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Issue 1084

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Feature

Sway: Man Of Konviction

Sway @bluesandsoul.com
Sway @bluesandsoul.com Sway @bluesandsoul.com Sway @bluesandsoul.com Sway @bluesandsoul.com

With the pending ‘Signaure 2’ release early 2010, Mr Derek DaSafo drops his new single the upbeat ‘Mercedes-Benz’. It all marks ‘the final chapter of independence’ in Sway’s own words as he looks excitingly to next year with Konvict Muzik.

The north London rapper has come along way since his scene shattering ‘This Is My Demo’. Since then people haven’t stopped paying attention and he’s now considered one of UK’s biggest urban artists. As we look to the future it’s all about that Konvict signing and those cross Atlantic relationships. B&S' Ali Raymond caught up with the charismatic Sway for a quick chat about his first major label release ‘Signed Sealed and Delivered’, playing the America game and the importance of always staying true to his roots.

AR: So you are releasing your new single, Mercedes-Benz, on your own label. Many in light of this Konvict signing, might sit back and wait for next year. Why is it important for you to keep putting music out independently?

SWAY: Right now what̢۪s important, in preparation of a world-wide album, is keeping the momentum up while I̢۪m in the studio. I̢۪ve got to be ready for it therefore I got to keep releasing stuff under my own initiative.

AR: So keeping the fans hungry in essence?

SWAY: Exactly. Keeping them satisfied and keeping myself relevant in the game. I could wait on Akon to finish his numerous projects and get me in the studio or I could get on with releasing music myself. And show the Konvict team and everyone that they should be excited.

AR: Can you explain the first meeting between you and Akon?

SWAY: It was in Ghana, West Africa. Basically I’d stolen one of his tracks -‘Soul Survivor.’ I’d free-styled over it on a Semtex mixtape. Semtex played it to him, and he loved it and he told me Akon wanted to hook up with you. But at that point so many other American artists wanted to hook up with me that I wasn’t really paying attention. I just thought it was a way for an American artist to stay cool while in Briton. If American artists can mention UK artists it sounds like they’ve got their ear to the streets.

But then when I was in Ghana, someone introduced me to Akon and he completely remembered who I was. I took a seat and started talking in the club there and then. We discussed how he̢۪s always wanted to expand and take a foreign act to another level. He asked me what I wanted. I really wanted to be the rapper that breaks the mould and spits outside of the UK, and he said he̢۪d like to help me with that. We stayed in contact and ironically we both got invited to the World Cup with Trevor Nelson for MTV. Obviously that was the main point we got to sit down and bond, and we could thrash out our points. Then a couple of years down the line, me doing my thing and him becoming so huge, we came back to this point and made it happen.

AR: You are a man of unique hustle, having proved that with you̢۪re demo and promo releases. American artists have come to the UK in the past and tried to sign musicians, most noticeably Damon Dash/Roc-A-Fella with Eurogang. Which didn̢۪t exactly work out. What makes this partnership with Akon something you believe in and can trust it will work?

SWAY: The proof is in the pudding mate. Akon never really takes an artist from scratch. He takes someone who is already on their way and uses his influence and power to step up their game. When you look at people like Lady Gaga, who already had half her album finished or T-Pain or Kardinal Official who was even signed before Akon was signed.

That̢۪s what makes me believe in him more, because he doesn̢۪t sell you a dream. He̢۪s also very practical about things. I like that, the whole Konvict team aren̢۪t just talk. They tell you if they don̢۪t like it but then again they̢۪re not always right (laughs)

AR: What̢۪s you̢۪re opinion on the current surge of UK artists breaking America, with the likes of Jay Sean, Estelle and Leona Lewis?

Sway: I̢۪m loving it! It̢۪s brilliant. As long as the artists out there acknowledge what it has taken for it to come to this. I know that a lot of the new artists are under the impression that artists before who helped built the scene are artists that never really made it, and they are the reason UK music has got to another level. It took a lot of fighting from artists like myself, Kano, Dizzee working independently to try and cross to the mainstream. Make the underground scene respected and get UK urban music to a level where it couldn̢۪t be ignored. The fruits of all of our labour are now being enjoyed.

AR: Where as before the US may have seen UK urban music as a gimmick or a poor interpretation, do you feel now then that they really are listening?

Sway: Of coarse. The girls have done phenomenally well, Lilly Allen, Estelle, Amy Winehouse. But then again the girls have been accepted from way back with Floetry. But now it̢۪s time for the Lad̢۪s to do it.

AR: This new project with Akon means you̢۪re constantly crossing the Atlantic, right?

SWAY: Yeah I have to be. I get so much love out there. It̢۪s unbelievable. The minute they get past the whole accent situation then they really feel you. It̢۪s just that initial thing of getting use to the accent. The equivalent to their understanding is if you took Grime, and you had a Russian grime rapper. That would sound off to us right? That̢۪s what the UK accent in Hip-Hop sounds likes to the stereotypical American. They are taking us seriously now though, definitely.

AR: Are you also taking the opportunity to educate the American̢۪s on British Slang?

SWAY: (Laughs) Yes and no. This is probably not me but Akon’s influence of being in the UK a lot. But when you listen to Akon’s new single ‘Right Now Now Now’ he says we need to "link up" right now now now. I can recall someone in Konvict actually asking me what that meant, if it was a Jamaican lingo or something. No one in America really says "link up", so when I heard that it highlighted our influence.

AR: When you are in the US what do you miss the most?

SWAY: Family to be honest. Not the weather. Family, friends and Eastenders (laughs).

AR: What̢۪s been the highlight of your career so far?

SWAY: There̢۪s been so many but probably, because my mum is a big fan, when Lionel Richie went out if his way to meet me and ask what I do. That was really cool. He̢۪s a great guy.

AR: If we look way back you were part of the Hip-Hop group ‘One’ for those who don’t know, where you released ‘Onederful World’. First are you still in touch with the other members like Pyrelli?

SWAY: Wow, you went way back (Laughs). No not really. When we were all in 'One' we were still kids. Real life situations catch up with you and we turned into men and naturally we didn̢۪t always see eye to eye. What brought us together was the love for the music. Once some people weren̢۪t involved in the music anymore the relationships just wavered. I̢۪ve still got love for all of them though and if they called me now and wanted to meet somewhere I̢۪d be there, no problem.

AR: Would you ever re-release you̢۪re early music from that period?

SWAY: Na. (Laughs). It̢۪s like a boxer trains for years to become a boxer, he̢۪s not gonna recreate his first fight. I̢۪m a better artist now then I was then and although I loved the music I was making then, it was my mind frame back then. So I don̢۪t see a real valid reason for re-releasing that material. If people find it they find it (laughs).

AR: So let̢۪s finish with you̢۪re exciting new single Mercedes-Benz. What̢۪s the idea behind the name?

SWAY: To be honest with you I love Mercedes cars but they̢۪re not my favourite (laughs). I was listening to a beat and for some strange reason the image of Mercedes came into my head. The whole style of the song I wanted it to be a ghetto fabulous song but classy at the same time. The concept of the song is I̢۪m the Mercedes and I̢۪m that car amongst other rappers, without being too technical (Laughs). Like the brand Mercedes, with Sway you are always gonna get that standard level of quality in whatever I do, hence the comparison.

But my actual favourite car is Audi R8, which I̢۪m still saving for (Laughs).

AR: Thanks for passing through Sway and we wish you all the luck?

My pleasure man, thanks. Peace.

Sway's track 'Mercedes-Benz' is out now.
Words ALI RAYMOND

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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