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COURTESY OF ZAYTOVEN

December 17, 2017

Humility, Loyalty, Business and Music — A Conversation with Zaytoven

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For any fan of hip-hop, Zaytoven’s name carries a sense of royalty and divinity. However, even if you are unfamiliar with the name, you have almost certainly heard one his tracks; in 2013 Migos released the Zaytoven-produced “Versace” which would soon after became a global sensation following Drake’s contributions to the song. In addition to this mega-hit, Zaytoven has been responsible for countless other bangers including “Big on Big” by Migos.

Zaytoven’s beats all have a trademark sound. The tracks begin with his signature calling card “Zaytoven” said in a baby-like, helium infused voice. This is then followed by the orchestration, normally consisting of a predominant upright piano along with various combinations of organs, strings and synths. Finally, his percussion, through rapid high hats, booming 808’s and crisp snares, enters giving the beats body controlling properties.

While Zaytoven may be defined by the public as one of the greatest beat-makers of all time, he is much more than this. Zaytoven, born Xavier Dotson, is a producer in every sense of the word. His business attitudes, professionalism and musicianship are matched by few others in the music industry.

Further, Zay’s ability to create a name for himself is incredibly impressive. Although a musician first, Zaytoven’s talents have begun to spill into the film industry. And this is not by accident. When filming his first critically acclaimed movie, Birds of a Feather, Zay set out with the goal of “branding [himself] and bringing attention to [himself],” he said in an interview with The Sun. He is still doing the same thing today, and it is a huge part of why he is still relevant in the industry after all of these years. Zaytoven will be releasing Birds of a Feather II in a few short weeks in order to supplement the hype that the announcement of his debut album is already generating.

But what has been most critical to his success is his ability to recognize stardom. Although too humble to admit it in our conversation, Zaytoven is one of the most crucial reasons that Migos are currently one of the world’s biggest music groups. The story goes like this: “They was a new hot group that was kind of bubbling around the city. I looked them up on YouTube to try and find them and I [saw] Quavo rapping Bando and he just seemed like a star. When I seen them [the Migos], I knew I had to find them. “

Within a day of meeting the Migos, Zaytoven had given them beats, including what would become “Versace.” However, upon my asking about whether or not he would define that song as his greatest musical accomplishment he became noticeably uncomfortable. Although willing to admit just how big of a moment Drake jumping on “Versace” was for his career, Zay was very quick to bring the conversation back to his humble beginnings with his longtime friend and collaborator Gucci Mane. He remembered how “‘Versace’ was like [Jeezy hopping on] ‘Icy’ all over again.”

Zaytoven’s humility and respect is unmatched, and this was especially apparent when we discussed his relationship with Gucci: “That’s what I’m going to be known as,” he said. “Zaytoven and Gucci, that means everything to my career.”

Zay also clued me in to some of his future collaborations. A few weeks ago, Lil Pump, the young Florida SoundCloud rapper turned national sensation, posted a video of him dancing and singing along to a new track with the caption “PRODUCED BY ZAYTOVEN.” Although I have gathered from Zaytoven that the professional relationship between him and Pump is in its early stages, it seems to me that Zaytoven is well on his way of taking Lil Pump, who has already been endorsed by Schoolboy Q and countless others, straight to the top just like he did with Migos. Zay said it best himself, “he [is] a star, he got it. That’s what I see when I see him. Me and him [are] working on a lot of songs.” For Lil Pump and his fans, the idea of a Zaytoven collaboration is extremely exciting and a potential sign and that 17-year-old Pump is on his way to becoming a global phenomenon.

Zaytoven has been a staple in the music industry for years, and the future only looks to hold more hits for the humble 37-year-old producer. Watch out for his debut album Trap HoliZay releasing in March of 2018 which will feature the likes of Migos, Gucci Mane, Trey Songz, Yo Gotti and Young Dolph and his new movie Birds of a Feather II which is slated to release this winter.
Peter Buonanno is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at pfb48@cornell.edu.