Interview with SWIZZ BEATZ, producer for Nas, Limp Bizkit, Mary J. Blige, DMX, Jay-Z - Jun 26, 2002
ďEducate yourself before entering the game so youíre not setting yourself up as fresh bait thatís there to be taken advantage of. Music is 80% business.
Kasseem Dean, aka Swizz Beatz, is a 21 year-old producer based in New York. He has worked with Nas, Limp Bizkit, Ludacris, Mya, Mary J. Blige, DMX, Eve, Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, Noreaga, Foxy Brown, and Angie Stone, to mention but a few. He is part of the Ruff Ryders team, run by his two uncles, Joaquin Waah Dean and Darrin Dee Dean, and his aunt, Chivon Dean.
Originally from New York, in his adolescence he and his family relocated to Atlanta, where he first started deejaying at school parties and later at clubs. When the Ruff Ryders label started to become successful with their first artist, DMX, Swizz Beatz wanted to start producing for them, but found it hard to get in at first. It was only when he had produced successful tracks with non-Ruff Ryders artists such as Noreaga and Foxy Brown that he became a Ruff Ryder producer, working with the aforementioned DMX, and then in 1999, with new signings Eve and the LOX.
What are the important events that have led you forward?
Deejaying, and just being around my family, the Ruff Ryders - watching them develop new artists was really important. Iíve learnt something from every project Iíve worked on, but particularly with DMX, Eve and Jay-Z.
What advice would you give somebody who wants to be a producer?
Work hard, be dedicated, creative, stay focused, pay attention, and learn the business. Educate yourself as much as possible before entering the game, so that youíre not going into it blindly or setting yourself up as fresh bait thatís there to be taken advantage of. Music is 80% business, if not more.
What key lessons have you learnt since you started out as a producer?
Iíve learnt that itís more about business than pleasure. Iíve learnt that music is history. Everything youíre doing is getting jotted down in some way or another and things should not be taken lightly, because you never know, when you get older, what role these things are going to play.
What are your strengths?
Iím versatile. I can do hit songs with Limp Bizkit, Marilyn Manson, and Metallica; work with DMX, Jay Z, Eve, and Busta Rhymes; write the score for Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday; write the score for Triple X, The Fast and Furious 2, and Dirty Dancing 2; and be CEO of a record label, and an artist myself.
When working in the studio, do you play instruments, handle the synthesizer/sampler equipment, engineer, do vocal coaching, mixing ...?
I work with the AKAI MPC 3000 and 4000. I have a guitar player and a bass player, and I work on keyboards a lot, so we pretty much whip it out like that. I mix, and, as far as vocal coaching goes, most of the time I tell rappers how they need to sound on a specific track.
What kind of equipment did you start out with?
My first piece of equipment was a Dr.Rhythm drum machine. I then upgraded to an MPC 60, and later the MPC 3000 and MPC 4000. I couldnít live without the MPCs now - they have made me millions!
What do you think about the position producers currently hold within the music business? Whatís good and what could be better?
I think theyíre in a really good position, because theyíre getting more exposure and more chances to do things. You know, Iím making my own album, and I think that producers are becoming stars just as much as artists. Producers just need to stay positive and keep this thing going.
What do you think of the current rap scene?
It could definitely be better! A lot of the stuff is predictable - people need to get more focused and make more history.
In what direction do you see rap going in the future?
Between rappers and producers itís a 50/50 thing, but I think itís the producers who are going to keep it interesting, alive, and who will keep coming up with new ideas.
How do artists who want you to produce them approach you?
They just come up and say, ďYo! I need a track.Ē And they just do it like that! I get a lot of stuff through my management, but I also get stuff because Iím approachable and I donít have a thousand security guards.
What are you currently producing?
Iím working on Eve, and on my own artists, Young One, Cassidy, and Meshanda. Then Iím going to get started on Metallicaís and DMXís new albums. Iíve recently finished work on albums by Def Styles, Baby (from Cash Money), Noreaga, Ray Bezino, and Busta Rhymes, as well as my own album. I just keep it moving.
What qualities should an aspiring artist have?
You have to be dedicated, because if youíre not, you wonít be prepared for an industry that hates you at first and then loves you. You have to be focused in order to deal with these ups and downs. Donít take it personally; keep in mind that itís just part of the business. Just keep fighting! If Iíd stopped making my beats when people were criticizing them, we wouldnít even be having this conversation!
How much do you charge for a production?
It varies. I donít want to give a price because the last time I gave a price, a lot of people got scared and made a big deal out of it. It was just an excuse for people to talk crazy, so letís just say it depends on the situation.
Do you have a label of your own?
Yes. Itís called Full Surface and itís a joint venture with J Records and Clive Davis.
Are you currently looking for artists?
Not right now; I want to take care of the artists who are already signed to my label.
Do you accept unsolicited material?
Yes, but I donít want to sell people dreams. Iíve got my first three artists and I want to complete that hurdle first.
Do you think contacting producers and sending them demos is a good way for unsigned artists and songwriters to get their careers off the ground?
Yes, most producers listen to demos. Itís only the really busy ones who donít.
Do you think unsigned artists are knowledgeable about the music industry, or is it something they need to learn more about in order to stand a better chance?
I canít stereotype everybody thatís unsigned, because there might be unsigned artists who have done their job, but the majority of unsigned artists donít have a clue. I think they need to more prepared because itís very serious and theyíre going to be mad!
What do you think about the radio situation in the US?
I think itís very political, but thatís the way the business is and you have to respect it.
What has been the greatest moment of your music career so far?
Just being at a football game and hearing DMXís ďParty UpĒ, which I co-wrote and produced. Iím in the middle of the crowd thatís singing the song and nobody knows who I am!
What do you see yourself doing in 5-10 years?
I plan to go to law school in order to become a music attorney, and then have my own law firm and just sit back, you know, CEO-style.
If you could dramatically change some aspect of the music industry, what would you do?
Iíd let artists get more money off their records, and Iíd make the business less political. Everybody who works hard should get what they deserve. Right now, itís all a money game.
Interviewed by Jean-Francois Mťan
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