Exclusive: Zaytoven Talks JAY-Z, Nicki Minaj, & ‘The Note’ Documentary

Zaytoven, the trap trailblazer who made his name alongside Gucci Mane, Future, and Migos, shares another side of himself in the Red Bull Music documentary The Note: Zaytoven, which chronicles his journey from his parents’ basement to becoming one of today’s biggest hitmakers.

In the wake of the doc’s release, the Atlanta producer spoke with Rap-Up about the short film, which pays tribute to his late friend Bankroll Fresh. “He was like a little brother and one of my artists, a guy who really grew up in the basement where everybody came to record,” he said. “We had a lot of people speak on his passing. Even my parents spoke on that.”

Speaking with Rap-Up, Zaytoven also broke down his history with Guwop, Nicki Minaj, and others. But he’s just getting started. From top secret collaborations with JAY-Z to working on his debut album Trap Holizay (May 25) and producing the score for SuperFly, here’s a look at the trap architect’s accomplishments and what he’s got cooking.

What can fans expect from The Note?

What I enjoyed most about the documentary is that it doesn’t just talk about Zaytoven being the biggest trap producer or whatever. It deals a lot with relationships and character. There are so many people that talk in the documentary, and they talk about relationships, what I meant to them in their lives, and what the basement where we recorded music meant to Atlanta. It’s a documentary that makes you laugh, see real history of the music, and it’ll halfway make you cry. Fans should definitely be prepared for a roller coaster ride.

You recorded out of your parents’ basement called “Mama’s Basement.” Who were some of the artists that came through and what did that mean to the Atlanta scene?

That place is what created the sound that is going on even to this day. You got Gucci Mane, Yo Gotti, 2 Chainz, Nicki Minaj, Young Dolph, OJ da Juiceman, Gorilla Zoe, all of those guys who really helped create the sound of Atlanta, they was doing it right there in Mama’s Basement. You’re gonna see real, raw footage of us in there back in the day, all of us there at the same time. You know what’s so crazy? I never thought that filming the stuff back then was gonna mean so much today.

You and Gucci Mane have a strong bond, which is seen in the film. What do you guys have in the works?

We did a project last year called GucTiggy. It was just six songs me and Gucci did. It almost sounds like us in the studio, me making a beat, and him freestyling long verses over it. We’re definitely gonna release part two of that. I’m also on the projects that he’s releasing, Glacier Boyz and The Evil Genius…It’s only right.

Nicki Minaj came through the basement. What can you tell us about those days with her?

Um, I can’t really say. I know we did…You know, I don’t even want to start spilling the beans on what’s coming out when it comes to her. But she used to come over every day. She started rocking with Gucci and she used to come over my house and we recorded songs, early songs like “Ice Cream,” “I Bought That.” She was on a couple songs I did with Gucci on the DJ Drama mixtape we did back then. She was super cool. It’s amazing that she blew up as big as she did. She was coming through and doing her thing, but I didn’t know she was gonna be such a big star like she is.

You don’t want to spill the beans, but it feels like there are some future collabs in the works?

Oh, definitely.

You’re branching out into the movie world. What can you tell us about SuperFly?

When they asked me about doing the music for SuperFly, I felt like that was right up my alley. If you watch the old SuperFly and listen to the music, it was so funky. Curtis Mayfield did a wonderful job. It was street and so funky, melody-driven. I was like, “This is perfect for me. This is the music I do anyway.” So when they asked me to do it, I was just super excited. Since they asked me to do the music, I said, “You know what? I need to do an acting part in here too since I’m trying to get my acting on.” You’ll see me doing an acting piece in the movie as well.

What’s the status of Jaytoven, your collaborative project with JAY-Z?

That’s another top secret project. But just know, there’s something definitely in the works.

Your debut album Trap Holizay drops next month. Who did you work with?

The album is complete and it comes out May 25. Mark your calendars. It’s just a whole bunch of guys I haven’t worked with and a lot of guys I have worked with. A lot of guys who are on songs together have never really worked together before. It’s just nice, a big gumbo pot that hasn’t been heard before. [The album] was to really give the Zaytoven flavor with all of the artists I love to work with the way I like to put it together. A lot of times, when I’m doing an album with people, they’re choosing their own beats, and they’re choosing who to feature on the song. On my album, I pick the beat, what they need to talk about, and who I want to put them on a song with.

Who’s someone that you hadn’t worked with that you’re most excited about being on Trap Holizay?

I would say Trey Songz is a guy I’ve never worked with before and we just started gelling. The songs I have him on are super dope. I’m excited about that. Zay and Trey. PARTYNEXTDOOR was another guy I’d never really worked with. I also haven’t really worked with Travis Scott, so to get him on my project was something special. Even Ty Dolla $ign and Jeremih. These are guys I normally don’t work with so to get them on tracks I wanted to get them on, it was major for me. Another guy I just thought about being excited about having on my album was Pusha T. Wait until you hear the song that he’s on and the verse that he delivered. That was special. When you grow up listening to somebody, it’s amazing to get them on your project. He gave me the real rapper Pusha T, didn’t hold no punches. He was raw and uncut.

Is there another collaborative project you have coming up?

Zay and Trey. Be on the lookout for that. Be on the lookout for Zay and Lecrae. I’m a musician who’s Christian, so to get with the biggest Christian rapper in the game, Lecrae, this is an amazing project for me. I’m super excited about it. That’s a project you definitely want to be on the lookout for. It’s something we both been waiting on. I never met him before so this was just perfect timing. When we met up, we were both thinking the same thing. We need to do a project together. We both believe in the same thing but we come from different worlds. People that don’t know about Zaytoven but know about Lecrae will definitely become Zaytoven fans, and Zaytoven fans who don’t know Lecrae will definitely become Lecrae fans after this project.

So you’ve got Zay and Trey, Zay and Lecrae, and maybe Jay and Zay.

There you go!

–Andres Tardio