Zaytoven & Fo15 – Zaytoven Presents: Fo15 [Zip File album download Free
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Before Zaytoven was producing tracks for some of the biggest names in hip-hop, the Atlanta producer was a student at Galileo High School. Now the multiplatinum, Grammy-winning artist is one of the most well-respected figures in hip-hop and trap, and he credits his upbringing in San Francisco — where he got his start making beats — as the key to his career.
“Bay Area and S.F. music doesn’t sound like anything else,” he says. “In the Bay, we like what we like and don’t care about what anybody else thinks or what anybody else likes. That’s what makes S.F. so dope. … I carry that with me, and I think that’s what has helped me be so successful.”
Zaytoven set himself apart as a go-to beat minder for stars from Atlanta rappers Gucci Mane and Future to pop sensations Nicki Minaj and Usher, with a distinct production style highlighted by rich strings and lush keys. There’s always been a unique musicality to the sound he creates, where other producers of his caliber in the scene have stuck to a rougher aesthetic that isn’t as harmonic.
“You gotta trust your instincts, and I’m like that when I’m in the room with Jay-Z or with a new artist who doesn’t even have 100 followers on Instagram yet,” he says.
So when Ghazi Shami, the CEO of downtown San Francisco label, distributor and industry heavyweight Empire (who now goes only by his first name), approached Zaytoven with the concept behind a compilation album showcasing some of the best budding street rappers from San Francisco’s resurgent rap scene, the producer was quick to get on board.
Ghazi Shami at Empire headquarters in San Francisco in January 2019. Shami is the CEO and founder of Empire Distribution, Records and Publishing Inc. Photo: Santiago Mejia, The Chronicle
Dubbed “Zaytoven Presents: Fo15,” the album comes out Thursday, April 15, in time for the unofficial celebration of local pride known as #415Day. Curated by Ghazi with help from “Frisco” Chuck Kelley, head of music at Nick Cannon’s Ncredible Entertainment, the vision was to have only San Francisco natives working on the project — from every angle. So more than just showcasing Zaytoven and San Francisco rappers ZayBang, Lil Pete, Lil Bean, KxNG Llama, Prezi and Lil Yee, he also made sure the engineer, photographer, project manager, graphic designer, the publicist and even the cook for the four-day sessions in Empire’s new South of Market studio where the album was recorded were all from the city.
“To be able to bring someone like Zaytoven, who’s from the Fillmore District, back to S.F. and put him in an A-list facility and then surround him with some of the best young talent in the city? I just felt like we could create this synergy. Like a dream team inside the city that could touch a lot of people and inspire a lot of music,” Ghazi says. “It was time to tell that story.”
Ghazi’s approach on the project mirrors Empire’s mission of spurning music industry enclaves like Los Angeles, New York City and Atlanta in favor of remaining in San Francisco — forever, Ghazi vows. With the addition of Empire’s 10,000-square-foot studio a year and a half ago, he has deepened the label’s roots in the city, becoming a destination for rappers and producers from all over the world.
For “Fo15,” committed to a four-day bubble to safely dive into the writing and recording process. The focus of the album is strength in unity, Zaytoven says, and it comes through in songs like “Bigger Picture” and “The Click,” where aspirations of continued growth — from street life in San Francisco to the rap world at large — shine in the lyrics.
“FO15” is a compilation album featuring San Francisco-bred producer Zaytoven and rappers Lil Bean (left), Prezi (top left), Lil Yee (top right), KxNG Llama (bottom right) and ZayBang (bottom).
“I know a lot of those guys are from different hoods,” Zaytoven says, noting that the group represented Geneva Towers, Fillmore and Hunters Point, “but they came together as if they were all brothers and they rocked with each other.”
Geneva Towers’ ZayBang confirms he and the collective were in lockstep the whole time. For tracks like “All My Guys” and “Up the Score,” his vivid lyrics flow with the rawness that comes from the streets but also include a palpable enthusiasm to rise above it all and make it in the rap game.
“When I got in the studio, I was taking it serious and not going back, just staying focused,” ZayBang says. “I didn’t stop ’cause it’s definitely big for me and I appreciate it. You can’t let the streets be your destiny. There’s a good direction out here if you want some money and if you stay focused.”
Fun fact: Zaytoven’s beat for “All My Guys,” “Fo15’s” lead single, is actually a reworking of “Big Cat (Laflare),” which he produced for Gucci Mane 15 years ago. While the West Coast beat didn’t resonate with Atlanta crowds, he says it always popped in the Bay Area. When he visited a San Francisco club a few years ago, he remembers the DJ announcing he was going to “drop the hottest song in the Bay” in honor of his appearance, and it was that 2006 song. The memory has stuck with him ever since.
“That’s why I picked that one to start the project off,” he says. “It blew my mind how crazy it went in the club when they played that song.”
San Francisco is far removed from the ’90s rap heyday of acts like RBL Posse and Rappin’ 4-Tay taking the sound of the city well beyond the Bay Area, but “Fo15” is an apt showcase for the city’s sound of right now. It also foreshadows the new era of San Francisco rap.
“This is just the beginning,” ZayBang says. “When I say that San Francisco is coming, it’s coming!”
“Zaytoven Presents: Fo15” is available to purchase and stream on all major services starting Thursday, April 15.