8 Takeaways From Red Bull Music Festival Atlanta’s Trap Roundtable Discussion
Yohance Kyles (@HUEYmixwitRILEY)
(AllHipHop Features) Walking into the Red Bull Music Festival Atlanta’s venue in the NorthWest section of the city, the first thing attendees see is a giant photograph of Jordan "Playboi Carti" Carter. The 23-year-old “baby voice” presenter, in a lot of ways, is an appropriate example of the evolution of what has grown to be known as Trap.
A word that simply began as southerners’ way to describe their town’s drug trafficking district eventually became the name of a subgenre of Hip Hop that even encompasses vibe-focused, lyrically-sparse artists such as Playboi Carti. Trap music has transformed into a cultural landmark, and its still-active pioneers can now reflect on the metamorphosis of the gifted, influential, and profitable monster they created.
That’s exactly what happened on Tuesday night. The Red Bull Music Festival Atlanta assembled four of the most accomplished production minds for a panel discussion. Xavier "Zaytoven" Dotson, Demetrius "Shawty Redd" Stewart, Aldrin "DJ Toomp" Davis, and Michael "Mike Will Made-It" Williams II joined moderator Travis “Yoh” Phillips for the Trap Roundtable conversation. Check out some of the big takeaways from the evening below.
Shawty Redd Wasn’t Allowed To Produce On T.I.’s 'I'm Serious' Album
On Tip “T.I.” Harris’ 2018 album Dime Trap, Shawty Redd is credited as the producer for the track titled "Big Ol' Drip" featuring Watch the Duck. Sixteen years before that, Redd was actually denied the opportunity to work on Tip’s debut LP I'm Serious.
I actually got called in to work on T.I.’s first album, and they said they didn’t like my sound. So when I heard "Dope Boyz,” I was like, “Hold on, what you mean? I’m supposed to be over there.” They were like, “Nah, he do the soldier music.” They actually turned me down.
DJ Toomp Wasn’t Allowed To Produce On OutKast’s 'Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik' Album
While Shawty Redd was purposely left off I'm Serious, the album contained several beats by DJ Toomp. However, the Atlanta-bred deejay did experience being omitted from another A-town classic. Even after running with local ATL legend Raheem the Dream and the groundbreaking Miami group 2 Live Crew, Toomp's talents were bypassed when it came to OutKast’s first body of work.
I was trying to get on OutKast’s album, and they weren’t really accepting my sound. The Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik album. But the stuff I was playing just didn’t fit with what they were doing because it was based around live music.
Zaytoven Doubted Himself Before Embracing His “Unpolished’ Sound
Looking at Zaytoven’s career accomplishments, it seems kind of silly to even suggest that he could have been a failure at this music thing. Believe it or not, the self-taught piano player did question his own abilities before becoming a certified super-producer with placements on projects by acts like Gucci Mane, Nicki Minaj, and Migos.
I was doing music for myself and for the people around me. I didn’t even think my music was good enough. If you listen to my music now, it’s junkie, it’s unpolished, it’s all over the place. That’s the reason I have a sound because that’s what it is. Think about the artists I came in the game with. Gucci Mane’s the same thing. It’s unpolished, it’s off-beat. That’s not the industry standard.
DJ Toomp Had To Recreate Kanye West’s “Big Brother” Beat Because Of Prince
Kanye West and Jay-Z are currently in some sort of frenemy relationship. Before the two superstars parted ways professionally, Ye paid homage to Hov with the DJ Toomp-produced song "Big Brother" from the Graduation album. Apparently, Toomp had to go through an ordeal with a closefisted musical genius to complete that record.
I replayed every instrument on Prince’s “It's Gonna Be Lonely.” At first, Prince was like, “I want 50% of the publishing.” Right when we were about to finish mixing that song, he called Kanye back and was like, “Better yet, we want 100%.” Ye was smiling. I said, “Nah, you’re an artist. This is how I eat.” The computer that I did that on, I left back at the crib. So Def Jam flew me back home, and I went up there and came up with a whole other melody.
