Behind the Beats: Zaytoven
Xavier “Zaytoven” Dotson literally is crafting the sound of the South as we know it right now. Usher, Jagged Edge, Rick Ross, Slim from 112, Yung LA — all are on his just-done list, but his biggest clients are the two dudes he’s been rocking with for years, Gucci Mane and OJ Da Juiceman.
“When me and Gucci sit down, I make tracks real fast and he can write songs real fast,” Zay told us about his friend of almost a decade. Their winning game plan was to just release new music as frequently as possible.
“We felt we could do that faster and more than anybody else,” Zay explained. “We put out more music than anybody else has. We felt that what’s was gonna separate us from everybody else. Everybody don’t get a chance to breathe. People be like, ’They putting out all that music’ — it made them pay attention.”
The Gucc is back in the studio after his jail stint , and ’Toven said people are just now recognizing what he’s known for almost 10 years.
“He actually came and was trying to write music for his little nephew,” he said of how Gucci first started making his own songs. “He was coming by [my studio], trying to get his nephew. Once he started recording and I heard him … I said, ’This guy got it right here.’ A lot of people didn’t hear it then, but I liked Gucci Mane’s music a whole lot. We were doing our own thing. I’d make beats, he’d rap and we’d go to the club and perform.
“The sound I got is how Gucci Mane rap,” Zay explained. “It’s hard, but it’s still bright and got character to it. It ain’t just hard and gory — it’s got life to it.”
Zaytoven moved from his native San Francisco to Atlanta back in 2000. With the price of studio time on the rise, Z converted his parents’ basement into his own personal lab and got to work. All he originally had was a computer and a keyboard — the rappers he worked with recorded their lyrics in a closet.
“Checks done helped us out, got us looking better,” he said about improvements made to the space. “I never moved the studio, ’cause I like its home feel. This is where all my family comes and we kick it. We been doing this since day one. I’mma always have this studio — this is home. We call this Zaytown. We in the A-Town, this basement is Zaytown.”
To get to Zaytown, you pull up to an unassuming house, walk through the front into the kitchen, then ease through the living room where his grandmother might be watching TV, down to the basement. He’s made hundreds of beats down there (most of them take only 10 minutes to finish), and all the big Gucci Mane and OJ Da Juiceman songs originated there, from “Bricks” to “Make the Trap Say Aye.”
“We did ’Bricks’ and ’Ridiculous’ all in one day,” Zaytoven offered. “Gucci came here, like, 8 in the morning — we were done 4 the morning the next day. OJ came way later that day, and ’Make the Trap Say Aye’ was one of the last songs we did.”
Now Gucci, OJ and Zaytoven are all moving from the streets to the mainstream. OJ laid tracks with R. Kelly, Gucci is on songs by Black Eyed Peas and Mariah Carey and Zay made a song for Usher’s new album.
“I can’t wait for something like that to come out, so people can see I do more that just hip-hop,” Zay said. “I can do R&B, pop, gospel … whatever genre of music that’s out. If you listen to [this new Usher song], you can’t say, ’Zaytoven did that.’
“All this stuff is big for me,” he added. “It’s our time. The sound we put out for so long and gave away for free on the mixtapes — now it means something.”
Next Wave of Flav
On Snoop Dogg: “Snoop is the funniest guy in the world. He makes you feel like you’re his real nephew. He knows what his sound is. He wanted to get back in the streets. He knows what’s poppin’ and he came to me. He just got on the ’Gorgeous’ song. A lot of the record we’re going to do are ideas right now. He’ll lay a verse then come back to it.”
The Streets Is Talking: News & Notes From the Underground
The remix for “Yacht Club” is just a taste of what’s to come real soon. Rick Ross says he ready to launch the new Triple C (Carol City Cartel).
“In the next two weeks, look for the Triple C single for Custom Cars and Cycles,” he revealed to us. “Custom Cars and Cycles … the reason we name it that is that it’s three Cs. But when we first began making music together and we was homies before we ever made a dollar in the music game, the furthest we could see was coming up and getting us a couple of custom cars and few motorcycles. We’re taking this project back to the love, back to the beginning — well over a decade ago. I salute Gunplay, Torch, Young Bre. It’s gonna be potent.”
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