Deejay, music producer
In his ten-year career, which began when he was 16, producer and hip-hop musician Swizz Beatz has produced songs that appeared on albums totaling over 80 million copies sold. Before he was 21, he had written more hits than many songwriters produce in a lifetime. He has worked with well-known hip-hop acts such as Mary J. Blige, Nas, Jay-Z, and DMX, and has also released a solo album. He is known for his complex, sample-free grooves, and futuristic sound.
Born Kaseem Dean in the Bronx, New York, Swizz Beatz earned his nickname because of his love of K-Swiss sneakers. Although his father, a postal worker, was around, Swizz Beatz didn't see him much because his parents were separated, and he was raised by his mother. He began deejaying after he got some equipment from his stepfather and his uncles; he was often punished for wild behavior by being confined to his room, so he stayed in and played with the equipment, coming up with new sounds.
Swizz Beatz told David Friedman on the Murderdog.com website that when he started making beats, he had no thoughts about producing: "I was just like, 'Oh, I've gotta add a drum beat and get a special mix on this a cappella and have my mix tapes sounding different from everybody else's mix tapes because I'm making my own beats.'"
When Swizz Beatz was 16, his family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and he went to work for his uncles, Joaquin and Darrin Dean, who were co-CEOs of the Ruff Ryders label. Although they were family, they didn't give him an easy ride, demanding the best from him. Swizz Beatz told Friedman, "I still had to struggle, grind. So that's why I respect all levels of what I do—because it wasn't just given to me. I had to earn it."
Early on, Swizz Beatz decided not to sample, or use recordings of other people's tracks. He told Ethan Brown on the New York Metro website, "You can never be a leader if you're biting someone else's sound." He added, "Rap has boundaries. I want to create sounds no one has even thought of yet." In addition, he once went to a music award ceremony and was surprised to see an older man win an award for a song that he thought another, much younger producer had done. It turned out that the older man was the real originator of the sound, and the young producer had sampled it; thus, the older artist won the award. At that point, Swizz Beatz decided that if he was going to work hard on songs, he was going to be the one to get the recognition, and so all of his songs would be originals, using no samples.
Like many people who earn a great deal of money when they're young, Swizz Beatz initially wasted a lot of it. He told Ife Oshun on the rap.about.com website, "I had like $700,000 on a debit card, in a checking account. I didn't know about accountants or anything like that. I was just having fun with it, you know, spending, blowing a bunch of money." Since then, however, he has invested in various businesses, including real estate, an exotic car dealership, and a club in Arizona.
When he's working with musicians, Swizz Beatz combines beats created while the musician sings with files of beats he's previously created. He told Oshun that if the musician is new to him or has limited time available to spend in the studio, "I got to get right to it, just put a CD in or just go through stuff I already have made, just to [sketch out] the introduction. And when I see the style of track that they pick from the CD then I'll know [what the artist wants]. So when I go in to make beats or scratch for her or any other artist I'll have more direction."
Swizz Beatz told Oshun that he owes part of his success to the fact that he only sleeps about three hours a night. "You sleep, you lose," he told Ife Oshun. "Everybody's going on vacation and when they come back I got ten singles on the radio."
In 2001 Swizz Beatz signed a label deal with J Records; his label is called Full Surface Records. He told Friedman that he loved this because "I wanted my artists to have their own space and I have my own space, so it's not too much of a conflict of interests." His artists include his wife, Mashonda, as well as hip hop artists Cassidy and Yung Wun.
In 2002 Swizz Beatz released his first solo album, G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories. The album included hip-hop, R&B, and rock 'n' roll tracks, and had two CDs, one with the instrumentals only, in case listeners wanted to provide their own rap. He collaborated with a variety of musicians for the album, including Metallica, Bounty Killer, Noreaga, Shyne, Lil' Kim, LL Cool J, Bryan "Baby" Williams, and Ron Isley. Swizz Beatz told Rashaun Hall in Billboard that he wanted to do his own album so he would have complete creative freedom: "No one wants to change up or do anything new. I was getting tired of it, so I decided to do my own album to bring people into my world."
