Shwayze- King of the Summer

09/2015 Song River

Song River: Oh my goodness do you ever sleep? I have been following all you have going on, and I am tired by just watching you!

Shwayze: Yeah, yeah, but I couldn’t be happier. (laughed) I am doing exactly what I want.

SR: I think when you’re find your element, it brings busy and happy together.

Shwayze: You already know, you already know.

SR: Looking back since about 2008, two things I noticed about you was: your independence and the only thing I could think of to compare your 'easy breezy' way of approaching your music and presenting it to your fans is to say you seem to be the “Jimmy Buffet” of the Hip-Hop/Rap world. Your music is laid back, easy going, appreciate life, summer fun. All the elements of good friends, cool drinks, girls and great music.

Shwayze: Yeah, totally.

SR: This lifestyle that you portray and seem to believe in and live is a reflection either of our own upbringing or what we have created because in our hearts it's who we are. What was your upbringing like Shwayze?

A Balanced Life

Shwayze: I was raised by my grandparents, and I moved to Malibu when I was about four. My step-grandfather he is Jewish guy who looks like Willie Nelson, and my mom is from Philadelphia and she has dreadlocks all the way down to her butt. I am definitely a mix of both of them. My grandma is crazy, outgoing, outspoken. She's an independent producer and has brought a lot of Motown to my blood, and my grandfather is a handyman and is very calm and reserved. So, I have both of those going- one to keep me going, and the other to make me calm.

SR: What was it like growing up there in Malibu as a kid?

Shwayze: Well, growing up there I was the only black kid in Malibu. And thank goodness for my upbringing, it was really a cool upbringing.

SR: Do you have any other siblings?

Shwayze: I do, they are all spread around, but we all stay in contact with each other. And I think as you get older you appreciate your family more too.

*At this point in the interview we lost contact for a few moments. When Shwayze came back on he told me that cell connection is really poor there in Malibu and he had to walk to the street in order to finish chatting with me. Now that says a lot about his easy going, solve it character.

SR: You mentioned you were the only “black kid in Malibu?” What was that like?

Shwayze: Well, I do exaggerate there a bit. There were times I remember around middle school and high school where I was like, “where are my black friends kind of thing?” And wondering like, what is my style, and definitely by the time I hit middle school I was trying to figure out what my style was. By that time there were other black kids there, and the black kids would say to me, “you sound white.” But I was friends with everyone. Then by high school there were just different influences for me, that helped me, like Kanye West. Remember when he came out with his first album he was wearing Polo shirts. Then there was Pharrell who came out and I like how he handle himself and carried himself. There were a couple of different things that helped influence me and helped my style. Those kind of guys let me know it was okay to be a smart intellectual... I guess... black person, because a lot of people would say to me, “You sound so white,” and I would be like, “What does that mean?”

Put a Label On it?

SR: Yes, what does that mean? I have never understood labels very much myself.

Shwayze: I don’t know. To say because you can articulate you sound white? The way I sound- is the way I sound. And I think that reflects into my music as well. I mean after school I would go hang out at the beach with my people and my girls- it was like a constant summer vibe.

SR: It sounds like your environment Shwayze helped you to be able to adapt and fit in wherever its called upon.

Shwayze: Yes, exactly. Its like growing here in Malibu everyone things you're rich. Well, I grew up in a very middle-class family. There’s a full community of the workers, who are the handy people to the wealthy here. I’m the son of, my grandfather, who is a handyman and would fix the things that needed fixed here in Malibu. My first job and my main job through high school was helping my grandfather at all these different places and fix that house, or this house. My upbringing taught me that money doesn’t mean everything. (Laughed) You know I find it funny. Most people work really hard to get out of where they are from, me... I am working really hard to stay here, because I love it.

SR: It sounds like Malibu is really in your heart, and it comes through in your music too.

Shwayze: Yes, it really is.

SR: Aside from producing several albums, didn’t you have an MTV Reality show as well around 2008? How was that having a camera in your business constantly?

Shwayze: It was very interesting, as there were cameras around constantly. (Laughed) But you know I have always been the center of attention, you know, “the class clown,” so to me it was fun. When the opportunity came, I remember I didn’t want to be just some MTV kind of thing, or person, but the end of the day the reason I wanted to do it was because I knew we had good music and I wanted to share that. I wanted whatever we did to always lead back to my music. I feel that’s what the show did as it showed our personalities and our characters. It was short lived, but its funny even to this day people will stop me in airports and ask me, “Where is your show?”

