Growing up in North Memphis, Tay Keith knew he was destined to be a music producer from a young age. After a short stint as an MC, Keith hopped behind the boards and began selling beats online for some cash when he was just a freshman in high school. Now, the 21-year-old carries the burden the Memphis soundscape on his shoulders as the next burgeoning producer to take the rap world by storm.
Tay Keith squeezed more out the first half 2018 than just about anyone during his mainstream crossover success with a pair global hits. Beginning in February, "Look Alive" turned into a family affair as Drake welcomed Blocboy JB to stardom. The viral smash culminated nearly a decade collaborating between Blocboy and Tay. It was only right the pair walked into the spotlight alongside one another.
Next, Tay Keith notched another major placement by linking up with Drake once again on Scorpion with the gritty "Nonstop." The track held the highest debut on Drizzy's double album, coming in at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving the college student his second top 5 Hot 100 appearance.
Check out the rest our conversation with Tay Keith, where he touches on collaborating with Drake, his now-viral tag that has taken on a life its own on social media, Memphis' revival, working alongside Wiz Khalifa and Travis Scott, starting a production label, and much more.
Was "Look Alive" originally Drake's record?
That was with Drake first. I had cooked up Drake a pack and that ended up being one the beats he fucked with. Then, we eventually sent it to Blocboy JB and let him hop on it. We shot the video the same week. We really did everything quick. It was a real Memphis vibe. That's what we gave y'all. When you're doing big things, you could bring the city out.
Whose idea was it to get Blocboy JB on there?
The whole idea was from Drake. He did us a favor by giving us the song. Drake's the G.O.A.T.
Have you gotten the platinum plaque in the mail yet? I know that was one your goals coming into this.
We're going to wait until it goes triple platinum before I get the plaque. It was just a shock to me. I just didn't expect the song] to be as big as it was.
How did "Nonstop" with Drake come together?
It was one those records, I didn't expect it to be as big as it was. It was one those, "Oh, I'm just gonna cook this up in a pack and see where it goes." Drake hopped on it and was fucking with it. I didn't expect it to be at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. For it to be just a beat I cooked in a pack, too? It wasn't made for anything specific. It was a random type blessing.
How long before Scorpion's release did you find out you had a placement on there with "Nonstop?"
I don't even know, to be honest with you. I work with so many other people. It was 2018 for sure.
Was that another beat that only took you 30 minutes to cook up?
What artists and rappers do now is just freestyling. The same thing goes for producers, you don't put too much with it. I'm creative with it since it's my sound, but you don't want to overdo the beat and give the artist enough room to do what they want on it.
You had the Mack Daddy Ju and DJ Squeeky sample on there. Can you talk about implementing that and having DJ Squeeky as one your main influences, coming up in Memphis?
I looked up to DJ Squeeky because he did a lot for the Memphis music scene when it didn't really get any play. He was one those producers I wish would've gotten more shine. Of course, he gets recognition now and people realize this was one the biggest sound influencers in Memphis outside Three 6 Mafia. I've got a lot respect for DJ Squeeky; he inspired me a lot. I'm glad he's getting his recognition.
Do you feel any pressure as Memphis' next go-to producer?
Not at all. I get advice from all the producers who have come out Memphis. They just give me advice on the business side, because that's most important besides the actual music. Just staying at a point I know I can't mess myself up. I just got to be put up on game about it. Drumma Boy and Memphis Track Boy taught me a lot. I don't feel a lot pressure to do anything. I talked to Yo Gotti and he gave me a lot advice. I've worked with Juicy J personally a couple times. They see what I've got going on and they respect it. It was cool for them to even reach out to me. I'm inspired by the fact they would even do that.
What do you think about the rise the new music wave coming out Memphis?
I feel like Memphis definitely has the spotlight now because the wave we got. Atlanta has their own wave, too. It all comes with consistency. Memphis is the spot like that right now.
What was the creative process like for producing Lil Yachty's "Who Want the Smoke?"
That was really just Blocboy JB and me working together. It was originally Lil Yachty and Blocboy's song. I don't know too much about what they had going on. I cooked it up for Blocboy. That was a big surprise for me when I saw Cardi B and Offset on there. I was definitely shocked because it was another major placement. I found out about it a week before.
Who were some your musical influences growing up?
Yo Gotti had some influence on me for sure. I would say Three 6 Mafia, too. We had Young Dolph coming up and some local artists who had a buzz like Cannibal Corpse, OG Boo Dirty, and Zed Zilla. All those guys had an influence on me even though they weren't huge outside Memphis, because a lot people in Memphis listened to their music.
Were you listening to a lot other artists outside Memphis?
I mean, I was listening to Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane, and the typical Southern rappers. I didn't listen to mainstream music until it was on the radio.
You were rapping at first. What made you want to become a producer?
Just really finding my own lane and realizing I could get way further as a producer.
When did you realize you could make a career out this?
When I started putting beats on YouTube and getting paid f it. This was probably around 2011 and I was in like 9th grade.
How did you get your signature producer tag?
It basically came from my boy Lil Juice. He sent me a couple samples some possible tags because I had tweeted I needed a tag. We went from there and I sent him a couple beats and we went back and forth. That's my homeboy. I didn't realize how viral it was, but it's definitely worldwide now. People are tweeting me in other languages with it that I don't even know.
Who are some artists you've been working with recently?
I've been working with Youngboy Never Broke Again], Hoodrich Pablo Juan, Chief Keef. I got something with 21 Savage coming. I don't want to say too many names but I got a lot going on. Travis Scott as well.
Were the studio sessions with Travis for Astroworld?
We were just working on some stuff. We were out in California working together and had a studio session. Travis] is really focused when he's in the studio. He's more focused on what he's writing or singing than anything. He's just going straight in and doesn't stop.
You recently produced "Hunnid Bands" and "Real Rich" for Wiz Khalifa. What was being in the studio with him like?
He's a really cool guy. A lot positive vibes and good energy from Wiz Khalifa]. Real cool guy.
Have you had the chance to work with any your dream collaborations?
I actually got to work with TM88. He was one my big influences as far as producing. It was pretty cool. I had met him in California at the crib and it was one those random meet-ups and we got to working from that point on. He was a real genuine guy, so I fuck with him. We did a record with Key Glock.
Are you still enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University?
Yeah, I'm doing an internship and a couple more classes for a semester. I'm interning at a nice little studio in Nashville, not too far from where I go to school. It's a studio vibe for songwriters to collaborate with other songwriters.
How was DJing parties at MTSU while you're on the rise as a producer around campus?
Yeah, it was crazy. I still DJ. When I DJ, I got my own catalog to play in the club. I'm spinning my own records like it's my own show. I get a lot respect around campus. I'm just slacking f now, though.
What are some your goals the rest 2018?
To keep building my producer label. It's called Drumatized. I got one producer signed already, Denaro Love.