After spending some time out of the spotlight, Swizz Beatz returned in 2005 with hit singles for a variety of artists, including Memphis Bleek, Cassidy, and the Young Gunz. He told an interviewer on the Wutangcorp website that "on New Years , I felt like a completely new person. I felt that creative energy just filling my body up. I then put the open sign outside my store, and my customers came back in and they were happy I was open again." Between January and June of that year, he laid down about 80 songs.
Swizz Beatz told Oshun that he sees a big future for the rap industry, largely because of the development of recording technology: "The way technology is going to bring everything together, it's just gonna be like ... you might hear a freestyle coming all the way from Africa."
For the Record . . .
Born Kaseem Dean in the Bronx, NY; married to Moshanda (singer).
Worked as a DJ at parties; worked with Ruff Ryders label, producing records for many top rap and hip-hop artists; signed with J Records and continued to produce records on his own label, Full Surface Records, 2001–; released solo album, G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories, on Dream-works label, 2002.
Addresses: Record company—Full Surface Records, 1775 Broadway, Suite 409, New York, NY 10019. Agent—Harris Entertainment, 3783 Presidential Park way, Atlanta, GA 30340. Website—Swizz Beatz Official Website: http://www.swizzbeatz.com.
G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories, Dreamworks, 2002.
(Foxy Brown) Chyna Doll, Def Jam, 1998.
(Cam'ron) Confessions of Fire, Epic, 1998.
(DMX) It's Dark and Hell is Hot, Def Jam, 1998.
(Noreaga) N.O.R.E., Penalty, 1998.
(Jay-Z) Vol 2: Hard Knock Life, Roc-a-Fella, 1998.
(Memphis Bleek) Coming of Age, Roc-a-Fella, 1999.
(Eve) Let There Be Eve...Ruff Ryder's First Lady, Interscope, 1999.
(Limp Bizkit) Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog FlavoredWater, Interscope, 2000.
(Mya) Fear of Flying, Interscope, 2000.
(Eightball & MJB) Space Age 4 Eva, Interscope, 2000.
(LOX) We Are the Streets, Ruff Ryders, 2000.
(Jermaine Dupri) Intructions, So So Def, 2001.
(Jadakiss) Kiss tha Game Goodbye, Interscope, 2001.
(Eve) Scorpion, Interscope, 2001.
(Mary J. Blige) No More Drama, MCA, 2001.
(Ludacris) Word of Mouf, Def Jam, 2001.
(Eve) Eve-Olution, Interscope, 2002.
(Busta Rhymes) It Ain't Safe No More, J-Records, 2002.
(DMX) Grand Champ, Def Jam, 2003.
(Ruben Studdard) Soulful, J-Records, 2003.
(Bow Wow) Unleashed, Sony, 2003.
(Shyne) Godfather Buried Alive, Gangland, 2004.
(Cassidy) Split Personality, J-Records, 2004.
(T.I.) Urban Legend, Grand Hustle/Atlantic, 2004.
(Memphis Bleek) 534, Roc-a-Fella, 2005.
(Fat Joe) All or Nothing, Atlantic, 2005.
(Cassidy) I'm a Hustla, J-Records, 2005.
Billboard, December 7, 2002, p. 43.
Newsweek, July 24, 2000, p. 61.
"Interview with Swizz Beatz," Murderdog.com, http://www.murderdog.com/archives/swizzbeatz/Swizz_Beatz3.html (June 28, 2005).
"The 1999 New York Awards," newyorkmetro.com,http://www.newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/new/nyawards/1710/index10.html (June 28, 2005).
"Swizz Beatz," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (August 31, 2005).
"Swizz Beatz Interview," Wutangcorp, http://www.wutangcorp.com/archive/index.php/t-217.html (June 28, 2005).
"What He's Up to in 2005," rap.about.com, http://www.rap.about.com/od/hiphopartistsqz/a/swizzbeatz.htm (June 28, 2005).
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