In this episode of People’s Party, Talib Kweli and co-host Jasmin Leigh sit down with Grammy Award-winning record producer and pioneer of the “Trap Music” sound — Zaytoven. This in-depth interview gives us great insight on how Zay became one of the biggest names in the industry, starting with his beginnings living in the Bay during the 90’s perfecting his craft under legends like JT The Bigga Figga and E-40, then moving to Atlanta to produce and help shape the careers of so many Trap Music icons, including Lecrae, Gucci Mane, Migos, and countless others. As the interview progresses, Zaytoven opens up about the church’s influence on his music, and how he balances his deep-rooted faith, while operating in the Trap world.
Kweli, Jasmin, and Zaytoven go on to discuss his talent as a barber, and how that skill helped contribute to his level of success. (Along with why he kept a steady gig, even when he had hits.) Talib and Zaytoven trade stories of their first interactions with Gucci Mane, and the lead up to their collaboration on the record “Poltergeist.” Zay also shares how he met Migos and Usher, and details the awe he experienced watching Future at work in the studio.
As the interview comes to a close the trio discusses contrasting strategies on staying relevant with today’s fickle fan-bases, producers not getting their due props in the Spotify era, and what Zaytoven has in store for us down the line.
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1:45 — Talib asks Zaytoven how he made it from the Bay Area, Cali to Atlanta, GA.
3:18 — Zaytoven speaks on his early start working with Bay hip-hop greats such as JT The Bigga Figga, Messy Marv, San Quinn, and E-40 while still in high school.
4:56 — The trio discuss the Bay Area and ATL connection, with all their similarities in relation to hip hop culture.
7:36 — Zaytoven tells about learning multiple instruments with his church band and quickly gravitating towards the piano and organ. Also, how his faith influenced his sound, and in turn, even the tone of lyrics laid down from those he collaborates with.
10:32 — Zaytoven and Talib share their stories of making their parents fans of hip-hip through their success.
14:59 — Zaytoven talks about his talent in cutting hair, being his first real hustle, and how it’s been an instrumental part of his success in regards to networking and social skills.
18:42 — Talib asks Zaytoven about his opinion on those making Trap music, but not living the lifestyle they portray on their records.
19:43 — Talib and Zaytoven discuss their first impressions meeting Gucci Mane and how Kweli was surprised by Gucci’s reaction to him, which led to their collaboration on “Poltergeist.”
22:26 — Zaytoven then tells the story of how he first met Gucci Mane, how he started making beats for Gucci to rap over, and the story behind “So Icy.” He also expands on what it was like making songs for the club and the streets as well as Gucci’s intelligence and confidence in what they were doing. And finally they dive into the Gucci Mane clone rumors and what it is that started the “Gucci Mane Clone” theory online.
29:36 — Zaytoven details how he linked up with Migos to produce their huge hit recording “Versace” making their mark in the industry.
33:05 — Zaytoven explains how he balances his Christian faith with making trap music and working with some of the hardest artists in the game, complete with an anecdote about how Gucci Mane introduces him to people. This leads into a discussion on the sound of the club in Atlanta and how that led Zaytoven to working with Usher and his experience there.
37:00 — Zaytoven speaks on his working relationship with Future and his amazement watching him operating in the studio.
38:24 — Zaytoven and Talib discuss rapper, Lecrae’s ability to successfully carry Christianity in the vein of Trap without compromising his creative integrity.
41:03 — Talib asks Zaytoven, what are the things about an artist like Lil’ Uzi Vert that a hip-hop purist should respect and appreciate.
44:58 — Zaytoven and Talib discuss the differing strategies, balances, pros and cons of staying relevant in the modern-era of music by releasing lots of content vs. less, keeping people in anticipation of every release. Zaytoven also gives producers some advice on how to get more recognition in the music streaming age, where they are rarely given full credit.
50:16 — Talib: “Tell us what’s in the future for Zaytoven, besides you, and me working together”. Jasmin also asks Zaytoven about Atlanta’s “Trap Round Table” event.
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