“God’s Favor Put Me into the Position I’m at:” An Interview With Zaytoven

TE P. talks to the legendary producer about reconnecting with his Bay Area roots, his discipline derived from the church and his widespread influence on the game today.
By    May 3, 2021
Photo courtesy of Dane Darden.

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Zaytoven got his start in San Francisco but he endured a long and interesting route on the way back home. Born in Frankfurt, Germany to an Army father, he moved frequently, stopping in Columbus, GA, Grenada, MS, Jackson, MS, and San Diego, CA, all before finishing high school. For many people, changing schools, losing friends, starting all over could make for a pretty rough upbringing. But Zaytoven saw and still sees it otherwise. For him, the changing of all that he knew in these different places built an adaptive mechanism that would serve as his secret weapon later on in life when getting into the music game.

Despite his constantly changing physical whereabouts, he had one constant to keep him grounded and rooted in something that transcended his surroundings: the church. On top of being a very disciplined member of the Army, Zaytoven’s father was a pastor and his mother was a choir director. His earliest memories are in the house of God. Both good, bad, and painful. One particularly stands out as he was outside of the church wrestling while his mother was inside holding bible study. Like many young kids, restlessness set in while the adults were speaking to the good book and its many interpretations. One thing led to another, and in a quick series of actions, Mommatoven found herself having to rush a young Zaytoven to the hospital with a broken shoulder.

For the few instances that Zaytoven can point to getting hurt at church, he has countless stories and lessons gleaned from his time there. It is in the church that he learned to play the drums and the piano. It is in the church that he learned how to listen to music. It is even in the church, while accompanying his mother, that Zaytoven learned he was actually good as a musician. What comes across early, and fairly evident about Zaytoven is his ability to humanize himself that almost downplays how good he truly is. Yeah, it’s easy to look at who he’s become and recognize him as a pioneer in Hip-Hop’s leading sound but he doesn’t let himself rest on that. Throughout our conversation he reiterates those moments of being unsure and not truly stepping into who others saw him becoming.

As he began to grow as a musician and as a person, the family moved again. It was his freshman year of high school, he’d just scored 13 points in a basketball game, he was living in sunny San Diego, and life was good. But just as he had so many times before, Zaytoven had to let go of that time and adapt to his new life in San Francisco. A mecca of activism, counter culture, and music, San Francisco — and The Bay at large — in the mid to late ‘90s was a hotbed of creativity. Artists like E-40, San Quinn, and JT the Bigga Figga—even 2Pac—were stamping this land by the Pacific Ocean as a tongue twisting, player paradise that just so happened to produce some of the most inventive artists in the genre. And it is here that Xavier Lamar Datson began to become Zaytoven.

It was a regular day in school. Zaytoven was playing the piano, as he always was, with some friends and local legend JT the Bigga Figga just so happened to be in the audience. He told Zaytoven he could help him learn how to take his proficiency on the cords and translate it into a rap beat. He was sold. Initially, Zaytoven was just happy that he had records he could take home and rap along to with his brother and friends on a karaoke machine. As he continued to hone his craft other artists began to take notice. And the guy who played the piano every church Sunday became one of the go-to sounds of The Bay.

But staying in one place for a long period of time never truly suited Zaytoven. So he moved again to Atlanta, the place that he’s called home for the last two decades. He’d describe the turn of the century scene when he arrived as “balling.” Coming off of a historical run by LaFace Records and The Dungeon Family, Atlanta’s hip-hop scene was in a period of restructuring. The dope boys had become the real stars and everyone else followed the leader. From his vantage point, working in a barbershop, soaking up the Southern flavor and charm, Zaytoven was poised to make an impression in his new home one way or another.

