Exclusive: Zaytoven Talks 15 Minute Beats, AJ Tracey & Killing The Competition

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17:00 in a London studio. When I walk in, Zaytoven is in mid creation of a beat. He apologies for keeping me waiting, but I have no qualms whatsoever. I’m loving watching this creative genius at work.

He heads into the booth to lay down some rough vocals, & I listen to his PR rep and manager discuss the roster of U.K talent they’re hoping to pass through the studio later that day. The beat is insane, the vibe, insane.

20 minutes later, it’s my time to sit down with the man himself. If you don’t know him by name, you 100% know his beats. Zaytoven real name Xavier Dotson is an Atlanta producer who has provided hits for all the hottest artists in the game: Drake, Nicki Minaj, Future, Migos, 21 Savage, Young Jeezy, Usher and of course, Gucci Mane!

We chatted it up and Zaytoven dropped some real gems… catch the highlights below:

How He Got Into Music…

I loved my upbringing. I hated moving around and leaving all my friends… but at the same time, I just loved going somewhere new and being in a new environment (Zay’s dad was in the Military so he moved around often).

Both my parents were in the church, and that’s definitely how I got into music. I was at church all the time & I was looking for something to do, so I started playing with the drums and different instruments and that’s what go me into the music and I fell in love with it.

I’m still a church musician, today I’m supposed to be in church playing the organ, but I’m here.

Making His Parents Proud…

It’s so crazy, because my dad’s in the military so he’s tough. I used to hate going home when I know I’m in trouble cos’ I know what he’s gonna do to me. But now, sometimes, my dad might start crying because he’s so proud and that’s very amazing. Both my parents are so proud.

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Transitioning From A Church Musician To A Big Time Producer…

It’s so crazy, I’d be at school and we didn’t really have a band so I’d bring my keyboard to the football games or I’d play the drums.. just playing songs you might hear on the radio. It went from that to a guy from the Bay area called JT The Bigga Fish seeing that and being like ‘ay man you the truth, I need to get you in the studio’.

We got to the studio and he just showed me how to turn in into a beat. He’d leave me at the house and be like ‘you can play with this stuff all day’ and i would just make beats for fun. I’m wasn’t even thinking about the money or doing it professionally. Then, I bought myself a karaoke machine, I played my beats and I rap to them, my brother and cousins rap to them and it’s all for fun. That turned into running into a guy like Gucci Mane who was doing it for fun too. We were doing it  because we enjoyed it, then we ended up with a hit song, & the rest is history.

His Solid Relationship with Gucci Mane…

Gucci and I have spent so much time together. We started at my moms house. It wasn’t like we were long time friends or anything. It was like ‘I like how you rap’ and ‘I like how you create beats’ so imma come over and we gon’ work!

Then, it turned into an everyday thing like ‘you up’ ‘okay I’m gonna come over’, we just kept making music and playing off each other. So you know, when he goes to jail, the first person he’s gonna call is me & be like ‘Zay, I’m gonna rap’ and I start producing the beat. And that’s how our relationship is still to this day. If we both in Atlanta he’ll call and be like ‘yo I’m coming over’

His Favourite Project…

It has to be the Ice Attack that I did with Gucci Mane & then Beast Mode with Future, also the first Migos project

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 Spending Just 15 Minutes On a Beat…

Making beats for me fast is just my method. I know a lot of people don’t do that, I know a lot of people might look down on that, but we’re living in a time where we need to produce right now.

On Wikipedia, you will see that I’ve probably produced the most songs and that’s why. Gucci will call to come over and make some songs. We’re both so excited about making new music that we wanna make 5 or 7 songs a day. We can’t do that if I spend an hour on making a beat and he spends an hour writing a verse. We’ll only get one song done – maybe two.

We’re not tryna make a hit record, we’re just tryna make a song that we can put in our car & listen to and be like ‘ooo that songs hot’ ‘not really feeling that one’ you know? And that keeps us excited, we can do that all day, that’s how I got accustomed to making my music. I’m impatient, the listeners are impatient. We want it now and I understand that, that’s the time we’re living in right now & that’s why I make the music so fast. I’m not thinking about making a hit record, I’m just thinking about making a lot… and I believe in there will be the hit.

So, if I get one hit record out of 50 beats, then I’m satisfied. I’m ready to make another 50 beats.

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Creating Beast Mode with Future…

Future was at a time when he wasn’t really on the scene that much, the streets wasn’t really listening to him and I think he got to a point where he just wanted to get in the studio and make the hardest songs ever… First he made Monster and everyone was like ‘Yo future, he’s coming back’.

I hadn’t spoken to Future in about a year. I was working on other projects, we had Migos, we’d just made Versace so things were quite busy then. And he called me and said ‘Ay man, I’ve rapped to some of your beats and I want you to come listen’.

 I’d sent him beats years ago and when I heard him now rapping on them, I was thinking ‘Yo Future’s going hard’ and it made me want to do a whole project with him. From that point, every beat I made was going to straight to him so we could get the project done. And after it dropped, Future was all the way back.

It took us both up to the next gear. If you listen to all my tracks before Beast Mode it was just hard trap, then on Beast Mode, you hear almost like a piece of art, you hear the pianos, all the music and instrumentation.

It’s hard and beautiful and the same time.

It was also like ‘Zaytoven has recreated himself’.  We’re hearing all these pianos and pretty chords. After that, that’s all everyone wanted like ‘I need the beats with the pianos’.

His Inspirations…

A lot of things, but mostly artists who are hot at the time. Especially new producers who are hot at the time.