Zaytoven Was Still Cutting Hair After Producing Usher’s Top 40 Hit “Papers”
Usher won the Best Contemporary R&B Album Grammy for his 2010 set Raymond v. Raymond. One of the singles from that effort was a song called “Papers” which was produced by Zaytoven. Thanks to street bangers like Gucci Mane’s “Icy,” Zay was making a name for himself on the underground scene, but the Bay Area native was still on his day job when crafting Usher’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart-topper. It wasn’t until Migos’ “Versace” took over the nation that Zaytoven finally stepped away from the clippers as a source of income.
I was still at the barbershop. I had the No. 1 song and I was still cutting hair in the barbershop. I’m going to be honest. The whole time I was in the music [industry] I was scared of not lasting that long. After I did “So Icy,” I was like, “I got a song that’s cool. That was luck. That ain’t gonna happen again.” Then I had [OJ da Juiceman's] "Make Tha Trap Say Aye.” It was like, “Oh snap, I got another song.” After I did “Papers,” I felt like, “Okay, this is it. This is gonna be my last big song and that’s gonna be it.” So I said, “Let me stay cutting hair at the barbershop just in case money starts getting funny.”
A 27-Year-Old Shawty Redd Was Able To “Retire” Off “Sensual Seduction”
Drama's "Left, Right, Left" was the real “mama, I made it” moment for Shawty Redd. According to the Georgian, it was Snoop Dogg’s “Sensual Seduction” in 2007 that loaded Redd’s bank account to the point where he was able to walk away from the business before hitting 30.
The thing people don’t understand is I wrote [“Sensual Seduction”] and produced it. I gave it to Snoop for free. I’ve been a Hip Hop producer. I’ve been a Crunk producer. They keep renaming sh*t. I’ve been doing this. I’m a producer, so when I hit people with the “Sensual Seduction” they were like, “Shawty Redd did that? And he wrote it?” I’m not just a Trap producer. I’m a producer, I do music. I can do whatever. When people don’t know, they just put you in a box. I’m tired of being in a box. When I did that Snoop record, I was like, “Oh sh*t, let’s go!” I retired after that. That’s why you ain’t heard from me. I was chilling.
Mike Will Made-It’s Student Loans Inspired Him To Leave College And Make Music Full Time
The “Eardrummers” tag has helped turn up college campus functions across the country and around the globe for years. Prior to Mike Will Made-It becoming the architect of EarDrummers, the Marietta-born label head was building tunes while studying business at Atlanta’s Georgia State University. School expenses eventually pushed him to leave the classroom behind.
When student loans started going too high, I was like, “Man, I ain’t getting paid for beats and my student loans went up.” I told my dad around 2010, “Pops, I gotta stop this school sh*t. I gotta start focusing on the music.” He was like, “You might as well graduate and get your degree because music ain’t going nowhere.” I said, “You’re right, but school ain’t either, so I might as well take my shot because there’s this dude named Future and there’s this dude named 2 Chainz that I believe in. I think Gucci’s gonna come home this year. I feel like if I go hard, we’re gonna go crazy.” The next thing you know Rick Ross and them called. [Meek Mill’s] “Tupac Back” dropped, [Future’s] Dirty Sprite dropped, and “Lala” dropped with 2 Chainz. Stuff started bubbling in the streets.
Mike Will Made-It Views Music, The Music Business & The Music Industry As Separate Entities
One of the topics that all four participants in the Red Bull Music Festival Atlanta Trap Roundtable kept addressing is the importance of understanding the rules of the music game. Producers, songwriters, and artists are often thrown into a brand new world without the necessary knowledge on how to move in a room full of vultures. Mike Will offered a brief curriculum for interested pupils in the audience.
I want everybody here to know and hear this first. It’s three different things. You can have a love and passion for music, but it’s three different things. It’s music, the music business, and the music industry. They’re not all the same. The love for music and creativity is the music. The music business is the numbers and how you split your money with whoever you’re gonna split your money with and whatever your deals are. How you get paid for your sh*t getting played, that’s the music business. The music industry is everybody mixed up - the producers, the songwriters, the artists. It’s like high school. Relationships go longer than money.