When discussing the perks that come with being a platinum producer – compensation, plaques, and recognition – Tay Keith hesitates to take all the credit for his success.
“I feel like it’s a blessing from God,” he said. “I didn’t expect [my career] to be this big so soon.”
When we spoke on the phone, Keith, 22, had just stepped out of a lecture. He said he was just a few weeks away from graduating with a degree in media management from Middle Tennessee State University (his colleague apologized for missing my initial call because he was in class). He went on to reveal that he would become the first in his family to receive a degree from an institute of higher education.
Born Brytavious Lakeith Chambers, in Memphis, Tennessee, the soon-to-be graduate’s music career has burgeoned. In 2018 alone, his signature “Tay Keith, f*** these n****s up!” tag graced the triple-platinum BlocBoy JB and Drake collaboration “Look Alive,” Drake’s “Nonstop,” Eminem’s “Not Alike,” and Travis Scott’s double-platinum single “Sicko Mode.”
“Before I got my big hit, I was selling beats for $500,” Keith said.
Most of his undergrad years were subsidized by his role as the in-house DJ for First Flight Entertainment, a party promotion collective run by Middle Tennessee State students and alumni. Weekend gigs were the means to his survival because his family couldn’t provide financial support. He said his humble beginnings, from his mother giving birth at 17 years old to living in some of Memphis’ most impoverished neighborhoods, is the driving force behind graduating.
"I’ve been in school for four years. But coming from the hood, I [now] have a clear understanding of what a successful life can look like."
Now, Keith’s day-to-day concerns are the result of a lack of privacy rather than a lack of money.
Fellow students often stop him to take pictures or sneak a few photos of him without consent. The interruptions can be bothersome, but he said he appreciates the adulation.
He also admires his production counterparts, DJ Mustard and Metro Boomin, just as much as his classmates admire him. Keith thanks them, and a handful of other notable producers, for using their talents to establish brands and businesses. He’s also taking full advantage of his success, patiently sifting through a number of potential major labels to partner with for his joint venture.
“People always tell me music is the gateway to life investments," he said. "Whatever you make from music, you invest that right back into what you want to get into in life.”
Keith plans on diversifying his music money in real estate, stocks, a scholarship foundation and a list of pecuniary options, but school comes first. He said he hopes his determination to finish college will set a new standard for his family tree.
When asked how it feels to receive a platinum plaque before a college diploma, Keith said, “It feels good. It’s a blessing. That’s all I can really say.”