A chance encounter brought the then unknown Gucci Mane into his orbit and he never left. The two were sonically destined for one another. Gucci would pop up on Zay at 4 a.m. in the morning after the club. Zay would have to sneak him into the basement to record. But in this chaos and drive to be something or someone, the two forged a bond that would influence an entire generation. When looking back at his beginnings, Zaytoven sees those times as necessary in order to fuel his desire to be better. Even while having produced for Gucci, Usher, and the likes of Atlanta’s true stars, Zaytoven refused to leave his regular job at the barbershop. It wasn’t until “Versace” came out that the attention he was getting at the gig was so distracting to the business that he was literally asked to leave, out of respect of course.

His tag, the high pitched utterance of his name by his daughter, has become synonymous with the paranoid, 808-driven, one way in-one way out feeling of trap music. Quite an astonishing feat coming from a guy who’s actually from The Bay and still plays piano in his church three times a week. But that’s part of Zaytoven’s folklore. Never too big to leave the church, never too far away to forget about where he’s from. And that’s why the Zaytoven Presents: Fo15 project makes so much sense. It’s in The Bay that Zaytoven truly cut his teeth. It’s where he attributes who he is as a person. It’s where someone as large as JT the Bigga Figga recognized something and empowered him to tap into that. It would only be right that Zaytoven return back to The Bay to do the same.

The project comes in with a firm, “HUH?!?” from ZayBang, one of the current leaders of San Francisco’s street rap scene. “The Click” walks listeners down a dark road with Zaytoven’s ominous cords and ZayBang’s grainy voice until the beat drops and the rest of the squad goes in.“Frisco Shit” is the ultimate squad song featuring KxNG LLAMA, Prezi, Lil Bean, and ZayBang that speaks to San Francisco’s trenches; a stark comparison to the cliché images of tech bros sipping $8 oat milk lattes and The Golden Gate Bridge hovering over the Pacific Ocean. “Gone” is a letter to the deceased backed by luxurious chimes, fluid cords, and Zaytoven’s classic slapping drums.

Zaytoven has reached the mountaintop. Few could argue that. His influence can be heard in super producers like Metro Boomin and Southside. He has graced the hood charts and the pop charts. He has introduced us to artists who broke through Atlanta’s tough and unforgiving streets. He has been christened a “Godfather of Rap”. All while keeping his head level, his feet on the ground, and his hands on a piano. TE P.

Your childhood has always sounded interesting. You were born in Germany. Then you lived in a few different places like Mississippi and San Diego before ultimately settling in The Bay. What is a favorite memory from those stops along the way?

Zaytoven: It’s my Mom’s birthday and that’s exactly what we were just talking about. We were thinking about all of the places we’ve been. The places we’ve liked the most. And places that I really remember. There’s not one that’s better than the other. I got so many good memories from San Diego. I got so many good memories from Mississippi. I learned so much from each place I lived in. I can’t pick one place from another.

OK. Then, what’s one thing you learned from bouncing around in that way that you took with you and still hold?

Zaytoven: One thing I really learned that I still use to this day is being able to adapt. Learning how to leave something that you’re attached to. You know when you’re so attached to your friends, where you live, and what you do? Then you gotta get up, move, and start all over again. The music industry reminds me of that because it moves so fast. New people come in. New technology comes in all the time. It’s about dropping what you’re so used to and accustomed to and starting over with something new. That’s one of the biggest lessons I learned.

I have to say, one of my favorite parts of your story is your roots in the church and how active you still are in it. You can feel it in your music. What would be one of your earliest memories in church?

Zaytoven: Man, I got so many memories in church. [Laughs] You know what, something I’ve never said in an interview is one of my memories of church that’s kind of bizarre is breaking my shoulder outside of church wrestling. I felt like I was strong and always wanted to wrestle. You know, you’re at church all the time. Sometimes you find things to get into. Of course I’m doing the music thing but as a kid I’m outside wrestling during bible study. Man, I done broke my shoulder outside while my Mom was inside. She came outside and she was so mad. I couldn’t even lift my arm up. So, I had to go straight to the hospital from church. That’s a bizarre memory that not too many people know about.

