Swift on Name Change, Teaching New Generations, & Respect
Christian emcee Swift spoke to Rapzilla about his latest record, Higher Learning, his trouble with securing producers, being a vocal supporter of rappers using their platform for a message, and a potential TV appearance.
Higher Learning dropped on June 17 and is the first project under the moniker Swift. He previously went by R-Swift.
“The name change was not pressing the reset button, but more like pressing the refresh button,” revealed the emcee. “I’ve done a lot of music and I feel like the people have watched me mature through the music. I’ve been through a lot in my life since the last people heard from me. With my wife having cancer and stuff like that. These big life changing events. Changing the name from R-Swift to Swift was just a way of showing that.”
“A new hunger and a renewed vision.”
He said that the name change and the album have been received well so far. As an artist, he’s always looking to reinvent himself from record to record.
“I believe I’m in a different headspace every time I do an album,” said Swift. “I just wanted to communicate honesty on the record. I was hoping to communicate the maturity, the honesty, and the passion.”
Higher Learning aims to spread a message throughout. This almost came together as a concept album but wound up more thematic than anything.
“I’m a more mature person. I’m a more mature artist, and I think one of the traits of a mature person is that person’s ability to not stop learning, but also that person’s ability to teach the next people coming behind him,” said the emcee. “I didn’t want to just swallow up my experience and say, ‘woo, I’m a better person’ but ask, ‘How can my experiences and my view to teach people that are coming up behind me enlighten people’?”
The process of putting this album started slowly as Swift had a dream list of producers that he wanted. Unfortunately, or fortunately, as he now sees it, those people he had in mind did not contribute to the project.
“This is no shot at anyone on the album or off it, this game changed a lot. I don’t mean as much to this game as much as I did a couple of years ago,” he admitted. “Some years ago Swift meant something. I had to accept that I don’t have much respect in this game. Some of the producers I help put on, the response just wasn’t there. I reached out, I’ve been ignored, I’ve been played by producers…”
He continued, “In my mind, I was like ‘dude, I put you on, and I can’t get a beat?’ I wasn’t trying to get it for free. It shocked me. One thing about this small genre is that it’s easy for someone to get placement and start feeling like the king of the hill. There’s a lot of egos when you’re dealing with this market.”
He said one of his favorite songs on the album is “Smoke & Mirrors.” It also has one of the coolest production stories on how it came together.
The song was produced by Cardec, and it originally had a completely different beat. When Swift went to do the final mixdown, Cardec told him that he sold the beat. The emcee didn’t even have time to hang his head because the producer told him to send the vocal stems and he’d create a beat around them.
The album version of “Smoke & Mirrors” is what was created. “It was even better,” said Swift. Other songs were created by longtime friend Marv a.k.a. MoBeats, Tone Jones, and Sherrod White, who also rapped on his produced track, “OK.”
“There’s a difference between a beat maker and a producer,” said Swift. “A producer has a whole vision of that beat and what they want to see on it and they see it from beginning to end. A beat maker throws some sounds together to create rhythm. But these guys paint pictures with their music and that’s what I love because I paint pictures with my lyrics.”
As far as the features, he didn’t have anyone in mind. He just felt the songs out and made it happen as he went.
“Me and Eshon have known each other a long time, so that was real special,” he said of the opening track “Throne.”
He continued, “We have an extended history even before hip-hop. It was dope how it came about. We wanted to put out something different that people wouldn’t expect from us.”
For now Swift is putting all his energy toward putting the record where it needs to be. “Certain things didn’t happen the way it was supposed to happen,” he says but is hopeful that there are music videos and a possible fall tour on the way.
“My best advertisement is on the stage. Touring will be a big part of it,” said Swift.
He also offered a parting hint at something big coming soon, “Look for me on your TV very very soon,” he said with excitement.
Check back with Rapzilla next week to hear Swift’s thoughts on racial and social issues and his thoughts on his song “Us vs Them.”