Beats By Zay: The Best Unsung Classics From Zaytoven

Harold Bingo breaks down the best unsung gems from the in-demand Atlanta producer.
By    December 11, 2019

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Harold Bingo is in a striped shirt like Tony the Tiger.

Zaytoven’s ability to mix the sounds of his native Bay Area, the church and Atlanta to create something uniquely his own has allowed him to carve out a truly singular career path. He and Gucci are responsible for creating a subgenre of Atlanta rap and there was once a time where I scoured random tracklists in search of his productions because they weren’t so easy to come by.

Now that the sound he’s responsible for creating has gone mainstream and everyone from Drake to Lecrae has had their chance to grace his production, it’s time to take a closer look at some of the more hidden gems in his catalog. His Wikipedia page is woefully lacking and it is tough to find a comprehensive list of his productions.

Gold Standard - Synthwave Music
Gold Standard - Synthwave Music

No matter. I’ve done the best that I could from memory and I look forward to being reminded of the ones that slipped thru the cracks once this is posted. In the meantime, enjoy! Hopefully there’s something on here that jogs a memory or is new to you. 


Plies & Shy Glizzy – “Everybody”


Two of the best Zaytoven selectors come together to take turns lobbing quotables, hard to beat “I fucked her in front of the Waffle House”, though. Shy Glizzy has one of the best rap voices and this song is living proof.


Hitman Shawty – “Don’t Last Long”


Hitman Shawty is one of the lost names when late 00s trap is discussed but Definition of a Slick Boy is a personal classic tape and Brick Play was also a strong contender for this list. This Zaytown loosie is pure existential dread, though. Good song to play for anyone claiming “all his songs sound the same”. 


Young Dolph – “Reason”


And they say that rappers don’t tell stories on their songs any more. There’s something about Zay’s production that lets rappers tap into their more cinematic side. Gucci Mane-Timothy is a great example of this as well. 


Bankroll Fresh – “Human Cooler”


Bankroll was certainly ahead of the curve in a few respects, including dropping a Zaytoven collaboration tape (under the name Yung Fresh) years before Beast Mode launched the trend in earnest. I’m almost certain no one else has compared their pinky ring to a Quiktrip Slurpee before or since. 


Migos – “Night Time”


The Streets On Lock tapes are an underrated part of Migos career arc and this is one of the best songs of the series, Zaytoven gives them a beat that matches the concept perfectly, it sounds like a broken street light crossed with a bug zapper. 


Rich the Kid – “Check Out My Dab”


This song haunts me because if there were ever a Zaytoven song that was more in need of additional versions, its this one. Zaytoven has said that he has no problem with reselling beats if the initial rapper hasn’t made a hit with it and this is the one I hold out most hope for. Rich The Kid is fine but this beat is doing all the heavy lifting here.


Chief Keef – “Check It Out”


In a more and fair just world, Gucci would have found his way into Keef’s orbit a bit closer to his actual prime. That hasn’t stopped them from dropping a number of quality collaborations but I still wish late ’00s Gucci had been able to jump on this one. 


Young Dro – “Water”


I could write an essay on “You want a brick? Cool, shawty. Meet me at the dead end. Louie bag, preferably, that’s what I like my bread in” alone. Take all of my money for a crime noir written by Young Dro.


Quavo, Peewee Longway, & Young Thug – “Trapper Girl”


There are so many loosies from Atlanta during this decade that are at risk of being lost to history. Let’s collectively make sure that doesn’t happen to this one. One of my favorite Quavo hooks of his entire career, the chemistry between the three is otherworldly. 


Tray Savage & Fredo Santana – “Free 99”


Zaytoven’s excursions outside of his usual collaborators don’t always get the credit that they deserve but this cut off Tray’s Brain Dead tape makes me wish that Fredo had the chance to spend more time rapping on Zay’s tracks. “Robbin’ with no mask on, you ain’t heard my last song?” is a beautiful opening line, Fredo’s delivery was top tier. 

Bonus: 


Gucci Mane – “Money Bag Shawty” / “My Plug is an Alien”


The list could have easily been all Gucci deep cuts but my brain would have overheated and started leaking out of my ears if I even attempted it. These two are super special to me, though. “Doors up like the police told my Cutlass to freeze” is example #4,080 of what made prime Gucci one of the best rappers of the century, his gift for evocative imagery (otherwise known as “painting a word picture”) is unparalleled. The rapping on Money Bag Shawty isn’t quite on that level but its forever fun to hear Gucci find unexpected pockets in Zay’s production.

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