There were a few kids at the church I went to whose Pop was a deacon. I remember the amount of pressure on them as the rest of the church was always looking to them. Their were always eyes on them. It seemed like there was this weight they were always carrying. Did you ever feel that pressure with your Pop being a pastor and your mom being the choir director?

Zaytoven: Always man. Not only was my Dad a preacher and a pastor, he was a military guy. So, it was no room for you to be messing up too much. And with my Mom being the choir director, the eyes were always on you. They were there all the time. I felt that. I couldn’t go anywhere without thinking, “My Daddy finna find out. My Momma gonna find out.” [Laughs] So, I had to walk the straight and narrow.

An off the cuff question: How good of a choir director was your mom?

Zaytoven: She was the best! She’s like the dopest. As far as I can remember she’s been a choir director. But even when I moved to Atlanta, she would be leading songs. I mean, got the church rockin’. Just going in. Everybody with their hands in the air–pushing them up in the sky. Mom’s is the real deal. She’s super dope.

Your musicianship also comes from the church. We’ve seen that so often on the secular side with the Aretha Franklin’s and Sam Cooke’s of the world. What was it that made you gravitate towards percussion?

Zaytoven: If you got 10 boys in the church that want to do something–they all want to play the drums. Don’t nobody really want to learn the piano or the organ because it seems like it’s harder. It’s too much to learn. The drums almost seems like it’s easy because I can just beat on something. The organ you have to start learning notes and what stuff sounds like. I definitely went for the drums because as a kid you just want to beat on something.

But since there were so many boys that wanted to play the drums, that’s what made me start playing the keyboard. I remember getting pulled off the drums one time. My mom pulled me off and I was crying. Maybe I was off beat or there was a song I couldn’t play right or something. But it made me be like, “I don’t even wanna play the drums like that no more.” I wanted to do something else that everybody else wasn’t really doing.

Were there any songs that were more of your favorites to play?

Zaytoven: One of my favorite songs to play is “Lord I’m Available To You”. And you might still catch me playing that to this day at times. I think it’s because it was the first song that had so many different cord transitions to it. My Momma sang it. And she would ask to back her up. That was probably my favorite song that made me feel, “I can play!” Certain songs you got three, four cords that you’re doing over and over again. This song, there are a whole lot of transitions in it. So, that’s probably my favorite.

Just to put you on the spot. Who would you say are some of your major gospel influences?

Zaytoven: Man, I’d name you so many gospel artists that changed my life with just how I listen to music! First of all, I’m going to start off with the Canton spirituals. You know, I did live in Mississippi. And man, that’s like my favorite group of all time. But then, my mind got blown when I started listening to Commissioned. That’s my mom and dad’s favorite. I know every Commissioned song word for word. But then, as I got older, Deitrick Haddon that kind of changed my whole ear to Gospel music. I would see him on Bobby Jones. You know how BET used to have the Gospel show on Sunday mornings. I seen him and remember walking passed the tv, stopping, and saying, “Who is that?!?!” I looked him up and found him. Ever since then, I made every choir I’ve played for play all Deitrick Haddon.

I spoke to Morray not long ago. He also said his favorite artists was Deitrick Haddon. Morray is one of those artists that you can just tell grew up in the church. He’s in the lineage of an artist like CeeLo Green. They have an ability to bring all that we feel in church and put it into their music. You being so prolific, can you speak to how heavily influenced–not just Hip-Hop–but Black music as a whole is by Gospel music and those sounds from the church?

Zaytoven: Gospel music has a heart and soul to it. It has a heartbeat to it. All genres of music–especially Black music–has that same feel. It comes from a struggle. It has a testimony. Coming from nothing to something. When I think about Gospel music, I think about me being a musician. MY job in the church is to set the atmosphere for whatever is going on. Whether it’s time for people to dance and shout, whether it’s time for the preacher to preach, or whether it’s time to call someone to Christ. It’s my job to create the atmosphere for that situation. You know how you sit and listen to music?

