Swizz Beatz on Reebok, Upcoming Music and K-Pop


Words Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho) Images Aston “Husumu” Hwang (@Husumu)

The music video shoot for “Street Knock”—Swizz Beatz’s latest street single featuring A$AP Rocky—is taking place in Brooklyn. It’s an eventful Saturday filled with affiliates of various rap cliques. It’s the kind of music video shoot, where hair-grown Jadakiss is puffing a dutchy, and turn around you see cornrows-missing Allen Iverson watching over his sons. The kind of video shoot where A$AP Rocky shows up fashionably late with a 30-deep set of A$AP Mob, greeted with love from the OGs of the Ruff Ryders camp.

Yes, several recognized names in hip-hop (and sports) are clustered in this vacant lot, but lest not forget, the star of the night is Swizz Beatz. Who after changing into his third (or fourth) outfit of the day is found calmly relaxing in his trailer, playing Draw Something on his iPhone.

Decked in a black t-shirt and donning a camouflage fitted with Reebok across the crown, the Grammy-winning producer and rapper suddenly points at a batch of clothing laid out on the couch. “You know we got the rights to Haring now. I’m getting Andy Warhol next month. I’m getting all three of them. Basquiat, too,” Swizzy explains, as he showcases the upcoming line of jeans, fitteds, and sweaters with graphic prints displaying the works of his favorite contemporary American artists.

“They know I love art for real. I got Keith Haring right here on my motherfucking shoulder,” Beatz boasts, as he stretches his t-shirt to showoff an arty tattoo of the acclaimed artist’s work.

Swizzy, who assumed the post as the Global Creative Director of Reebok last year, has actively pursued the role and fortified a relationship with the once esteemed athletics brand, which brought him on to regain its lost street cred. So far, the move appears to be working. Although, Nike remains its forte as the inescapable sportswear line, flaunting its presence even on a video shoot co-sponsored by Reebok.

“[You got] fucking Concords [Air Jordan 11] on!” Swizz yells at a friend. “You bought those or Nike sent you those?”

“You know I ain’t buy these shits,” the friend replies with a grin.

Throughout the night, Swizzy continuously emphasized how the German brand really supports and actually cuts checks for the culture. Rightfully so, not only has he locked down a brand new line of sneakers and art-inspired gears with the company, but he also green lit plans to revitalize the brand’s former hit—Allen Iverson’s The Questions.

With that said, any accusation claiming Swizzy is getting paid a few checks to flaunt in Reebok should be dished out the window. His work résumé, which includes French footwear line Christian Louboutin, and luxury British automakers Aston Martin and Lotus—which he’s currently serving as the Vice President of Creative Design and Global Marketing—has assured the multi-platinum producer’s taste-making sensibility. “I’m really creative. I really love the art of it all,” Swizzy says. “And me being a real businessman, who’s not hard to find, is something that’s on their taste level.”

If there’s any evidence such acquired taste has manifested Swizzy’s inner psyche, the title of his forthcoming sophomore album makes it clear. “It’s called Haute Living,” he says. “Just legendary sounds that’ll change the climate a little bit.”

And with songs like “Skyscrapers” boasting a union of Bono (of U2) and Kanye West, or “Rock ‘N Roll” featuring Lenny Kravitz, Lil Wayne and Travis Barker, the album is ambitiously high scale (at least in guest appearances) as the title implies.

Though proceeded by a shapeless mixtape called Limitless, which Swizz says it has “limitless tracks” and that he’ll only “put out singles whenever [he feels] like it,” the follow up to his ’07 album One Man Band Man, seems to have an arsenal of promotional keeps that’ll have the fans guessing for the final product.

It sure has come a long way from producing “Ruff Ryders Anthem” for DMX in ’98. The reemerging growling rap persona isn’t listed on the roster of guest appearances on Haute Living, but Swizz looks to make more music with Mr. Simmons. “I finished X’s album, but he doesn’t know it though,” Swizz says. “Look, I’ll show you a track off of it.”

He scrolls through his iPhone and plays a triumphant instrumental dipped in heavy orchestra sounds, as he yells snippets of his best DMX impersonation. Can’t complain, but he’s convincing on how this yet-to-be-recorded track pops out in the right places to make an anthem for DMX.
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