Xavier Lamar Dotson was born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1980, just two hours away from where Beethoven was born 210 years earlier. Dotson, who produces hip-hop under the name Zaytoven, is clever to illustrate this parallel with his moniker. But with his pioneering approach to music construction, Zaytoven makes clear that the ties between both composers are more than geographical. Zaytoven was raised in Atlanta’s churches after his preacher father’s stint in the army ended, playing the keys in a moody manner that would come to influence the production style he’d eventually bring to Atlanta’s major rappers. “Being a church musician, I’m used to using pianos and organs...to set a certain mood that brings out heavy emotions,” he explained to Apple Music. Zaytoven first emerged in 2005 with Gucci Mane, producing the MC’s “Icy,” after saving enough money as a barber to buy recording equipment. His signature piano riffs and heavy, clapping drums brought bravado and nuance to Gucci’s laconic flow. After producing Future’s seminal series Beast Mode and BEASTMODE 2, Zaytoven became a much-sought-after music maker in the ATL. He was the brains behind Migos’ first hit, “Versace,” and though Zaytoven came up on the church stage, his style would eventually become equally informed by a different kind of performance venue. “I go to the strip joints that the big time, major people don’t go to. But that’s where I live. That’s where I got my sound from, the dirty hole-in-the-wall clubs,” he explained. Perhaps that’s where the similarities between Zaytoven and Beethoven end, but as Atlanta’s go-to producer, he clearly qualifies as a maestro in his own right.
BORNJanuary 12, 1980