You can hear somebody talking but the music behind it is what makes you listen a whole different way. It pierces your heart in a different type of way. I feel like that’s exactly what it is. It all comes from the church and it helps these guys. Whether they rapping about selling drugs, or coming from the streets and now they rich. They can buy they momma a house or whatever. That is a testimony. I think it resonates.

I saw in an interview that you got Dre Day from a friend but had to hide to listen to it. I felt that in my soul because my parents was not playing rap either. It wasn’t something that they listened to. State Property and Get Rich or Die Tryin’ were those records I can remember sneaking to hide. Can you think of any other records you were listening to at the time that you had to hide?

Zaytoven: That was every Rap music back then. It was every song that had profanity in it. Every album that had the “Parental Advisory” sticker on it. That’s not what we come from. My parents didn’t listen to that. They was on Gospel music. That’s what we do all the time. But the Rap music was so infectious to me. I had never heard anything like it. It sounded a certain way. I felt like, “I got to listen to this stuff!” I became such a fan that every Rap album that came out I was on it. But I was hiding it because my parents didn’t approve of it.

That’s a lot of hiding. [Laughs]

Zaytoven: That’s a lot of hiding. You know what I’d do? I go and try to find a song on these albums that didn’t have a lot of cursing on it. So, if my folks did hear it, they would be like, “OK. Cool. He aint. He can listen to that.” [Laughs].

I know that hustle! I know that hustle! Moving a little bit forward to you landing in The Bay and San Francisco. You’re coming from Germany, Mississippi, San Diego. What were your initial thoughts?

Zaytoven: I hated it. I was at that age where I went to middle school in San Diego. I spent my first high school year in San Diego. And I was just going to the 10th grade. I just made the basketball team. I scored like 13 points my first game. I was so attached to my friends. San Diego was so beautiful and the neighborhood we stayed in. I felt like I could have lived in San Diego the rest of my life but we up and moved.

I go to San Francisco and where we’re living at is like a deserted Army base. The weather is cold. It seemed like the first three weeks out there it just rained and stormed. I was kind of upset that we moved. I didn’t want to be there. Then I went to school. The school I went to in San Diego is like a well funded college. The school I went to in San Francisco is like the movie, Lean On Me. I’m talking about night and day. I dreaded San Francisco for a while. But then, you start making friends. You get accustomed to how things go. After a bout a year or so, I couldn’t leave San Francisco.

And you’re there in those very formidable years. I saw you speaking to it in an interview where you claim San Francisco for that very reason. You’re in high school and you’re beginning to grow.

Zaytoven: Right. That’s when you grow. That’s when you really find out who you are, what you want to do, and what type of person you’re going to be.

This is also an incredible time in Hip-Hop. Creativity is flowing through the culture and so much of it was popping up from that area. Can you speak to that energy at the time?

Zaytoven: That’s the time of B-Legit, E-40, Messy Marv, San Quinn, JT the Bigga Figga. The the only music we listening to back then is Bay area music. 2Pac was still big back then and a lot of the artist from The Bay were on 2Pac’s, All Eyez on Me. We would listen to a lot of that too. But it was about The Bay Area and the artists in it. C-Bo, Mack Mall, anything that was called “Mob Music” at the time was what we listened to.

You actually get the change to not only meet JT the Bigga Figga but he recognizes your talent and brings you into his world. How did that affect you at the time?

Zaytoven: He’s the first guy that took me and was like, “Hey man, I hear you know how to play the piano. I’m finna show you how to put that on top of a drum beat and record it.” That changed my life. I was making beats at the studio, putting them on a cassette tape, taking them home and putting them in my karaoke machine, and rapping on ‘em. I was getting my cousin and brother to rap on ‘em. We felt like we had our own little studio in my room.

