Swizz Beatz
Recognize A Playa

swizz1.jpg

“CUE UP THAT EIGHT-MINUTE JOINT!”

Twelve songs deep into previewing his new project, Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean looks like a kid on Christmas. Nestled into his “lucky room,” Studio E of Midtown Manhattan’s famed Sony Music Studios, on this March evening, the 28-year-old hip-hop veteran’s been bouncing with excitement and wearing a big ole candy-cane grin on his face since “Product Man,” the album’s high-octane intro, came on over an hour ago.

Lucky as it may be, Studio E is cramped quarters. Maybe 12 by 15 feet, with a wall-to-wall soundboard, human-sized speakers and a large leather couch, the place doesn’t leave a lot of room for its assorted guests—the bespectacled engineer playing the music on a laptop, the reporter with his minirecorder, and a large, silent dude in a black hoodie referred to only as “Cannon” (not the Atlanta DJ). Still, Swizz is up and animated, lip-synching and shadow battling along with every song.

As the “eight-minute joint” begins playing, a jazzy cascade of horns and strings sets the mood on instant cool. Think Busta Rhymes’ “New York Shit” (a DJ Scratch–produced track that Swizz guested on) but more subdued. Untitled at this point and expected to feature Q-Tip in, as Swizz imagines it, “Midnight Marauders flow,” the track is pure, organic hip-hop. Then Swizz comes on and proceeds to freestyle for, yes, eight minutes straight. No main topic, no jaw-dropping lines, just flow and flow and flow.

Swizz is geeked, shouting over the music. “They’re not ready for this shit!”

He’s probably right. MC Swizz Beatz is likely to catch a lot of people off guard. A highly sought-after producer since his largely sample-free, synth-based sound was first introduced on Lox’s “All for the Love,” from 1998’s Money, Power & Respect, the in-house music maker for Yonkers, N.Y.’s once dominant Ruff Ryders movement has co-created a bounteous trove of major hits: DMX’s “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem,” Eve’s “Love Is Blind,” Jay-Z’s “Money, Cash, Hoes,” Styles’ “Good Times,” T.I.’s “Bring Em Out.”

So his beats are beloved. His vocals? That’s a different story. Known for hyperactive ad-libs (“Swizzy!”) and overly amped cheerleading (“Get it up! Get it up!”), Swizz’s voice has come to be many a listener’s least favorite element in his otherwise successful recipe. That’s why it seems very weird, and incredibly bold, that he’s done what he’s done—recorded a full-on solo album, One Man Band Man, with his own rapping on every track. Then again, we’re living in a time when some of the biggest rap stars boast about their lack of lyrical skills, when a No. 1 hit song starts off with the line, “I don’t gotta rap, I could sell a mil sayin’ nothin’ on the track.” If that’s the case, why shouldn’t producers cut MCs out of the equation? Hell, if Diddy, Kanye, Pharrell and Timbaland can do it, why can’t Swizzy?

“NOW, I’M REALLY ABOUT TO F&#K YOUR HEAD UP!”

swizz2.jpgSuddenly, the gothic church organs of “The Funeral” fill the room. Swizz’s delivery intensifies, and his subject matter turns serious—untimely death, a child-molesting ex-priest—solemnity matched by the song’s no-frills structure. “No hook, no ad-libs, nothing,” explains Swizz confidently. “I made this song for people to hear and say, ‘Who is this, and what the fuck is this?’”

Swizz is aware that comparisons to other producers turned rappers are inevitable. It doesn’t faze him. “I’m not competing with nobody,” he says. “I’m just trying to make history and push the envelope a little further…Honestly, I’m not trying to be the most lyrical; I just want that ‘Most Creative’ award.”

If you were to check his high school yearbook, you might see Swizz’s mug next to the award for “Most Likely to MC.” Transplanted from his native South Bronx to the Atlanta suburb of Stone Mountain at the awkward age of 14, Swizz used hip-hop to overcome his new-kid-in-town status. “It started from beating lunch tables,” he says. “If you ask people who went to school with me, they knew I was going to be the best rapper. They knew that I could freestyle forever.” Besides rhyming, he had skills on the wheels of steel, and, under the moniker “DJ K-Swiss,” he spun his way into popular ATL nightclubs like Atrium and Club 112 while still in his teens. He gradually developed his beatmaking and, then, his own sound—an ingenious marriage of Atlanta’s adrenaline and New York City’s grit.

Meanwhile, in Yonkers, his uncles Darrin and Waah had started a record label. When they heard what their nephew was doing, they flew him back up north, and Swizz’s beats became the sound of Ruff Ryders.

The rest, as they say, is history. Through nearly a decade’s worth of hits, Swizz has solidified his legacy as one of hip-hop’s most successful producers. Save for those boisterous hooks and the scattered verses, though, on his commercially neglected 2002 compilation, Swizz Beatz Presents G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories, Swizz’s lyrical chops have only been heard by those fortunate enough to share studio time with him. “I always had to write somewhat,” he says. “I’ve always had to come up with concepts and hooks for these artists. I’ve had the flows and everything down since day one.”

