Just in time to spread some end-of-the-year inspiration, Zaytoven teamed up with his longtime publicist, Tamiko Hope, to put out the second installment of her “Experience Hope” series. The 54-minute project is densely packed with Zaytoven’s wisdom, stories and advice told from his irreplaceable perspective, divided into topics such as Mindset, Reinvention, Loyalty, Investing, and so on. Their trusting relationship and made for one of the most insightful Zaytoven interviews the world will ever get. “When people are listening to him speak, it’s like they’re in a trance,” Tamiko told me, and I definitely have to agree. It’s almost effortless to get lost in the words of motivation as Zaytoven eloquently interweaves his experiences through past decades that propelled him from playing the organ at church every Sunday morning, to cooking beats while sitting in his barbershop chair with his keyboard on his lap, to becoming one of the most revered and trusted names in the hip-hop industry today.
“This was in my momma’s basement back when ain’t nobody know about no Gucci Mane,” Zaytoven recalls. “He’s calling my phone a hundred times at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning after he left the club [saying] ‘Zay, I need to come! I got a song I gotta record.’ But those are the sacrifices I made.” As Zaytoven reflects on the early stages of his career for “Experience Hope With Zaytoven Vol. 2”, he reiterates how crucial it is to listen to your gut and stay with artists you see potential in, no matter what. This includes getting up at 5:00 A.M. to let Gucci Mane into your parents’ house because he’s been sitting in his car, waiting to be let in to work on a song.
Nowadays, you’ll see Zaytoven up on stage alongside dudes like Travis Scott and Gucci Mane, looking like a full-blown superstar, finessing his keytar. When you hear that signature piano riff tag go off in the beginning of a track, it’s an indicator that the song is going to be an automatic hit. However, it took years, almost two decades actually, of consistent hard work and sacrifice to get to this point.
A smooth shift in recent years augmented the limelight to include not only the people in front of the mic, but also the brilliant minds behind the boards. Zaytoven is one of the few figures who remained consistent through the waves, masterfully navigating the complicated path between remaining true to one’s sound and switching it up to stay relevant. There’s clear reasoning behind why artists like Migos, Future and Gucci Mane constantly choose Zay as their go-to man, and that’s due to his unwavering loyalty and work ethic. During the early days when not many others believed in the rappers, Zay always allocated his time towards helping them out because he believed in them and had the wise ear that recognized their potential that not many others saw initially. “I think that’s why me and guys like Gucci and Future are so close and work so closely. They know I’m dependable and they can count on me. If they need something at any time, whatever they need, I’m gonna be there. I’m not gon’ close the door. I’ma say, ‘Yeah, I can do it.'” One word that hardly has a place in Zay’s vocabulary is “no”. With this sturdy mentality, Zaytoven was rightfully trusted to be the mastermind mind behind projects like Future’s “Beast Mode” and Gucci’s “East Atlanta Santa”, and hit songs like Migos’s Versace and Usher’s Papers.
Nonetheless, the industry has changed since Zaytoven’s start in the 90’s. “They want more of you now,” Zaytoven told me. He says a main difference between back in the day and now for producers is the expectation of the role. “Now, I gotta be on-screen, do shows, all of that. Back then, I could kind of stay behind the scenes.” He also reminisces about the time one hit song could carry him through the entire year. “Back when I had my song, So Icy (with Gucci Mane), that lasted about a year. I could live off of that song basically for a year. Now, it’s like you could have a big record, but in a matter of three months you gotta put out another one or have something else going on.”
Despite those pressures, Zay never compromised his authenticity or quality, and this is the main reason he has been able to stay relevant for so long. On “Reinvention”, he explains when he began feeling the need to change his sound and make more pop or R&B sounding beats, he soon learned sticking with his signature sound was what the people actually wanted. Each time Zaytoven would present an array of beats to someone he was working with, the gravitation towards his more original, raw trap beats was undeniable. “That made me realize the person I am in this music, or what I built on my sound, my trap sound or whatever, is who I am in this, and that’s what’s gonna keep me around.” Artists like Usher would receive beats from him and say, “This big-sounding music is cool, but can you give me the same music you been giving Migos and Future and all them?” The organic, unwavering preference towards Zaytoven’s genuine sound despite his stab at the “new” sound truly spoke for itself.
The “Experience Hope With Zaytoven, Vol. 2” motivational mixtape is reminiscent of a podcast and also features exclusive beats from Zay himself on each track. The project is rich with countless gems that will serve as incredible boosts of hope for people reaching for their music industry dreams.
Tamiko Hope says there’s a lot of exciting potential for the next installment of “Experiencing Hope”. The series’ overall main mission is to simply inspire people all around the world, especially people pursuing a career in the music industry. Tamiko has two editions of “Experiencing Hope” out, the first one featuring insight from names like Sonny Digital, DJ Spinz and Dun Deal. Tamiko holds motivational seminars and constantly invests time into creating content that inspires and moves people, and she expresses a motivational tour to different schools and studios is something she sees in the horizon. Her audio series uniquely bridges together inspiring quotes, exclusive beats and real-life scenarios in the rap world told by the artists themselves, and that’s as real as it gets. You can stream or purchase the project on iTunes or Spotify.
View the cover and tracklist below.
(Credit: @pompeiiarts and @wordinkpr)