On Friday (April 20), Red Bull Music released the newest episode of their documentary series The Note featuring acclaimed producer Zaytoven.
Reminiscing on the days of making beats in his parents’ basement, Zaytoven created the sound that most know as modern-day trap music working with popular Southern rappers such as OJ Da Juiceman, Yo Gotti and Gucci Mane. Considered a founding father of trap music, Zaytoven went on to work with some of the biggest artists today, including Nicki Minaj, Future, Migos and Usher.
In the 17-minute clip, viewers get to see a side of the Atlanta native that is grounded in his spirituality and family life. Scenes show the producer playing at his church on Sunday and his parents talking about his early foray into the music game while also flashing back to old clips of rappers in his parents’ basement, creating magic.
To celebrate the release of the documentary, Red Bull Music hosted an intimate dinner party at Wolf restaurant in Los Angeles, where guests screened the episode and got a one-song performance from artist Tiffany Bleu covering Mary J. Blige’s “I’m Goin’ Down,” while Zaytoven played on the keys. In a Q&A before the start of the screening, Zaytoven spoke on what trap music meant to him. “Trap music was drug-selling music,” he said, but “trapping” meant so much more. “I was cutting hair. I felt like that was my trap. I was selling beats. So trap music is hustling music to me. Whatever you hustling. You might be selling weave.”
When asked he took away from the experience of making the documentary, he said, “I was looking at the footage I haven’t seen in years, and it took me back to when we started making this sound of music, adding, “I can’t believe it’s still here and so relevant.”
Billboard spoke to Zaytoven briefly about the documentary, his dream collaboration and the next era of his career:
How did the collaboration with Red Bull come about?
I’ve been doing a lot of projects with Red Bull even before this. Their people called me and my manager Roland to their office in Atlanta and told me about The Note. So I was like, “I can’t wait to do it.”
What part of your story are you sharing in the documentary that people don’t already know?
What I really wanted to focus on was character and relationships. People know me for the music I do, starting a certain sound, and I guess being the godfather of trap. But I wanted to show people the character I hold in the midst of doing this music. And that’s why when you see the documentary, you see me in church and around my family a lot. And you see the good things people have to say about me. It’s not just about music.
What role do you feel spirituality plays in your success?
I feel like it’s the biggest role and biggest key to my success. I feel like I didn’t make it to where I’m at off of talent or hard work. I felt like it’s God’s favor that got me to where I’m at. Because I know people that’s better than me at playing the piano or making beats. I know people who work harder than me, but they’re not in the position I’m in. Who else can I give the credit to?
How is it balancing a family with a career?
It’s easy because I put God and my family first. Music is secondary to that. It was a hobby to me that turned into a way to provide for my family and my career. It just happened like that. So I make sure I’m in church on Sunday to play the organ and I still make sure I put my wife and kids first before anything else.
Are there any dream collaborations you have?
I always thought about working with Beyoncé, Rihanna, Chris Brown, but those phone calls are in motion now, so you never know.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming producers who may have had a big placement but want to have longevity in their careers?
Try your best to be original and create a sound that’s yours. A lot of new producers come in and have a big song, big record, but it might sound like something else. I know producers who have made songs that sound just like mine. But you probably won’t hear from them another year or now because people will say, “oh, you sound like Zaytoven.” I think the game is lacking new producers being original and bringing in new flavors and sounds that aren’t out already. That’s the reason I feel like I’ve lasted so long. The sound I created was over 10 years ago, but it’s still relevant to today.
What does the new era of your career look like?
I don’t know, and that’s what keeps me excited about music. The whole time I’ve been doing music, I never knew what tomorrow could bring or what could happen. It would just be like, oh, the next day I’m at JAY-Z’s house, and never in my life I would’ve pictured that. That’s what keeps me excited. That’s what keeps me hungry, knowing that I still got to work hard to get places I’ve never been.