SWIZZ BEATZ – Renaissance Man [Haute Living Magazine]
This is the motto that Swizz Beatz – music producer, entertainer, DJ, entrepreneur, designer, family man – lives by. He’s produced music for some of the industry’s greats – Jay-Z, Limp Bizkit, Whitney Houston and Beyonce. He’s sold more than 300 million records (domestically), boasts hits of his own and has even collaborated with major fashion houses like Christian Louboutin and British car connoisseur Aston Martin.
But he’s not done yet.
“When I say the sky is not the limit, it’s just the view, that’s something I came up with because I think people are comfortable when they reach a certain level and lose the hunger,” he said. “I don’t think there should be any boundaries on exploring the next level. If you can stand up on the moon and look up in the air from there, it’s still just a view, you can go up higher than that. I use that slogan to inspire people to do whatever their wildest dreams are, to just go for it.”
Born Kasseem Daoud Dean on September 13, 1978, Beatz was raised by his great-grandparents until the age of 11 and then him mom/step-dad in the South Bronx. But it soon became clear that Swizz was always destined for greatness. His first foray into fame was with his friend rapper DMX, and at the age of 18 the two had their first hit-record with the single, “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem”.
Swizz’s career took off at breakneck pace. He started his own record label, Full Surface Records, at age 23 in collaboration with music mogul Clive Davis. His first record, “Swizz Beatz Presents G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories,” dropped in 2002. Swizz started to gain attention for his original style and affiliation with Ruff Ryders and Roc-A-Fella Records. He has scored block-buster films and was tapped to create tracks for Fashion Week, while still finding time to put out his second solo LP, One Man Band Man. Grammy-Award winning group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and female emcee Eve were also signed to his Full Surface imprint.
“For it to have started in 1998, it’s really a blessing to be in 2011, in the decline of music sales and with all of the changes in the industry as a whole, to be a name that my peers and the fans still call-on. Swizz said, “looking back from when I was just starting out as a DJ, and then for me to transform into a producer, and to still have the same energy, love, and passion for music after all I’ve accomplished has been really cool.”
To his friends and peers, Swizz’s evolution is an example of what to aspire to.
“Swizz inspires me,” said NBA star Carmello Anthony. “For him to transcend from a ‘business man’ to a business is just incredible. His brand is growing and growing, and it’s only going to continue to grow.”
Swizz’s wife Alicia Keys couldn’t agree more.
“Swizz’s evolution has been epic,” she said. “To come from a place where chances are few and far between to become a man that is unstoppable in everything he puts his mind to, is a true example of the fact that no circumstance can stop us.”
Even fellow entertainment mogul Jay-Z sees Swizz’s varied talents.
“Swizz has grown from a producer to a curator and lover of all the arts,” he said.
And Swizz is already on to the next one. In collaboration with musical greats like Bono, Alicia Keys, John Legend, and Lenny Kravitz, Swizz is releasing his third solo LP titled “Haute Living” album, which will be his first independent release thru his partnership with Everest Entertainment. To Swizz, living haute is a melding of art, fashion, music – it’s a way of life.
Deviating from the usual single release date for the entire album, Swiss is releasing “Haute Living” one individual single at a time, with the same fanfare that entire albums often receive. “The artists that are involved in the ‘Haute Living’ project are the best,” he said. “I wanted to push the limit.”
Perhaps unexpected is Swizz’s deep love for art. As an avid collector of paintings and an artist himself, he counts Salvador Dali, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and especially Jean-Michel Basquiat as some of his favorites.
“My love for the art world goes deep, very deep,” he said. “It goes right to the South Bronx [from] breakdancing to music, all different kinds, then [seeing] the people in the galleries, doing different things. So many people in the art world inspire me to do things.”
Swizz also creates his own art – eclectic and unexpected pieces, many overlaid with text. He shows his paintings exclusively to the Wall Street Journal.
“It’s your expression,” he said. “People can’t criticize an expression.”
Art world giant Jeffrey Deitch admires Swizz’s art – and even sees similarities between Swizz’s work and his idol, Basquiat.
“Swizz Beatz is in the forefront of the new fusion of art and music,” Deitch said. “His paintings draw on the example of artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat who also mixed musical and artistic inspiration.”
Keys also sees firsthand Swizz’s artistic talents.
“He’s one of the most creative people I know and is just becoming more so,” she said. “Everything is art to him, from music, to his paintings, sculptures and mixed media, to what he brings to the partnerships and businesses he’s involved in. Its like he has a line from his head to a higher power that showers inspiration down on him. I believe we all have this capability but he is tapped in – that’s why his evolution as an artist is so fantastic to watch because he’s been tapped in all along and so he just keeps getting better.”
Swizz has also become a powerhouse in the world of fashion with collaborations with fashion icon Christian Louboutin and global footwear and apparel giant Reebok – both fitting, since his interest in fashion was started with a pair of red shoes he owned as a child.
“I met Christian Louboutin on my friend’s yacht, I had been with [my] kids and I was just beat,” he said. But apparently Swizz impressed Louboutin, because the result was the sneaker collaboration between the iconic designer and Swizz. Additional collaborations are also a possibility.
“It was a fun way to get into fashion,” Swizz said. “Being able to be mentored by Christian Louboutin was just a blessing. More than anything, a friendship. He’s a great person, an amazing trendsetter.”