 I’m competitive!

I love them, I work with them but it inspires me to do better like ‘dang, he’s going hard’ so I’m the type of person that I can’t go out like that, I’m not just going to let this guy beat me. I’ve just gotta go hard.

Even though I’ve probably started 10 years before these guys. My first song was 12 years ago, producers say ‘Zay’s the king, we look up to Zay’ but that’s not enough, I wanna be mentioned, while you’re being mentioned. I don’t care if it was 10 years ago, I wanna be known right now (he laughs). It keeps my fire burning! 

**Mid interview – AJ Tracey walks in!**

What He Loves Most About ATL…

Atlanta is like the flavour capital. Atlanta has allll the juice. All the clothing, all the lingo, it’s like Atlanta comes up with it. It starts right there. That’s why I keep a lot of young guys around me because I’m like ‘what that mean’. That’s the new thing and it starts in Atlanta, we got all the flavour.

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His Ear For Talent…

It’s like a feeling or something. A lot of the time when I think someone is special 9 times out of 10 people in the room don’t hear it. We could all be in hear and I could say ‘he’s the truth’ and ya’ll could be like ‘mmmm’,

It’s a discernment to kind of know that ‘he’s a star’ and I know you’re not going to like his music but I’m telling you ‘he’s a star’. That’s what happened with Gucci, Migos, OJ the Juiceman.

When I first saw the Migos Bando video, I showed it to everyone because I was like ‘yooo these dudes the truth’. When I played the song and it was slow and the video looked cheap people were going ‘nah Zay’. So, when Migos blew up and Young Dolph is blowing up, it lets me know that my ear is not playing tricks on me… I can be like ‘I tolllddd you’.

Birds of Feather – His Movie…

Birds of a Feather 2 right now, is like 90% done. It’s crazy and it’s actually a bit embarrassing why I shot the movie. It was at time when I wasn’t really hot as a producer.

I’ve always been relevant, always been there but sometimes other people come in, like I remember when Lex Luther came in, or Mike Will and that’s all people wanna talk about. They don’t wanna talk about Zaytoven, you know, I might have a song on the radio but these are the new hot guys. And it’s like I told you, I’m competitive so it’s like ‘Yo! I need some attention! I need somebody to talk about Zaytoven’ so I was like I’m gonna shoot a movie, put all the rappers in it and get it on Netflix.

I only did that to be more relevant in music, I love doing the film stuff, but I don’t feel like I’m a great actor. I just felt like I had a fanbase of people who wanted to see it, and I used it as a tool. It was right after Versace came out and peoele werr paying me attention, now they want my music more. It’s like I’m a brand new person.

Birds Of A Feather 2 will be out early summer. I’m now taking the movie thing seriously.. there’s people that recognise me just from this like ‘ahh I seen you on TV’.

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UK Talent…

I didn’t really know any U.K Artists, I’ve been so busy with artists from the US. So, AJ was the first guy I met and he impressed me so much. When I came over I didn’t really know what to expect.

But, working with him, I like him. I wanna do a whole album with him! 

I’m not the guy that’s tryna spread myself thin or work with everybody, I just wanna find someone good.

Advice To New Producers…

We’re living in a time where everybody just mimics, there’s so much of that that even if you do get on a make a song, there’s already something that sounds like that.

I do something called producer camp where I rent out a big studio and do a big class and teach about making it in the game and staying in the game. As a producer you have to have a sound.

You have to create your sound, but it’s also good to have an artist.

Like Gucci Mane was my claim, why my sound is the way it is, because I’m attached to an artist. Like ‘I know he’s gon’ make it, I know he’s gon’ work hard, I’m gon stick with him whatever he needs, I’m gonna give all the beats he needs. So now he’s blown up, I’ve got something to offer.

Most producers you know are tied to an artist, Snoop and Dre, Tim and Missy, Biggy and Puff. It’s a chemistry that we brought in the game. We will work with other people but it’s a sound Zaytoven and Gucci Mane brought in the game.

Get close to an artist and build that relationship.

Remaining A Good Husband & Father

My family always come first. All this other stuff is fun and I make money doing it, but I can pick when I want to.

Someone walked up to me in a mall in Atlanta and said ‘Zay you’re the right amount of famous’… and it hit me. I’m not famous to the point where I can’t go to the store or the mall. People might ask for pictures, but it’s not too overbearing. I wanna be in a point where if my kids or my wife require something for me, then I’m present. 

I never want to get to a point where I’m chasing the fame or money so much that I lose my family. My son will call me after basketball and be like ‘dad you missed my game!’ I can’t take too much of that, I can’t have that guilt on me.. so sometimes someone might want me to do a show or something but my family have to come first.

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What’s Up Next…

Aside from Birds of A Feather 2, I’ve got my own album coming out. When I say my album I’m not rapping, I’m just putting all the artists I love on one album. The first single is East Atlanta Day, it’s doing very very very well. I just put it out there to see how it would do. The album will be called Trap Hollizay! I’ve got movie soundtracks to do. I’ve got one book out already, but I’ll be writing another book called from A to Zay. A manual, what I do and producing giving my lifestyle the way I approach things. A lot of the stuff doesn’t even have to do with producing, it just shows you how to navigate through life.

Genuinely one of the most down to earth and talented guy i’ve ever met.

Be sure to follow him on Twitter & Instagram: @zaytovenbeatz

Check Out East Atlanta Day Ft. 21 Savage & Gucci Mane

Catch Up on Birds of A Feather 1 on Netflix before #2 drops!