they’re biting too hard.
Zaytoven On Meeting Gucci Mane, Migos & The “It” Factor
DX: I read that you met Gucci at the barbershop. What do you look for in a rapper who you decide to work with?
Zaytoven: It’s more of a gut feeling. I can see somebody and hear ’em. Something connects with me like, “This guy is special.” That’s how it was with me when I met Migos, Gucci. I see them in a certain light. They don’t look like a star then. They don’t have to have fancy clothes. Maybe it’s the way they walk and talk.
DX: How did you first meet Migos?
Zaytoven: I actually stepped on Quavo’s shoes in the club. I was out with OJ. OJ had a show and they were there, trying to get on. I remember seeing the “Bando” video back then and I was looking for them. Like, “I gotta meet these guys, right here.” That’s how we met.
DX: So they knew who you were?
Zaytoven: They knew who I was. They were looking for me and I was looking for them.
DX: That’s crazy. By the way, do you keep in touch with Gucci?
Zaytoven: Most definitely. I talk to him all the time. He’s in prison but he’s definitely putting out music like he’s not in prison.
DX: How’s he doing?
Zaytoven: He’s doing real good. His spirits [are] up. He’s preparing himself with his music.
DX: I feel like you’re not under much pressure since you have your own style of creating music with analog keyboards AKA an actual musical education.
Zaytoven: Yes, sir. That’s what kept me around for so long, I think. I got a certain style and sound. I got a certified spot in Atlanta music.
DX: How did you come up with that Zaytoven drop at the beginning of your beats?
Zaytoven: Just using the keyboard, which I thought nobody else would do. I do that stuff in church so I was like, “Let me put this little tag in front of my beat.”
Zaytoven Reveals Details Behind Finesse The Movie & Future Films
DX: Let’s get into this new film, Finesse the Movie. I heard that since you had so much fun doing Birds of a Feather that you really wanted to do another one and this new movie is about a different aspect of the music industry.
Zaytoven: That’s exactly what it is. I think every movie that I want to do, I try to be educational. This one is a comedy but it still shows what goes on everyday with people who want to get into the business.
DX: Do you plan on doing more even after this one?
Zaytoven: Yes, sir. I want to continue doing it. I enjoy doing it. That’s the biggest reason. I want to do at least a movie a year.
DX: Do you have the plot for the next one planned out yet?
Zaytoven: Not sure which direction I want to go. People want me to do the sequel to Birds of a Feather. I don’t know if I’m ready to do that yet. I’m gonna let Finesse simmer for a few months.
DX: As for the casting, you went with your friends in the industry instead of an all star cast of Hollywood actors. Why?
Zaytoven: You know, [just] giving those people the opportunity. Using my demographics and people that my fans are familiar with. I didn’t care about trying to go get real good actors. I chose people that are meaningful to the city or the music.
DX: Did you have to twist any arms to get your friends in the film?
Zaytoven: They loved doing it. Everybody that’s in it, they’re really appreciative for the opportunity. It’s opening doors for them, too. They might get calls later down the road.
DX: If you could score any big budget film, what kind of film would it be?
Zaytoven: I love all types of movies. I go to the movies every week. It could be an Action or love story. I’d be grateful for any of them.
DX: So then what are your top five films?
Zaytoven: I would have to go with Samuel L. Jackson’s The Negotiator. I like Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Predator. Sylvester Stallone. So all the Rocky’s and Rambo’s. I also love movies like Jim Carrey’s Dumb and Dumber. And I’d go with Menace To Society.
DX: You’ve written books, produced multiple hits, are an active member of your church, direct music videos, and have a second full length movie out. Is there anything left to do?
Zaytoven: I would like to be an A&R somewhere big where I can help and mold new talent. I’ve been doing that my whole career but I never had the position or access to push buttons for these artists. All I can really do is get in the studio and make a hit with them. I’d like to be that guy and hand pick certain artists.
DX: It’s kinda crazy that no one has offered that yet. No one has offered you that position?
Zaytoven: I feel that way, too. No, sir.