And it seems the feeling is mutual.
“Swizz is a great soul,” Louboutin said. “The wonderful thing to collaborate with someone like him is that you have no sense of boredom, no sense of exhaustion. It’s all great energy mixed with fun ideas. To translate words, situations and images into music is a fantastic gift. It’s great to share common sense about beauty and aesthetics in general with your friends. With Beatz it’s always showtime, being around him would put anyone in the best mood.”
According to Louboutin, Swizz is a Renaissance man, not just in life, but in fashion.
“The fashion style of Swizz is a colored mix of various influences,” Louboutin said. “[It’s the meeting of] the street style of the hip hop culture, but also the way he wraps himself in his scarves reminds me of these élégant bédouins from the Sahara Desert. He also reminds me sometimes, in his well-tailored suits fitting his deep voice, of Nat King Cole.”
Swizz’s collaboration with Louboutin led to his partnership with Reebok.
“I got inspired through working with Christian Louboutin to do something that I can relate to,” Swizz said. “I was so inspired and I was like, maybe I’ll go to Reebok and change a couple of things there and get my creativity on.” That he did! As their Global Director Swizz helped relaunch the Reebok Classics brand and in that process collaborated with the Reebok design team to release the new Kamikaze III. He also kicked off the Reebok’s Reethym of Lite campaign with a cross-collaborative campaign, where he took the song “International Party” (featuring Alicia Keys) from his upcoming LP and used that the song as the musical bed for the brand’s global campaign.
With Swizz’s help, the shoe’s popularity exploded.
“To find out that people were outside on Wednesday waiting for a shoe that comes out on Friday, was CRAZY! I’ve never seen nothing like that,” he said.
Reebok President and CEO Uli Becker had nothing but good things to say about their collaboration.
“Swizz’s influence is felt through our brand,” Becker said. “He has a great touch and feel for fashion. He collaborates with us on various products, such as our Basquiat collection as well as other classic products. He is also involved in the overall direction of our classic campaigns. He has a great feel for design and a great cultural sense. He is constantly full of ideas, never stops thinking and passionate about what we do together.”
Swizz just recently added another partnership to his portfolio by teaming up with the car giant Lotus being named Vice President of Creative Design and Global Marketing for the brand.
“The amazing Lotus team [and I] sat down and decided to strategize ways to market Lotus to the United States, raising the bar,” he said. “We got things coming that people have never seen in their lives.”
Stepping into the digital and technology space, Swizz is working on several technology partnerships and has launched MeetOn.com with business partner Loren Ridinger. The social streaming sight will give users a sneak peak into the lives of their favorite celebrities and gives them the opportunity to get lessons – a cooking class, a makeup lesson, even fashion advice. MeetOn.com is expected to launch soon.
Swizz’s overarching success – not just in the music industry, but also in the business world, is enviable. He’s very much a Renaissance man.
“I started very young, at 17 years old,” he said. “The Renaissance man [is being] able to inspire people. In order to get peoples’ attention, it has to be announcements that they would never expect, partnerships they would never expect. And if they continue seeing me do these kinds of things, they start looking at themselves and say ‘Hey, wait a minute, if Swizz can do that, I can do that too.’ I’m able to give them a blueprint to follow. Everyday I’m doing things from music to art to fashion to design to philanthropy to being a dad. All these different things you don’t really get a blueprint on. They just happen.”
“Your family keeps you grounded and having a support system has been the best gift that I’ve gotten from God,” Swizz said. “You know, to have family members as well as [supportive] fans and friends, it all goes to helping you be a better person, and helping you be a better businessman, and, it just helps you take your goals to the next level.”
His dedication to his family is something Keys can’t say enough about.
“He’s a beautiful father, very loving and giving,” she said. “Nothing is more important than his children. He’s fun and he loves to play jokes and make them laugh, but he’s also very good at showing them how to be responsible and honest.”
“I think the best gifts in the world are loving your children and your family [and] being able to give back,” Swizz said. “When you’re able to give back, one, it shows that you made it; two, it shows that you care; and three, it shows the type of person you are.”
Amid his many blessings, Swizz also takes time to give back. With his work teaching at NYU at the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music as their 1st Producer-In-Residence and working with the Bronx Charter School For the Arts it keeps everything balanced for him. Even on a global front when the earthquake hit Haiti he wasted no time reaching out to his fellow artists and collaborated with U2, Jay-Z and Rihanna to record a Haiti benefit song.
But Swizz gets something in return when he does charity work.
“I just love seeing smiles on peoples’ faces,” he said. “I just love doing philanthropic work and helping kids in Africa all the way to my home in the South Bronx. Those smiles are endless.”
When asked about his students at NYU he said, “those students, they look towards me to make decisions, to make life decisions so I can never miss a class,” he said. “I take is very seriously.”
As far as Swizz’s real personality, Keys said it best.
“Swizz is truly one of a kind,” she said. “You’ve never met a man like him before just when u think have him figured out, he switches gears and takes off.”
With so many balls in the air, it’s amazing that Swizz is still moving, still thinking about his next venture.
“Money comes and goes, history stays,” he said. “I’m addicted to trying to make history, because that stays. You leave that for generations. I think that’s the best way I can be effective on this earth. Going forward, you’ll witness me trying to make history every chance I get.”
Additional reporting by Alexandra Delgado and Rachel Willis.