It’s amazing when you hear stories like yours. You’re just playing music at your school. JT the Bigga Figga just so happens to see it and recognize you. And now, you have the ability to connect with somebody who at that time is a pillar in the scene. And you build on that. It’s proof that these aren’t mistakes. And the universe is undefeated.

Zaytoven: Nope. Nope. Nope. It’s not a mistake.

So, moving forward to Atlanta. When you get there, it is not the Atlanta music scene that we know now. Can you describe what that scene was like in one sentence when you got there?

Zaytoven: In one sentence: ballin’. I saw a whole lotta money. Coming from San Francisco to Atlanta, I just saw people burning hundreds. Just burning hundred dollar bills. If you want me to sum it up, that’s what I can remember.

You were also a major barber at that time. A dope part to your story that makes so much sense when you know how central the barbershop is in our culture. What’s something that you miss about being a barber?

Zaytoven: I miss the jonin’ everyday. That’s all we did was joke and make fun of each other. It took for me to make “Versace” to leave the barbershop. That was 2013. I made “So Icey” in 2004. They had to kick me out of the barbershop. They was like, “Come’on man. You making too much money. You got to leave the barbershop. Now, everybody coming in here just to get an autograph and take pictures.” I loved the barbershop so much I didn’t want to leave.

There is something to be said about the pursuit of a dream while still trying to pay your bills. We see so often with artists that it’s always an “or”. They don’t see an “and”. It’s like they can only be a rapper.

They can’t do anything else because it may sway the way folks think about them or their goals. Can you speak to being in the barbershop, making huge records, but not wanting to leave because you knew there were still responsibilities you needed to take care of?

Zaytoven: That’s the testimony I tell to everybody that follows me or wants to take my advice. I always say that security meant a lot for me. I watched my mom and dad. I watched them be responsible. I watched my dad get up everyday and go to work to pay the bills. He made sure his family had somewhere to eat, live, and stay. That’s the reason why I stayed in the barbershop so long because I thought, “Hold on. If my daddy can get up and go to work everyday then I need to be getting up and going to work.”

Music has always been a hobby. Even though I started making more money making music then I ever did cutting hair, it was still fun to me. I knew I could do it at my leisure. I could still go to the shop, cut hair all day, and come home and make beats all day. I was excited to do that. It was fun to me. Stability was a big part of my whole career because I thought, “What if I fall off? What if people don’t like my music no more?”

In this music you could be on one day and be gone the next. I felt like I needed to keep my regular hustle as security. I’m a grown man. I had a son on the way. I wanted to get married to my old lady. I didn’t want to be out here just hoping I get another song placed or another song on the radio. That’s something I always tell people.

In seeing your connection with Gucci when y’all first started, that was crazy. I remember when “So Icey” hit up here. It made me a lifelong Gucci fan. I don’t care what he does…

Zaytoven: Yeah. It don’t matter. [Laughs].

He’ll always be good in my book. He’s always been honest. But something you said in an interview that stuck out to me was how special that time was for y’all. You were sneaking him into your basement at like 4 in the morning sometimes.

That’s pure creation. That builds a bond that goes beyond music and it can be heard on the records. Can you speak to being at the point in both of your careers?

Zaytoven: I go to that basement over there all the time. There’s an aura in the basement from when we were creating music back then. I was sneaking him in at 4 after he left the club because he wanted to make a song that bad. He got somebody who was going to get on a feature for us. That built a certain trust. That built a certain chemistry with me and Gucci. Like you said, you can hear it in the music. We have a certain chemistry that him and nobody else will have.

It’s because we started at ground zero together. I remember a friend of mine in The Bay named Chuck. He knew I worked with JT the Bigga Figga. He’d say, “Hey man, stick with JT. He gonna do whatever it takes to get it done. He will do whatever it takes to make it.” So, when I run into Gucci Mane and he’s calling me at 4 in the morning. Or he wants to do all types of crazy stuff, it lets me know that this guy right here is going to do whatever it takes to make it. My job is to be that support system. So that when he does make it—I make it with him. That’s why our connection is so special.

