Studio Session: Swiff D Jumps Into the Spotlight Thanks to Schoolboy Q and Lil Wayne
His name may not be familiar to some, but Swiff D's tagline has certainly been heard on some of the biggest songs in the game. The Ontario, Calif. beatsmith, who's managed by Fakework, has steadily been making waves in the industry and is on the verge of to becoming a star. Most recently, Swiff crafted the beat to the “Intro” featuring Lil Wayne on DJ Drama’s Quality Street Music 2 album. Over menacing, drum-heavy production, Wayne delivers one of the best songs he's made in years -- mixtape Wayne in full effect.
Swiff's biggest moment so far is producing ScHoolboy Q's “Studio," off his Oxymoron album. The song is Q's biggest single to date, peaking at No. 38 on Billboard Hot 100, topping the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart and receiving a 2015 Grammy nomination for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. After that record, Swiff D became a producer to watch.
He's worked with a wide range of artists such as Snoop Dogg, Talib Kweli, 50 Cent, Logic, Hodgy Beats, Pac Div, Blu, Kendrick Lamar, Omarion, David Banner and Jadakiss, just to name a few. Swiff's currently working with Bryson Tiller for the crooner's next project. This guy stays busy.
We got Swiff D on the phone to discuss how he started producing, his come up in a singing group, becoming a finalist in Red Bull’s Big Tune contest and his reaction to hearing Lil Wayne go off on the "Intro."
XXL: Growing up what were you listening to?
Swiff D: I grew up listening to a lot of stuff. A lot of Dogg Pound, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, a lot of Brandy, a lot of things Rodney Jerkins produced, stuff like that. A lot of gospel, a lot of everything.
How early did you start producing?
I started around 17, 18 and it’s funny, back when I was trying to produce back then, it just sounded like Timbaland and Pharrell.
What made you want to start to produce?
Just watching my dad, When I grew up, he be up 3, 4 o’clock in the morning with work at 5’o clock. He just be up making beats all night. Sequencing, he had a bunch of hardware and gear. I just always wanted to get my hands on it and he just did not let me. I couldn’t wait to craft my first beat.
Wow, who was your father producing for? What was he using?
He had a bunch of Roland drum machines, he had a bunch of different keyboards; he had everything. He’s a bass player so he had a bunch of bass equipment and stuff like that. He was actually just doing it because he was actually in a singing group. He would do all their music and I had [a singing group] as well where he would manage ours. It was all in the family, gospel music. Just watching him do that made me want to pursue producing.
You were in a singing group?
I grew up in church, I grew up playing drums, I grew up in the choir. I was in a singing group at probably like 8 years old until I was about 14. I just kind of got tired of it ‘cause I was just too shy. There are pretty girls in the stands. Certain times I would have to sing the song but I was too scared but still wanted to do something with music so I kind of opt to be the behind-the-scene guy.
What was your first step to get into hip-hop? Did you use your pop’s equipment?
It’s funny because the first time I thought I was going to make a beat I thought it was going to be on my pop’s equipment. But he was so strict and he always knew, “Did you touch anything?” He’s a military dad. The thing about him, he knows everything, fingerprints and all that type of stuff. But basically if I touch anything he knew what I did and I was going to get in big trouble.
This kid passed me this CD, my senior year in high school, and he never made a beat in his life and he would bring me beats to school and they would be so tight. I would be like, “How did you do this? I never even heard you talk about music at all.” He passed me Fruity Loops. I kind of slept on it for a little while until I wasn’t going to play basketball any more. I turned it on and I just start making beats and I’m still here 'til this day.
Where did you get your moniker from?
I got my name in college; it was through my best friend. We named everybody nicknames, teachers, cafeteria people, everybody. But we never had one for ourselves. We just sat down and said we got to come up with something for ourselves. My boy said Young Swiff, so I went from that to Swiff Dilla and it kind of went from there
How big was it for you being a finalist in 2007 at the Red Bull’s Big Tune contest?
It was a big influence on me. I didn’t really know as far as hip-hop guys but everybody was in that first year. It was kind of funny because I didn’t really know how to sample back then, I didn’t know how to chop or do a bunch of stuff. I just took it for what it was; there was really no music platform where you can throw your music on online. MySpace was kind of like the first one that was efficient. I put the stuff that was on the Red Bull competition and I put it on my page and people started hitting me up. By the time I was a finalist, overnight, everybody started following me on MySpace and hitting me up for tacks. I got a joint on Talib Kweli’s album, after that it was crazy.
ScHoolboy Q’s “Studio” was a major moment. It landed you two Grammy nominations.
Man it was huge; it was my first really big single, my first No. 1. It was such a blessing from then on. I’m kind of getting that right name for people to allow me to come in and work on this album and that album. I have a bunch of singles that are actually dropping right now; one is for Kevin Gates. Yeah, man, it’s been a blessing.
People have this skewed idea of producing. You make a beat, send it out to a bunch of people and it gets picked up. What are the difficulties of getting placements?
I thought if I made the most creative beat people would just be like, “This guy, he needs to be on,” but at the same time I wasn’t shaking any hands. People didn’t really know me. The business aspect of it [is important] you still got to put yourself out there, advertising and everything. You even got to shake some hands you don’t even really care to shake because you never know who’s going to make something happen for you. I tell people all the time even though you’re sitting at home making all these beats you got to venture out and be around people because you just never know who you’re going to meet. Just play your part at the end of the day and always make sure that you’re ready. There’s so much more than just having the best beat.
How often do you produce?
Every day. Everybody can’t work every day but I still try to do as much as I can. I don’t really try to force as much as I used to because just seeing the formula of how a great song is made, you can’t rush talent. If you’re patient with it, it will sound better. I try to produce everyday but if I can get four to five beats done per week I’m cool.
You produced the “Intro” to DJ Drama’s Quality Street Music 2 that had Lil Wayne go off. The track is one of the best records made in years. That has to be exciting to be part of this moment, right? How did the record even come together?
Basically that situation happened through DJ Drama, DJ Cannon and Lakeshow, Drama’s manager. I made the beat thinking about Dr. Dre or Meek Mill. I found out Meek was actually going to be in the studio with Drama. They called me. I was in Atlanta and I pulled up there and played them the beat. Meek liked it but he didn’t really go in on it. They kept it for themselves just in case.
Make a long story short, they call me six, seven months later like, “Bro, you still have this beat?” I just got finish playing it for Dr. Dre but it was still open. I was like, “Yeah, who needs it? Is it Meek Mill?” and they was like, “No, just listen.” I turned everything down and I heard Wayne’s verse and I got so excited because it sounded like mixtape Wayne that everyone fell in love with. People weren’t giving him songs like this that’s real dark and emotional and hard drums. People were giving him something he can float on and still spit but nothing like this. I was happy he did the whole thing by himself and it was the first thing on the album. Mixtape Wayne is still here.
So what’s next for you?
I have some stuff coming with Bryson Tiller that I’m really excited about but other things I don’t want to speak on until full confirmation. But a lot of big joints are coming.
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