Swizz Beatz Revives ‘Illmatic’-Era Nas for Collab on ‘Poison’ Album
Swizz Beatz previews his stacked comeback album, Poison.
Words: John Kennedy
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
Over the past decade, legendary producer Swizz Beatz has become a fashion mogul, art patron and automobile designer. The 40-year-old multi-hyphenate revisits his hip-hop roots with Poison, his first full-length album since 2007’s One Man Band Man. The stacked J. Cole-executive produced project sidesteps conventional pop hits for raps that slap. Swizz spoke with XXL about maximizing the potential of his cross-generational collaborators.
"25 Soldiers" Featuring Young Thug
“It's such a different track for [Young Thug]. The way that he's spitting, people have never heard him spit [like that] before. Just imagine Thug on a DMX-like beat and you're understanding everything he's saying. He's in a lyrical space that I've yet to see him do... That was unique. There’s only two choruses on the song—one in the beginning and one at the end. And he flows unbelievable. He was showing people, ‘Even though I have fun sometimes, there’s an art to my craft and I’m really an artist.’”
"Echo" Featuring Nas
“Y'all getting Illmatic Nas—the best storytelling Nas. The story is so hard that I didn't even want to put drums on it... just the bass line [and] live instruments. There's a little bit of poetry in the beginning from myself. And when you hear this story, you're like, goddamn! He starts off the song: ‘Throwing pits out the window at police.’ How you start the verse like that? The entire story that he's telling is true. ‘I'm an observatory of a murder story...’ Oh my god. He's a master poet.”
"Pistol On My Side (P.O.M.S.)" Featuring Lil Wayne
“That's the beat that I made while I was going [back and forth] with Timbaland on [Instagram]—‘Pistol on my side, pistol on my side.’ I was like, if I turned that into a song and really put Wayne on it, people would be like, ‘Damn, I'm a part of this. I seen when Swizz was buggin’ in the basement with that.’ That's why I thought the song was cool. I sent it to him, but goddamn I ain't think he was gonna send back what he sent. It's a blessing to work with people that still got that passion and love for what they do.”
"Stunt" Featuring 2 Chainz
“I wanted to do a song that wasn't so New York, but you could feel the energy: anthemic and everybody can vibe with it. I'm not just pro boom-bap, even though I love it the most. I want this album to be something that a lot of people can feel and relate to. When I play 'Stunt,' my kids go crazy, everybody go crazy. And the energy that 2 Chainz brought is just infectious.”
"Something Dirty/Pic Got Us" Featuring Jadakiss, Kendrick Lamar and Styles P
“They're all fans of each other. When I did the song, I was like, ‘I want to take a ‘We Gon Make It’ moment and bring it to 2018, enhanced with new energy and new life.’ I [told Kendrick,] ‘I got this track with The Lox and I know y'all been wanting to do something together, maybe this will work.’ I sent him the track and he called me back—he was losing it. Next thing I know, I had the song. I hit him back like, ‘Damn, that's how you feel?’ He was like, ‘Goddamn right.’ That's how music is supposed to be done.”
Check out more from XXL’s Fall 2018 issue including Meek Mill's letter to his younger self, Show & Prove interviews with Gunna and City Girls, Lil Durk opening up about his Signed to the Streets 3 album and more.
See Photos of Meek Mill for XXL Magazine's Fall 2018 Cover Story