SR: Talk a little about how you process each album as you've developed them.

Shwayze: Its kind of hard to say, as with each one I operate on everything in life as a 'feeling,' which I do with everything in my life, whether its meeting somebody new, what I am going to wear when I walk outside the house or creating an album.

The first couple of albums I was learning how to write, because I wanted substance to my songwriting. I began by writing the hook, and working with Cisco he would help me bring it together. It was funny, as we came out with my first self titled album back in 2008 how some people were like there is this black guy working with this white guy. After the first and by the second, it's like we had this 'cult classic' following. That first album people were hearing this easy breezy music, and it was funny how people reacted to this black and white guy at that time working together. Some people were like, “Dude that’s crazy a black and white guy, it'mind-blowing!” But I loved it, it's whatever inspires you to make and listen to the music.

So, when my first solo album, “Shwayze Summer,” came out I wanted to show my versatility as much as a rapper, I liked to sing and produce too. I wanted to take some of the mellow of the former album, along with some hip-hop, I wanted to create a bunch of things to make it all fit into this sound, if that makes sense.
SR: As you've said you operate from a feeling. What was your feeling as you went in to create this last full-length album, 'King of the Summer?”

Shwayze: Well I felt with my fans knowing what I could do, I wanted to do something that says, “FUN!” I knocked it out in just a couple of weeks and I wanted to get this feeling of summer out to my fans, you know my fans are always like, “Where is the next album, we want more!” So, it was good to get “King of the Summer” out and I want to make my fans happy.

SR: I also understand that you have your own music label too, “Feel Good Entertainment.”

Feeling Good and It's Always a Shwayze Summer

Shwayze: Yes, and you know having your own label sometimes has its challenges you know as to distribution and such, but it always is better. You get to control the marketing aspects and figure out ways to get the music out there, it's so much better. My approach with my first solo album, “Shwayze Summer,” was to put it out slowly and let it marinate awhile. However, with this second solo album, “King of Summer,” the idea is the opposite of that this year. I am going to put out sporadically a bunch of different songs, EP's all throughout the year and next. Keep the music flowing. I love music and I love putting out... that is the best part about being independent.

SR: How does using YouTube fit into what you're doing for marketing?

Shwayze: YouTube really is today's MTV. It works. My focus to work on building my YouTube Channel right now. Every Wednesday now I release a behind the scene video on there now. I want to bring more and more people into the lifestyle. Social media in all its forms is connecting us all closer together. There is a balance to it, as some people don't like to turn it off, (laughed), but I have my times too where I'll be using it more and then pull back. Sometimes I even go through my little hermit stage and don't post much.

(Laughed and paused) It's better now than when I was in high school and throwing up my demo tapes onto the stage of my favorite musicians so I could get heard, that's for sure!

SR: YOU wanted to be heard... you had a dream, what kept you motivated?

Shwayze: When I had that band back then, I literally thought we were something different and the greatest thing ever and we were “it!” (Laughed) You know its like when you first fall in love with something you go non stop for it. I remember back then I could just not stop writing, it was like poetry and turning it into rap. It's just loving what you do and believing in it.
SR: You have a lot of inspiration to offer Shwayze and I hope you consider writing a book sometime. Why not under your independent label, “Feel Good Entertainment?” Speaking of which, who else is under your label that you're working with?

Shwayze: That's a really good idea, and I am going to look into doing that. I’ve always wanted to do something like that.

As for my label, “Feel Good Entertainment,” I am managing/working right now with, “Wildcard” and I am really excited and passionate about his first EP we are working on. He is a mixture of “Jack White,” meets “Disclosure,” and a bit of Stevie Wonder. This guy is incredible, keep an eye out for Wildcard, and he is a producer as well. He worked with me on the track, “Summer Ink,” producing it and singing on it too. As well, I am managing another producer, “Paul Couture.” He is a phenomenal producer based out of New York City, he helped produce six out of my seven songs on my new album.

You know with “Feel Good Entertainment” you become family and I want to build on that. A community of artists, and like-minded people and that is what Wildcard, Paul and videographer, Chuck Anthony (who does all my video work), bring. The most important thing is to build a community of great people.

Website: Shwayze

Social Media: 

King of the Summer