If you’re asking who the best producers of the moment are and Zaytoven isn’t near the top of the list, you’re not listening closely enough.

At any given time you can see people claiming “Zaytoven > Beethoven” on Twitter, and if you’ve heard the right batch of beats, it's hard to disagree. His trademark sound is a blend of woozy, bottom-heavy thump and fluorescent, sprinkling synths that flutter spry melodies with a haunted-house tinge.

The mark of a master producer is someone whose style is recognizable without getting played out or overly formulaic. Timbo leaves his fingerprint via hyper-bounce and drum programming, The Neptunes make you dance with groove and instrumentation, and DJ Premier is deadly with breaks, loops, and scratches. These are producers who have fortified the careers of artists they work with, from Jay-Z to Missy, N.O.R.E. to Aaliyah. Often times these artists owe a substantial part of their meteoric rises to the beats that they were given, and their legacies intertwine with the sounds of their go-to producers. So it is with Zaytoven and artists like Gucci, OJ Da Juiceman, and now Migos.

Seeing how his production has buoyed projects like 'Young Rich N----s' and Gucci’s ambitious trilogy of recent mixtapes, it’s about time that Zaytoven’s best beats get some shine. Pour up.

  • 20

    Yung Gleesh - 'Lazyness' (2013)

    Gleetchy is far from your average rapper. Coming from D.C. and slurring his words something serious, his obtuse style draws comparisons to Lil’ B, except that this hook is a monster. Zaytoven hooked him up with two dope beats for his 'Ain’t Shit Changed' project, and the understated synth flutes on this one give Gleesh a nice bed on which to ramble. Don’t play this on your computer speakers if you want the full impact.

  • 19

    Migos - 'Versace' (2013)

    Too easy, right? Arguably the summer anthem (we see you Rich Homie), 'Versace' is boosted as much by the playful repetition of the hook and Drake's bandwagon addition as it is by the booming jitter of the beat. It isn't quite as ominous as 'R.I.P' or as kinetic as 'Young Rich N----s', but it shakes and it thunders, thus the reason that it's taken the hip-hop world by storm. With it's flurry of keys, brass, and blips, 'Versace' makes you pay attention and move at the same time.

  • 18

    OJ Da Juiceman - 'I'm Gettin' Money' (2009)

    Zay will sometimes employ these Eminem-like, sad-sounding cellos that linger behind the beat, and here it makes for a bizarrely rewarding sound. Rising synths mesh with horns over chunky drums as OJ celebrates gettin’ money. Zaytoven is like a one-man orchestra on this.

  • 17

    Gorilla Zoe - 'Bite On' (2013)

    If you haven’t seen Zaytoven’s feature film 'Birds Of A Feather'…we haven’t either. But if it has any memorable moments like this one from Zaytoven’s first movie 'All Mine', then it might be worth watching. Either way, we were blessed with a soundtrack for the movie, and Gorilla Zoe croons about biters on this standout. This is a great example of Zaytoven’s diversity in sound – it doesn’t have all the elements of his usual beats, but few producers could incorporate strings the way he does here.

  • 16

    Messy Marv Feat. Pastor Troy & Andre Nickatina - 'Bitch I'm Fresh' (2006)

    A lot of people don’t know that Zaytoven was actually raised in the Bay Area before moving to Atlanta around 2001. During his time on the West Coast, he was producing for the likes of E-40, JT The Bigga Figga, and Messy Marv. His style has since morphed into a more Southern sound, but you can still hear the Bay bounce laced throughout some of his beats.  'Bitch I’m Fresh' is a mix of skittering hi-hats, tinkling keys and bass-y depth, incorporating influences from both his homebase and his current locale.

  • 15

    Gucci Mane - 'Pillz' (2006)

    If your mom asks you whether you’ll be home for dinner, fight the urge to answer, “Bitch, I might be.” As lustrously disrespectful as this song is, she gave birth to you dog, come on. If, however, you encounter a nosy girl who has the nerve to ask if you’re high or something like that, then by all means, apply this swift dismissal, and if any of your friends are worth having, those who hear you will laugh their asses off. As minimal as can be, Zay employs a hypnotic, synthesized loop paired with a drum pattern that melds Southern trap and West Coast body-knock. It might get stuck in your head if you're on one.

  • 14

    Gucci Mane Feat. Young Jeezy & Boo - 'Icy' (2005)

    Gucci’s first breakout hit became the unfortunate lightning rod issue that sparked beef between Guwop and Young Jeezy. The beat was worth fighting over, because both artists claimed that it was their song first. Zay used percussion that's a bit more organic than the by-the-numbers drum patterns that he would slip into later on, so the track has more jumpy life than his recent productions. This song is the reason that we have Gucci as he is today.

  • 13

    Young Scooter Feat. Future - 'Julio' (2013)

    Laying in a field in the dead of night, the stars are out, the sky is clear, and this song rains a meteor shower upon you in the form of 'Julio'. If you’re laying with your girl, you’re probably in heaven, at least until Future says, “I make your main bitch do the hoola hoop”. Then you probably snatch up your blanket and picnic basket and head for the hills. This beat is effervescence incarnate (and perfect for football season).