——- Read the rest of our Swizz Beatz feature in XXL’s June 2007 issue (#92)
  • Gama

    whens that cassidy commin out 1

  • Whoa

    2nd whoa i’m the man I ain’t I nullus

  • sill will

    swizz you still a monster wit them beatz!
    keep it comin wit that shit son.

  • pooh

    Great story

  • Beav

    third???

  • King

    SWIZZZIIII

  • outya’self

    umm where the hell is cass?!

  • RockCity

    Yea on some real shit where the fuck Cass at?

  • N Spire

    Swizz, if you loved Hip Hop, you wouldn’t rap

  • Jayslay

    Don’t worry bout cass he’ll be here when he wants to be. And when he does arrive it’ll most likely be weak. Boy done fell off son.

  • http://www.xxldiscriminates.com Dude

    How can you all spend time with Swizz Beatz and not ask him about his contribution to D12′s album? I am fiending for info on that album. You should have asked Swizz to give you a preview of that.

  • Scorpio1970

    I don’t know about this cd, but if you never heard G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories’ song by Shyne. Do yourself a favor and download that song right now. That is one of the best songs Swizz ever produced. FREE SHYNE!

  • john cochran

    Producers turned rappers dont have good track records, but swizz may surprise. Cass better be all over it though. He has the best record out right now, and its good to hear hip hop, not r&b songs with rappers on them.

  • jd

    get ya head cracked like sunflower seeds

    when is the new cass comming

  • PhillyRepresent

    cassidy AND swizzy are both whack

  • Dade County 305

    SWIZZ THANKS 4 BRINGIN THAT REAL RAP GROUP BACK… THAT BONE ALBUM IS A CLASSIC. IVE BEEN BUMPIN THAT BONE SHIT SINCE NINE TRE. EVERY TRACK ON THAT JOINT IS GREAT! THANKS SWIZZ… I STILL FUCKS WITH USDA THO!!!

  • i’ll shit bag u

    cassidys fire but fuck a swizz beatz..that nigga a lame!!

  • DirtDoggy

    DAMN SWIIIZ cheese, I hope the albums better than that horiffying shirt.

  • Christian Prz.

    You wack as fuck man, seriously. What’s wrong with todays adlib raps? Time to wake the fuck up, for real – you can’t RHYME dawg. You might flow, but what the hell goes that matter when you can’t say anything worth hearing. Swizz Cheese your life man.

  • RockCity

    All these niccas comin on here talkin bout who whack and who not. . . shut the fuck up please, until u bring some hot shit to the table keep ur fuckin mouth close damn

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  • DODGE CITY

    SWISS Keyboard Beats are Over !!! That shit is wack. Listen to all the music when he had alot of work. Jay album DMX etc… That whole era of swiss beats is garbage he never made music that is timeless he is over rated and wack. That trinton shit is out dated. So if his beats are wack what makes you think he can rhyme nobody want to here SWISS CHEESE adlibs. Give some one that can rhyme some interview time … Consequence , Common , 50 , Lil Brother , Casual , Masta Ace , Nas … etc

  • Finito!

    Swizz stays rockin all that Lemar & Dauley shit! I think the album will be solid if cats don’t expect TOO much on the lyrical side.

  • BlackDante

    Im not realy fillin Swizz. His beats are good at times, and then he has moments where it just sounds like he made the same beat and added an extra instrument. And no, he isn’t a good rapper. But i’ll give it to him for gettin on his grind and not just relying on Cassidy. Stop hatin on niggas tryin to do they thing and expand.
    And why is everyone ridin Cassidy’s dick. Yeah he can spit, but last time I check both his albums were wack. I still cant get over that belly-button song on his last album.

  • Mpho

    WTF is swizz beats doin with a guitar?? err’body know that nigga makes beats in like 5 min. he proly as good as i is with that shit…

  • http://www.xxlmag.com Solly Damane

    I think Swizz has got what it takes, maybe he’s been producing the music and the cats don’t represent him like he wants to be reprsented so that is why he wants to do it on his own Good LUCK to him Solly-South Africa Cape Town..

  • rsa

    swizz beats is a snitch

  • rsa

    swizz beats is a snitch

  • the average man

    Think Busta Rhymes’ “New York Shit” (a DJ Scratch–produced track

    errrr….

  • Freddy(Vega$)

    Swizz beats is Hot!! and I cant for Cass to come back out that nigga got a nice roster over there at Full Surface. Big ups to Kid Robot!!!

  • New York Freddie

    i just wanna smoke a blunt of some North philly Dro and eat a few blue GG Footballs, chill in the cut listenin to lLmatic

  • http://illy New York Freddie

    whats up

  • New York Freddie

    fuck blunt

  • http://myspace.com/1460LV DJ ZO

    Swiss is ok not the best nor the worst.
    I like his cut he did for NAS “The General”
    o yeah “it’s me b*tches” is on smash ou here in the clubs in Vegas – peace

  • no1shotta

    what cassidy song is yall talkin about?

  • Big Maddi Fresh

    FREEZE!!!

    You know who it is…

    IT’S ME SNITCHES!!!!

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  • MONIQUE

    I CAN NOT GET ENOUGH OF SWISS. AND WHEN HE TEAMS UP WITH CASS ITS LIKE HEAVEN. HOW DARE A NIGGA SAY HIP HOP IS DEAD.