I wanted to know a few of your initial thoughts on some folks from Atlanta. You don’t have to give a long explanation. Feel free to share whatever immediately comes to mind… Gucci Mane:

Zaytoven: Hustler of the Year.


Zaytoven: New Flavor.


Zaytoven: Superstar.

Metro Boomin:

Zaytoven: The Young Don.

You’ve become an institution in Atlanta. Your name is what it is. When would you say you felt you’d broken through and your sound was one that other people wanted to copy?

Zaytoven: I personally didn’t feel like that until Migos’ “Versace”. But, before that, everybody else felt like that. People were saying that was the sound that they needed to copy. That it was the sound everyone needed. Back when “Make The Trap Say Aye” came out. Back when I was doing a lot of the early Gucci Mane mixtapes.

Those were the beats that were getting mimicked. But to me I didn’t feel like I’d done anything. It wasn’t until “Versace” that I said, “You know what? I’m a big time producer in the game.” Even when I had a number one with Usher already. I’d done a whole lot of other songs before that. It wasn’t until “Versace” that I felt I was a big dog in this.

It takes a certain level of humility to have those moments. Something I pulled out from another interview you did was the fact that you didn’t even see yourself as a producer. 99% percent of people would already have these things going to their heads. Can you speak to that level headedness?

Zaytoven: It was me more so being afraid. I was afraid of being one of those guys that’s here today and gone tomorrow. I never wanted to start bragging or acting like I was this and that. I always felt like it was God’s favor to put me into the position I’m at. You know, I used to go to the studio and listen to other producers. I would hear them pull up their beats and it would sound so good that it made me not want to play my beats after that.

I always felt like they were better than me. I felt like my stuff wasn’t that good. So, that’s what took me so long because I didn’t want to brag and then people wouldn’t even be talking for Zaytoven next year. Even the Bible says, “Let somebody else speak well of you.” So, I didn’t want to talk about it until I heard so many other people saying it. It was when people said, “Zay the God of this. Zay the founder of this.” Then it made me more confident to feel like I am the guy they say I am.

Your tag is one of the most recognizable in the game. It’s famous in and of itself. But have you ever heard another tag that you wish was yours?

Zaytoven: Not really. I had a tag at first. I don’t know if many people know it but I did my own tag. It said, “Zaytoven.” It had a funny voice on it. It was on the early Gucci Mane stuff like Hard to Kill. I used it back then. But when my daughter did the “Zaytoven”, I felt like a tag don’t get no better than that. I love my tag. I don’t wish I had anyone else’s.

Now, it’s time to talk about this project. I enjoy listening to projects with artists I’ve never heard before. This one actually became somewhat of a competition to decide who had the best verse on a song. When it comes to The Bay, usually folks are talking about Oakland. But San Francisco has its own deep history in music, in activism, in culture, in counter-culture and all of these other things. Can you speak to San Francisco’s place in The Bay?

Zaytoven: What makes San Francisco so great and unique is it reminds me of myself. I feel like I’m always the underdog no matter what situation I’m in. You can talk about all of the producers in the world and Zaytoven is going to be the guy that’s the most unfavored. And that’s cool. That’s what has kept me around. That’s what has kept me motivated. That’s what makes people look at me a different way.

I think that’s what San Francisco is. When you talk about The Bay and you mention Oakland all the time. Or maybe you mention all of the other cities. But San Francisco isn’t given all the credit that it deserves. That’s what makes San Francisco extra hard. That’s what’s going to always keep them in the fight. A hungry dog gonna keep fighting to win. That is what’s so unique. One thing I love about San Francisco is they are into themselves. San Francisco is like, “We into our city. We don’t care about nobody else.” And I love that!

