Tay Keith, An Architect of Virality: Exclusive Interview

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Picture this: you’re at a college party in August 2018. Solo cups are aimlessly scattered, the floors are sticky and that one Travis Scott and Drake ASTROWORLD single has played at least once in the past hour.

Many can agree that being at a dingy day drink during Summer 2018 – the summer of “SICKO MODE” – was the prime place to be. Tay Keith too was in college when the track was released, still 21 years old when the song he produced blew up globally.

“He was on the road and I was in class,” Keith, now 27, laughs, reminiscing on his final semester at Middle Tennessee State University.

Keith has racked up quite the production credit discography since he began making beats in middle school — and, as “SICKO MODE” rose to stardom while still in college. Earlier in his senior year, he worked closely alongside his longtime collaborator and “brother” Blocboy JB on “Rover” and “Look Alive” (featuring Drake), the latter catalyzing his commercial appeal and capability of virality. He continued to cement himself with Drake’s “Nonstop” and, in his final semester of school, Travis Scott’s “SICKO MODE.”

While continuing to champion both Travis and Drake’s sounds on tracks like “MELTDOWN”, “First Person Shooter” and “Rich Flex”, Keith has also worked with Lil Baby and Gunna (“Never Recover”), Future (“Temptation”), Eminem (“Not Alike”) and Beyoncé (“Before I Let Go”), but since 2023, his most consistent creative collaborator has been Sexyy Red.

Referring to themselves as Shaq and Kobe, Keith and Red have been the Southern sonic duo of the year, first joining forces on “Pound Town”, the 2023 track that thrust Red onto the mainstream scene.

“I realized that my sound is the club,” he explains, also producing Sexyy’s “Bow Bow Bow (F My Baby Dad)”, “SkeeYee,” “Get It Sexyy” and now, a full-length project: In Sexyy We Trust. 

The 14-track LP, fully produced by Keith, sees features from Drake, Lil Baby and more and is a perfect encapsulation of the pair’s MO.

With the project out everywhere now, the producer believes he’s finally found his formula and his production pocket in the music industry: strip club anthems.

What makes a good beat?

It’s always the bass for me. The rhythm and how it bounces. I always focus on the bounce.

Do you remember the first beat you made?

Oh yeah, I put it on YouTube. I don’t know where it is anymore. At the time, I think it got flagged for some sh*t. I went out with my boys one night and played it for them and that was the first time I let anyone hear my beats.

How did you come up with your producer tag?

I posted on Twitter saying “I need a new tag” and my homeboy Juicehead hit me up with that. I’ve been using the tag since 2017.

“Look Alive” was your first big hit. How did that song transpire?

Blocboy JB is a brother to me. We’d been making music together since junior year of high school, and we didn’t have much but we made do with what we had. We didn’t have money to pay for studio time so we essentially made our own. We used all of our own recording equipment and built a makeshift studio. I regard that as a key part of our “success story.” I could produce and he could rap and we were both just trying to figure things out.

What was it like having these songs blow up while you were so young?

I was making beats for a lot of people in high school so I already had a buzz around me before I went into college – and then it just got bigger and bigger as college went on. I was really trying to pursue my education. The initial plan was for me to be a DJ. That’s what I was doing in my free time in school and I knew I didn’t want to stray too far from that. I had a good balance of school and music, but it wasn’t until my junior year that music really started to work out for me.

Take us back to when “SICKO MODE” came out.

I was a senior in college when I was working on it, and then in my last semester when it dropped. After that, I knew I had to keep going and be consistent with developing my sound.

“Travis was doing shows and sh*t. He was on the road and I was in class.”

What was it like when the song blew up?

Travis was doing shows and sh*t. He was on the road and I was in class. I’d be able to meet him at some shows and get to have that experience. It was all really cool. I remember going to Six Flags with Trav before I moved out to LA. On the car ride back to the hotel, we listened to the whole album and everyone was going crazy. That’s when I realized “this sh*t is big.”

How did you and Sexyy Red initially link up?

It’s funny because at first, she had so many different Instagram pages that it was hard to keep up. One would get deleted and I’d be like “damn where is she?” and then at one point, she ended up having two pages. I looked at her following and noticed she was big poppin’ in her city. When I started watching her, she was already getting hundreds of thousands of views. I was inspired by her and started telling so many big people about her because I knew she was gonna blow up.

What about her inspired you?

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the industry is to have an eye for what the game is missing. The time Sexyy came into the game was the perfect time. History repeats itself. She’s bringing back a certain nostalgic feeling but also something so new to the game.

What are your favorite tracks on the album?

All of them.

Any memorable moments from recording?

When I fell asleep in the studio and woke up to hear Sexyy had finished the verse she was recording. It sounded so hard to me and it made me like the beat even more.

How did you approach the album?

We just wanted to cook a lot of club bangers with a few love songs in between.

How did “Pound Town” come about?

I sent over the “Pound Town” beat and then she sent it back after she went in on it. She actually asked me for my thoughts on her verses. A lot of artists just drop music and don’t get the producer’s feedback. That let me know she was willing to understand me and listen to me as more than just a beatmaker, but a creative collaborator.

What about “Skeyee?”

Every song after “Pound Town”, we recorded together in the studio. For “Skeyee” I had my team come down to Miami. Sexyy actually wanted to use a different beat at first for the song.

And “Bow Bow Bow (F My Baby Dad)”?

Sexyy brought me on stage in Nashville at her show and then the next day, we went to the studio to record. I made the beat up in my room, and then I came downstairs to the studio to give her the beat. She brought it straight up. In an hour she was done. She went back to Miami to touch it up and the rest is history.

And, last but not least, “Get it Sexyy”?

I had planned on going down to Miami to rejuvenate and get in a better headspace. Sexyy wasn’t in the best of headspaces at the time either, so the two of us just wanted to make some music. It wasn’t forced. I got the sample [Hurricane Chris and Superstarr’s “Halle Berry” (She’s Fine)”] from one of my other producers. Once I flipped the sample, I knew it was a hit. I knew this beat was 100% there. A lot of songs just throw in a sample and don’t do anything with it, but I switched it up. We were in the studio until three in the morning. It went viral before we’d even cleared the sample so we couldn’t even drop it for another two weeks after it blew up. It’s actually my favorite beat I’ve done right now.

What’s it like working with an artist like Sexyy who has such a distinct persona?

I let her be as creative as she wants. I never step in on her creative process. I let her get comfortable and record. Then when she’s done, that’s when I can do my thing.

“The formula is kind of like this: make a beat; make a snippet video; it goes crazy on TikTok; shoot the real video and release the song.”

What’s the formula for a viral song?

The formula is kind of like this: make a Tay Keith beat; make a snippet video; it goes crazy on TikTok; shoot the real video and release the song.

How would you describe your sound?

This year, I figured out my sound was the club. That’s my niche. I’m cool with it. Making the strip club anthems and the southern hits that go crazy in the clubs. The Southern sound is universal. I’ve developed this sound where every time I make a ratchet anthem, it goes super mainstream and big. I know what works for me.

Do you ever feel underappreciated as a producer?

That’s what comes with being a producer. I know my lane and I stay in it. If the credibility is there, then I’m fine with it. It’s on the paperwork and that’s where the money comes from.

Stream ‘In Sexyy We Trust’ out everywhere now.

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