NPR’s “Tiny Desk Concert” series has given us plenty of moments to revel in. T-Pain singing live without Auto-Tune. This transcendent performance by Noname. And Gucci Mane rapping his trap house anthems with Zaytoven backing him up with a piano.
The stripped down performance is a hot trend in hip-hop. We’ve seen Migos create orchestral versions of their biggest hits, as well as 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane perform “Good Drank” with a choir on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Atlanta artists consistently experiment with the trap sound—something Zaytoven has been a pioneer of for many years.
“It broadens the music that we do,” he tells Complex when asked about the trap gospel wave. “It makes it that much bigger. I love all the different flavors and aspects that [they] bring to the trap music.”
On Tuesday (May 16), the duo of GucTiggy will give fans a one-of-a-kind experience with piano renditions of several songs live. Part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival, the New York show titled Piano Nights: Gucci Mane and Zaytoven, A Throwback Piano Bar Show, will also be streaming live on the Red Bull Music & Culture YouTube page at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PST (above). So, if you can’t make it, you’ll still be able to enjoy the performance from the comfort of your own home.
Below, Zaytoven speaks on Piano Nights, his debut album Trap Holizay, working with Jay Z, Bankroll Fresh, and more.
Next week, you have a show in New York called Piano Nights. Is this the first time you have done an unplugged performance with Gucci Mane?
In a way. We did the NPR concert. That was pretty much like that. Doing a full concert, yes, it’s our first time doing it.
Are we going to get the same energy as the Tiny Desk concert?
Yeah, [same] type of vibe but with a lot more songs.
Are you the type who prefers the stripped down performances or the full experience?
I really like them both to be honest with you. For me, since I play music and I DJ, I just like both of them in different ways.
Let’s get into your debut album. Are you thinking it’s going to be a compilation or an instrumental project?
It’s going to be moreso a compilation. Of course, all the guys I’ve known for working with. I’m gonna have them collectively be a part of my project. But I’m putting combos together that’s never been heard before. Even the song, “East Atlanta Day,” that’s Gucci Mane and 21 Savage but you haven’t heard them on a song together before that. So I’m doing that.
Are you gonna stick mostly with Atlanta artists?
No, no, no. I’m branching out. And they surprises. I don’t want to even give away all the surprises. But yeah, I got guys like, "Oh, he put him on there. Oh, he put a song with him and him together?" That’s what I want it to be, a big surprise.
Why do you think it’s a perfect time for a Zaytoven album?
Like you said, I’ve had a lot of exciting moments in my career. They’ve been spaced out. The last thing that I’ve done that was big was music. “Used to This” just went platinum. “Too Much Sauce” went gold. Migos album [Culture] went platinum. Future album No. 1, so you know I’ve been a part of big things going on. I never put out an album. I’ve never done a record deal before. So right now, the label like, "We want to do a deal with you." That’s what really let me know that it is perfect timing.
Who is the label you are working with to put it out?
It’s like a bidding war right now. So I gotta choose and see which one I’ma go with.
There’s a lot of speculation about Jay Z putting out an album this year. As a fan, what do you think about that?
I think that’s a good deal. It’s good for hip-hop for him to come out right [now]. It’s good timing for him. I’m excited for it.
With so much great releases out already, do we really need this Jay album?
Man, let’s let this year be a fantastic year. Yeah, I think we need it this year.
You got a lot of fans excited when you shared the Jaytoven pic on Instagram. Can you describe to me what a Jay and Zaytoven song would sound like?
That I cannot do. You defeat the element of surprise when you get to talking about songs too much when people know what to expect.
I read in an XXL interview that you gave him 25 beats. Is he still sitting on those?
Yup. That 25 I gave him was super solid. I did them previously because when you working with guys like that, you gotta come prepared. You can’t come and try to put something together. You gotta have it already done.
Do you have beats for different artists you want to work with? Like, if you wanted to give a beat to Kanye, this is your Kanye stash.
Not really. I still let them go through the beats just like any other artist. Cause sometimes when I think it's for them, they might want something totally different. I try to make sure I keep it open for everybody. So every time I go play beats for everybody, whether it’s an underground guy or Jay Z, I let them go through the stash that I feel like is the dope beats.
How’s the progress on Drop Top Wizop coming along?
You know, Gucci at an all-time high. The project definitely sounding amazing. This one he’s taking a little more time with it.
Bankroll Fresh’s In Bank We Trust is set to drop soon. Do you have something on it?
Yeah, I do.
What would that project mean for Atlanta?
Anything that’s gonna be put out with Bankroll Fresh is definitely a big deal and a big win for the city.