Concept albums are not easy. People have gotten used to producers taking a bunch of artists and putting them on one project but that is not a concept album. It’s this disjointed collection of songs. This on the other hand felt cohesive.

It felt like there was a real effort to make sure each person was able to tell their stories and that they could do that on each record. What was your initial approach in making sure you could get the most out of everyone involved?

Zaytoven: It’s really going to sit with these guys. These are new young, hungry artists that’s trying to immerge in the game. And they was letting me know how nervous they was. They was saying, “Yo. We in the studio with Zaytoven. I can’t even go in there and say my rap.” [laughs] That’s what they told me. Little do they know, I’m nervous as well. It’s cool to be somebody that has done music for a long time and had hits and all that.

But these young guys—especially these ones from San Francisco—they like what they like. They don’t care about nothing else. They don’t care about no other songs you done done. I felt like I had to impress these guys just as much as they felt like that needed to impress me. So, with us being in the studio together my whole approach was to make something new and competitive. It’s that real San Francisco flavor. We were all unsure of each other. In being spontaneous and trying to impress one another, that is what was going to give us a dope project. And that’s what it did.

There are songs like “Click” where everyone is on it and you can hear that competition. Can you speak to what you felt the artists wanted to accomplish being a part of a project like this?

Zaytoven: What’s so crazy is I went into the studio—and you know I’ve been in Atlanta for a long time. I haven’t really been in The Bay to know what is going on in The Bay as much because I live in Atlanta. I remember playing some tracks that were Atlanta based. We did a few of them but remember ZayBang, who’s super cold and has a great voice, he was saying, “Bruh. I can’t really spaz on that. I need that Bay area bounce.”

It made me be like, “You know what. You right. Let me get in my Bay area bag.” There was no sense in making them sound like nothing else but San Francisco. I’m glad he said that because as a producer sometimes you can get offended. I had to take advice from them. They know what Sa Francisco wants to hear and what’s hot. They put me up on game.

I feel like I heard that in “All My Guys”. That song has crazy energy to the point where ZayBang finishes his verse. Lil Yee is bodying the chorus and ZayBang is in the background yelling, “That’s the hook!” Y’all kept that moment and it’s really special. Can you speak to that?

Zaytoven: That record is the craziest thing in the world because Gucci Mane has a song called “Big Cat (Laflare)”. That’s where we took the cadence of the song. I did this song with Gucci for his Hard to Kill album back in ‘06. He was locked up and I’m putting the album together. Now, I’m trying to find songs. It ain’t like we can record no new songs. We did that song and I had it in my computer.

It sounded like Bay area music but I just put it on there because we needed another song on there. I didn’t know that when I go to the Bay area that’s they number one song. You go to the club out there and someone say, “Zaytoven in the building,” that’s the song they play. Everybody goes bananas. I was tripping on them knowing the song because in Atlanta I don’t think anyone knows that song. But it blows my mind in The Bay is such a big song. So, when we started doing this project I said we have to do a version of that. And that’s where “All My Guys” came from.

Is there a moment on this project that you’ll hold close that we can’t hear?

Zaytoven: You might got me on that… [laughs]. I think we left it all out on the court.

Then I’ll end with this question. Many artists are doing whatever they can to get on while still trying to keep the faith. It’s very difficult to do that. Through your entire career we’ve seen you remain true to who you are. What can you say to folks who are trying just to get on but are struggling to remain themselves?

Zaytoven: I think the biggest thing is to be yourself and to hold onto yourself. If it’s in God’s plan for you to make it in this industry, the only way you want to make it is if you can be yourself and stay true to who you are. Because you don’t want it any other way.

If you get on being something that you not, and you putting on a show or an act, you not gonna enjoy it or last that long. And that’s gonna feel worse than not making it. You’d probably say, “I’d rather not make it than live a lie.” If you do music and you love to do music, do it how you love to do it. If it’s in God’s plan to make it, you’ll be a shining star.

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