Hustle and Pray with Zaytoven in Atlanta

Hustle and Pray with Zaytoven in Atlanta

Hustle and Pray with Zaytoven in Atlanta

I came to Atlanta to unleash but found myself talking about Gospel with the Godfather of Trap at the Red Bull Music Festival Atlanta.

I came to Atlanta to unleash but found myself talking about Gospel with the Godfather of Trap at the Red Bull Music Festival Atlanta.

Text: Stella Pak

No one is all lightness and darkness. Atlanta makes me weak for cars, money, jewelry, smoke, and uninhibited foreplay. Deep undertones of the bounce cradle your body into gravity while a snap of lyrical flamboyance beats with flex, pride, and challenge. Trap gives you a license to be the baddest with no apologies. 

I was caught up in the facade of Trap when I requested an interview with Zaytoven at the Blue Flame Lounge. Strip clubs are embedded in Atlanta’s culture. The level of endurance and acrobatics from the dancers of Magic City makes J.LO’s performance in the movie, Hustler’s look like child’s play. When I received a loose itinerary for my trip to Atlanta and saw my interview with Zaytoven was 2 pm at the Blue Flame, I quickly withdrew my request. Meeting The Godfather of Trap under a sobering daylight exposing my vices turned me off. Instead, I caught up with Zaytoven before he went on the Trap Roundtable hosted by Red Bull Music Atlanta and we talked about Gospel music, redefining Trap and the new generation.

I saw your Tiny Desk Concert on NPR and there was an emphasis on church. 

When I was younger, I was in church 3,4 days out of the week. My dad was a preacher and my mom was a choir director so naturally, I was at church all the time, looking for something to do. Like all the other little boys in the church, we all started playing the drums. Many kids weren’t trying to play the organ and the keyboard. If I played the organ and keyboard, I’d get more playtime. I started playing the keyboard and organ in church. It’s been something I’ve been doing my whole life. I mean, ever since I was a kid. That’s what I continue to do now. 

You amplify classical instruments in your beats. Is that a consistent theme?

I always done it but not consciously thinking of it. I think because of the music I always grew up on, me playing music at a church. The different artists I used to listen to… Guys like DJ QuikMC Eiht, their music would have all these instrumentations in it. Even if they were rapping gangster and talking about gangbanging and everything else, the music was like blues and jazz that they were rapping to. So, you know, me, not even knowing, when I’m creating music, that stuff is coming to play when I’m making music. So when I make music, I make beats, there’s a jazz, or blues, it has a soul to it. That just happened to the type of music I was listening to.

Growing up in a church environment. What kind of music did you listen to as a family at home?

All gospel music. Their favorite group was Commissioned and the Winans. So every song of Commisioned, every song of Winans, I knew every word to every song. That’s all they would play. And then when I started getting older, I would start listening to gospel music. A lot of gospel music. I listened to Cortez music. And I know you never heard of these people.

How did you fall into Trap Music when you have a Gospel background?

I’m not even sure. That’s a good question because I wasn’t even allowed to listen to secular music. When I finally did, I was kind of sneaking off, listening to it. As I got older, the keyboards I was buying, you could program beats on em. So I would make beats, just to have fun. On top of that, I’d have my brother try to rap on em. My cousin. We were just rapping on the beats for fun. So you know, after doing that for a couple of years for fun, in the Bay Area, people start liking you for beats. So people would be like, let me pay you $50 for a beat. Or a beat gets placed on a local guy album. And it just went from there. People buying beats and meeting a guy like Gucci (Mane). We create a sound together and put the music out. I guess that’s how I became the Trap Guy. 

Trap is a sound, but metaphorically, Trap can be interpreted as a dead end. How would you describe Trap outside the context of music?

I look at Trap as a hustle. This is what you do, this is what you sell. I’m a barber. A lot of people know me from cutting hair before. They knew me from music. I couldn’t leave the barbershop. I love cutting hair at the barbershop. That was my Trap. That was me, trapping haircuts. That’s what I got to sell. That’s what I had to offer. So I looked at Trap as a hustle more than anything. You might be trappin’ interviews. That’s what I took it as. You have something to offer, something to sell. That’s your hustle. That’s how you make your money.

It’s not a darker, social association?

I don’t know if that was the original meaning. I know it probably based off of selling drugs. That’s what they call it. A Trap is where you might be in a drug house or something and this is where you sell drugs. But I took that as their hustle. That’s how they make their money, provide for them and their family. Whatever I do to make money, whether I’m playing keys at a wedding, I’m trapping music. That’s my hustle. 

As you shift your focus into gospel, has there been resistance to let you into that genre of music because of your trap background?

Not at all, because most of the people who know me and follow me, even though they call me the Trap Godfather, they still watch me and my background as a church boy. A church musician. Every interview, you see me, everytime I talk about every influence – it’s always church. So, the gospel arena notice that. I just won my first Dove award for Gospel hip hop album of the year with me and LeCrae. It blew my mind that all the gospel artists that I love to listen to,  I used to listen to like Tasha Cobbs (Leonard) Smoky NorfolkKirk Franklin, they know me. The reason I think they know and respect me, even though they know the type of music I produce, they know who I am. They know my character. They know the type of person I am. They know where I come from, they know what I believe in. They accept me with open arms. 

Peeling back the layers of Trap in general, where is the genre going these days? 

I think Trap might be the biggest genre of music right now. If you listen to the bigger song that came out. Old Town Road became the biggest song in the last, might have been the decade. I’m not sure… just how fast it went to Diamond and everything. But if you listen to the music, it’s Trap Music. It’s a country song but it’s a trap beat he song country songs on. Billy Rae Cyrus get on it. That’s the biggest genre of music right now. It incorporated every genre of music.

How do you feel about that?

Definitely proud. Definitely proud to be one of the guys that’s been a part of it for so long, the sound is still going on. 

Who are some of your favorite up and coming artists right now?

There are so many up and coming artists that’s dope. I’d have to say Gunna, I’d have to say NLE ChoppaDaBabyLil BabyMeghan the Stallion.

What is it about them?

Let’s take Gunna for example. He’s one of my favorites. I’m really tuned into style, lingo. Just the way they present themselves on the track. It’s all the way down to the way they dress, and how they look. How they present themselves every time you see them. That has to do with the music to me too. 

The presentation. 

The personal presentation. The character of the artists. That’s what catches my attention to say, “Oh, I like that person.”

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