Zaytoven needs no introduction.
The American church organist-turned-producer has ascended to Godlike status in the Hip-Hop world and beyond. As one of the godfathers of Trap Music, the German born hitmaker has consistently released bangers for well over two decades working with superstars such as Migos, Gucci Mane, Travis Scott. Nicki Minaj, Chief Keef, Ty Dolla $ign, Usher, just to name a few.
Let’s just hop into this project to get some information on this “Trap On Beatz” compilation. First of all, conceptually… tell me what prompted the decision to title the record this?
It was a phrase that Young Scooter used on a song that’s unreleased. That he’ll just, you know, say he “Trap On Beatz” and pretty much it’s just saying, he telling his story of how he hustle and how he make money on beats. And I feel like that’s kind of like what I do. You know, I’m hustling beats. I’m a hustler selling beats. So that’s kind of what gave me that idea for that project.
How would you compare it to some of your previous works? I mean, you’ve done so much and have such an extensive discography at this point. What are the biggest differences or similarities with this body of work?
I think it’s very similar to a lot of projects that I have put out. I think these are just compilation records of songs that, you know, I’m a producer, and I make songs every day, I make songs with artists every day. And you know, now that I have a platform to put out these songs and put out this music, it’s almost like I’m randomly picking songs that’s in my computer and saying, “Okay, this is gonna be this project.” And that’s kind of how I do it. It’s almost like mixtapes. You don’t really put out mixtapes anymore. But that’s what this is, it’s just a collection of songs that I got in my computer. Sometimes I close my eyes and pick which ones are going on there.
Your imprint Zaytoven Global LLC has been around for a while, but aside from yourself, who are some of the other artists? What else do you have in store for the roster in the coming months?
I have a lot of projects coming out with new artists. It’s artists that’s out of San Francisco, California, where I originally started doing music. And it’s a project called “Fo15,” you know 4015… that’s the area code of San Francisco. That’s a project that I fully produced, that’s only San Francisco artists. You got guys like Lil Bean, you got ZayBang, you got Lil Yee. You got this guy named Llama, Lil Pete… all these guys are like popping artists that’s in San Francisco. And I did a project just for the city.
For those that don’t know, why don’t you kind of tell me your own inception into music? Kind of take it back to the beginning. When did you first become interested and how it kind of all began for you?
It all began in church, being at church, five days out the week looking for something to do as a youngster. I started playing with instruments, started playing with drums, keyboards and guitars and that’s what initially got me interested in music.
Okay, and then coming up. You’re originally from Germany by way of ATL. So why don’t you kind of tell me growing up overseas and then transitioning here to the States, who were some of your biggest influences or those that might have inspired you to do what you do today?
I really don’t remember anything about Germany. I was a baby. My dad was in the military so we moved my whole life. I was born in Germany, but I wasn’t there very long. So we moved around my whole life. We moved from there to North Carolina to Mississippi to Columbus, Georgia, then to California, San Diego, San Francisco, then to Atlanta. So I’ve been moving around my whole life. But Atlanta is where I cultivated my sound and that’s why everybody really feels like I’m from Atlanta, Georgia. And my inspirations, you know, in the Bay Area they listen to different music than they listen to in San Diego, California, in Columbus, Georgia, they listen to different music than they listen to in San Francisco so I’ve been influenced by all these different local sounds of music. I think those different things influenced me, on top of me being a church kid that’s playing the organ in church every Sunday, so I’m listening to a lot of gospel music. I’m learning a lot of choir songs. All this stuff is just mixed into, you know, what inspired me to really make music and I think that’s where my sound comes from.
At what particular point in time did you opt to pursue this for a living?
I would say it’d be around 2013. Even though I had big songs before then. My first big song was Gucci Mane’s “So Icey” in 2005. I had a number one song before 2013, I had a lot of songs on the radio before then, but it wasn’t till 2013 when I did “Versace” with Migos and Drake where I said, “I’m coming out of the barbershop. I’m not cutting hair in the barbershop no more, I’m strictly doing music. I’m not treating it as a hobby no more, I’m treating it as a profession.” So that’s when I really started treating it as a profession.
Now, with that being said, how do you describe or define the style of music that you create and perform? How would you classify it?
I will say it would be unorthodox because it’s soulful, it’s bass heavy, it’s trapped out, it’s gangster, but at the same time it’s pretty and melody driven. So I would say unorthodox.
In having said that, tell me where the moniker Zaytoven derived from?
Well, the name comes from Beethoven. But a guy I was making beats for in San Francisco named Forrest, he was a rap artist. I used to go in and make beats for him. He used to say, “Man, whatever beats you make that’s what I’m gonna rap on” and so me being in church, you know, early on in my career, I was putting a lot of pianos and playing a lot of pianos in my beats. He was like, “Man, you play that thang so good like Beethoven, I ought to call you Zaytoven!” And it stuck with me soon as he said that and I’m like, “Oh, wait a minute, that’s gonna be my producer name.” And that’s how I got my name.
Switching gears a little bit here. Let’s touch on longevity, what do you feel is the key to your success so far and what’s going to sustain you in music?
I think humbling myself and realizing that you’re only big as your last hit, you can get old quick in this music industry. So I always continue to work with new up and coming artists, you know, guys that somebody else would overlook that other producers won’t work with, other big artists won’t do a song with. But if I think they dope, I’m gonna take them in and bring them to my house, and I’m gonna work with them. And it’s been a blessing that a lot of those guys that I chose to work with end up being superstars. So it has kept me around for a long time.
For someone coming up in the game, someone that’s trying to get on musically, what would be some of your best advice that you would give that person?
You definitely have to be consistent and be unique. I think right now, it’s so much of copycatting and so many artists where they sound so much alike that standing out is definitely a big key for, you know, to make it right now.
Right! Well, you yourself have such an impressive resume and have worked with so many greats. Is there anyone left in the business? I know you pretty much touched almost every project I can think of, but is there anyone left that you definitely have on maybe a wish list or set aside that you want to work with?
I would say Rihanna and Beyonce. I haven’t worked with those superstars yet. So I want to work with them.
It has been all about the music, but is there anything else in terms of future aspirations, things that you’ve even started to get off into now that you’re looking to do futuristically speaking?
I’m on my third movie. I have a movie, which came out on May 20 of this year, called “2 Finesse,” a comedy. It’s about you know, it’s almost how the music industry is, a lot of smoke and mirrors. And that’s what I mean, I enjoy making movies. This is my third movie. I had a movie called “Birds Of A Feather” that did real well on Netflix. And that’s another part of entertainment that I just love to do. So be on the lookout for my movies.
Definitely! Well looking ahead for me say 5, maybe even 10 years down the line, where do you hope to see yourself?
I want a Zaytoven school. It don’t have to be, you know, called “Zaytoven School,” but a school where I can kind of show different producers, even artists and DJs and anybody that’s trying to be in the in the music industry or entertainment business how I went about doing, you know, getting into the game, how long I lasted in the game, given those keys and different elements, and showing them there’s no certain type of way that you have to make it in the game. You know, it’s different avenues and different ways.
That’s a dope concept! I’d definitely like to see that come to fruition for you. As for the immediate future, “Trap On Beatz” and “Fo15” compilations are available now. You said that you got a whole lot of other things going on, what’s kind of next immediately?
It’s a project with Epic’s new signee, his name is Moe. I did a project with him called “Moetoven.”