  • 12

    OJ Da Juiceman Feat. Gucci Mane - 'Make Tha Trap Say Aye!' (2009)

    This song appeared on one of OJ’s albums, but check out disc one of Gucci’s 'So Icey Boy' – it’s 12 tracks all produced by Zay, and it’s every bit as good as you hope it to be. Everyone knows this hit – quarter brick, half brick, whole brick, aye! When Gucci went to jail for the first time, Zay had the opportunity to work with some of his people, and thus the relationship between him and Juiceman was born. These days, rumor has it that OJ did so well slanging that he didn’t even need to rap anymore. Chuuch.

  • 11

    Gucci Mane Feat. Future - 'Brick Fair' (2012)

    A Zaytoven beat can often best be described as a demented carnival. Like in the movies when you see someone zooted off too much chronic and they go into some town fair and the clown faces start turning upside down and the music gets real creepy? His beats kind of sound like that, except they’re so intoxicated that all that scary stuff makes you smile; it’s fun. The keyboard flutes on this are straight zephyrean, and Future’s verse is spectacular. These three together are unstoppable (see 'Confused' for further evidence).

  • 10

    Young Scooter Feat. Gucci Mane - 'Work' (2013)

    Synths like ice crystals hanging in an Arctic cave, light gleaming off of them. This is the type of s--- that makes you close your eyes and raise your face to the sky, reciting the words and losing yourself in a trance. I had to run this back a couple times the first time I heard it. The pattern that the notes follow… damn.

  • 9

    Waka Flocka Flame Feat. Gucci Mane - 'Tag Team' (2011)

    When he gets on the keys, it’s almost always an unbelievable beat. Even if we admit that a lot of his drum patterns can sound similar, it’s what he does with other instruments that grabs your attention and keeps you interesting. After all, drummers used to just keep the time in jazz. Zay is the kind of producer that’s so singular, you check the track to see who produced it when you hear it for the first time.

  • 8

    Future - 'On 2 Us' (2010)

    Creepy thriller movie strings make it sound like Future is really duckin’ the feds on this banger from an early mixtape. Zaytoven continues to work sample-less magic with this catchy sequence of upward-spiraling notes. It’s like if Batman was double-cupped in the Batmobile, slick in the night under dim city lights.

  • 7

    Usher - 'Papers' (2011)

    You know that a producer is truly exceptional if they can be versatile, and that ability is on full display here as Usher repines about his marriage over electronic clicks and eclectic percussive touches. It’s crazy because it works so well, and while you can hear Zaytoven’s favorite organ fills at certain points, it doesn’t sound like the normal trap you’d encounter from him.

  • 6

    Rocko Feat. Future - 'Ambitious' (2010)

    Rocko got four consecutive heatrocks from Zay on his 'Rocko Dinero' mixtape, but this is easily the standout. It’s not that Zaytoven is doing anything drastically different, but his ear for chord progression is ridiculous. He never gets too complicated. Perfect for pre-games, plane flights, or long walks, Zay’s simplicity works anytime.

  • 5

    Gucci Mane - 'Feel Sorry' (2011)

    “Zaytiggy on the sympathy, Gucci the epitome / so long as I’m rich you suckers never could belittle me”. HAAAAAAAAAAANHH! Zaytoven shows off his unmatched ability at hooking you in with a playful carousel melody from the very start. It helps that Gucci kills it too. How can you dispute splendid non-sequiturs like, “I pull up in my spaceship / no similarities”?

  • 4

    Young Scooter - 'Appeal' (2013)

    On a tape packed with skull-blasting bangers like 'Mark McQuire', 'Karate Chop', and 'Chosen One', the currently incarcerated Young Scooter shows up in the middle for a bitterly somber cut dedicated to locked up friends, ironically hoping that they get appeals. Within the mixtape’s context 'Appeal' is beyond refreshing, but when you take into account Scooter’s current situation, Zay’s heart wrenching piano gives the song that much more punch.

  • 3

    Soulja Boy - 'Eazy' (2008)

    Regardless of whether you're a fan of Soulja Boy or not, you have to admit that the guy knows who to work with to sound hot. Amongst a catalog of hits, 'Eazy' matches up with the best of them. Zippy synths dance up a regal rug of centerpiece horns that gives the track Zay’s signature shoulder movement. It should be considered amongst Soulja’s best songs, if people have conversations like that.

  • 2

    Future - 'Made Myself A Boss' (2011)

    Zay turns the trap into a gospel pulpit with this one, boy. After his breakout summer when 'Racks' and 'Tony Montana' were catching fire, Future’s buzz was so crazy that fiends leaked his mixtape before it’s official release date (so anyone claiming that 'Acid Rap' was the first instance of that happening – not so). After working together on heaters like 'On 2 Us' (from 'Dirty Sprite') and 'Lamborghini' (from 'Free Bricks'), Zaytiggy blessed Future with two bangers, the second being 'Way It Go' with Guwop. Future catches the Holy Ghost on here; it’s the perfect intro to a classic project.

  • 1

    Gucci Mane - 'Bricks' (2009)

    You can spot a fledgling Gucci fan when they tell you their favorite song of his is 'Lemonade' instead of 'Bricks'. Wayne might have pushed him to a bigger audience with 'We Be Steady Mobbin', but the 'Wasted' EP was bookended by two hits, 'Wasted' and 'Bricks'. The latter could be heard in dorms across the country, as Zay layered descending xylophones, wobbling organs, and airy synths to make the quintessential shifty backdrop for a drug-dealing anthem.