SwaVay is a 22-year-old producer turned rapper who’s ready to bring his own unique sound to the rap game. Being the first artist signed to Metro Boomin’s label Boominati, the Atlanta native is not letting his foot off the gas pedal anytime soon. Read more…
It was also through Metro that he was able to link with talented singer, songwriter, and producer James Blake. After working on records “Billy” and “UNTITLED,” SwaVay calls Blake his brother/dad — someone who’s been there for him through some rough times in his life. You may also have seen SwaVay’s name pop on the Spider-Man soundtrack, on DJ Khalil’s “Elevate” alongside Trevor Rich, Denzel Curry, and YBN Cordae.
Did you start out making beats before rapping?
Beats definitely started first. I started making beats when I was in 5th or 6th grade. My mom bought me this DJ turntable, it had some MPC shit on it as well. You could loop and manipulate all this shit. Around the same time, the PSP came out and had this video game, but it was actually a beat-making software. Some crazy shit. Basically FL Studio for the PSP, so I started making beats. Eventually, my uncle let me go in his studio and hear my shit loud as fuck. I’m like “damn, this is crazy!” From there, I met him [points to Hadi]. He’s like “man, let’s just rap.” I had already been writing in my notebook, so it was fun.
So you started rapping with him?
I hated this n*gga at first, then we became friends around 6th grade. Going into 7th grade, we both were like “let’s be rap stars.” That’s exactly what he said to me. I’m like “you don’t even know, I been rapping!” I already had shit in my notebook, I was young as fuck when I started rapping.
Were you still making beats?
I was still for sure. I always stuck to making beats. At first, I was only rapping on my shit. But things change.
How would you describe your sound?
It’s funny because a lot of people are telling me it’s all over the place, but I don’t think it’s a specific type of sound. It’s longevity. My sound is music that lasts way longer than a typical song. I guess I’m a “lyricist” as well.
You’re from Atlanta, how does that play into your life and career?
It was tough. Very tough especially in the time period I grew up. You gotta think, this is trap music prime. Being a “lyricist,” that’s the hardest thing to do. At the same time, I also have an advantage because Atlanta was this source of sound. Being signed to an ATL producer Metro, being the first artist signed to him and not even having a particular trap sound, it benefits me as well. I’m able to combine these elements of what makes ATL shit pop into my shit.
How did Metro find you?
I had this video called “Quicktrip.” I spent $300 to get it promo’ed on Twitter, Instagram, all that. I had maybe 5,000 views. It wasn’t going viral but it was doing a little bit of numbers, and he fucking followed me on Twitter. I’m like “this is fake, this is not one of those real pages.” I DM’ed the page anyway like “thank you bro! You following me makes my day.” He reached back out like “oh man, I fuck with your music, etc.” At the same time, there was a fake Boomanati page. It said “who should be the first artist that we sign?” I quoted it and put “me.” Hella people were retweeting it for whatever reason. He seen that and the video, we met in the studio 2 days after he DM’ed me. We talked for an hour or two, he’s like “bro I want you to be the first artist I sign to Boomanati.” I could’ve cried, ‘cause I remember seeing the announcement of him making Boomanati.
When was that?
Whenever Metro & Big Sean made that Double or Nothing album.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
It’s very important. Artists pop up out of nowhere these days. It’s important to see LA and know what’s out there. Artists come from random places that aren’t NY, ATL, or LA, and think that their place, their city, their specific location is all that. It’s really not. Up and coming artists need to come out here and see you can do shit for real. You can really be bigger than your city. LA also gives you more bang for your buck. You can get the best shit. You can meet the best people, best press, all that.
Favorite part of the West Coast?
Roscoe’s! Definitely Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. And the clothes. Every time I come out here, I spend so much money on clothes. I have a busy day today, still trying to figure out “when can I go shopping?”
What do you order at Roscoe’s?
The Obama Special. That’s the only thing they should offer, the only thing they should ever sell.
At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
When I gave up basketball. I didn’t give it up, but I put it on the backburner. That was my shit. I’m really tryna hoop, and I gave it up. I never really felt as passionate about anything other than music. I used to just sit there and listen to music. I know even as a 22-year-old, there were moments in my life where I can remember music listening as an activity. That was a thing. You weren’t doing shit else, just listening to music. That was my life.
Who were you listening to?
At that point, I listened to a whole bunch of older shit. I was getting into Nas for the first time, The Pharcyde, Gang Starr, Tupac. I was cratedigging essentially. I fell in love with it so much, that was my thin
What was the inspiration behind your name?
It really doesn’t mean shit. Let me tell you something nobody knows, this is real exclusive. Before my name was Swavay, my name was Dre. My first rap name ever was Drizzy. Drake came out around the same time. The Drake song dropped, it was “Ransom.” I’m like “yo this n*gga is about to take off, I gotta change my name!” I didn’t have my name for a long time. One time I was in class, my homie Jakobi Green was like “bro, you just a suave ass nigga.” I said “bro how you spell that?” He said “shit, spell it how it sounds.” That’s how I got my name.
You dropped “EASTBAY FREESTYLE.” Bring us back to that studio session.
I was at my house in my den. It was me, my homie Eric, and my homie Spiff, we were just bored. I was about to shoot the “2am” video. I made the beat, Spiff put his little touch on it, I’m like “fuck! I really wanna rap on this right now” We freestyled, filmed the “2am” shit, came back, and it was done. That simple.
What were you going through?
I was excited, but I was stressed because I went through so much shit tryna get Pure Infinity out. I just wanted to just rap, to say something.
You say “n*ggas wanna be like me.” What were you referring to?
I was prolly just feeling myself. Feeling pretty.
What’s the dynamic in the studio with James Blake, who’s so talented?
Our music, we really push each other to do things we wouldn’t normally do. We try to be as creative as possible in the studio. Most of the time we’re at his house. When we are in a session, we try to push each other to be great. That’s our thing, not being good but great. Push each other to new levels. He produces the majority of our shit. I always try to get him to step out of his pocket. When it comes to me doing the raps, he pushes me to step out of my element. He’s made me better, straight up. Being completely honest, if James didn’t push me into certain rooms with my creativity, I don’t think I’d be as good today.
What was the inspiration behind “Billy”?
We was at Conway, Conway is the craziest studio ever. He had this beat, it was loud and obnoxious. I’m like “yo this is crazy.” This is when I first met Mac Miller, so I’m excited as fuck. He’s like “rap on this, just talk shit.” A lot of our music is personal, but it’s overly personal. I’m telling you so much about myself. He’s like “we don’t have no songs of you just talking shit.” I got a little introspective, trying to tie things together. I was feeling myself again. [chuckles]
You say “everyone around me need something.” Talk about the reality of the music industry.
With the quote, I was referring to a time in my life where I was the first person in my friend group or circle who made it essentially. I signed a record deal, I made money. A lot of people were depending on me to do everything. The reality of the music industry was hitting me as well, shit’s not how it seemed. Shit doesn’t just happen, things are put into place to make them happen. Things don’t pop up out the blue and now you’re a superstar. Things are always set up. I learned a lot of people you meet who you may love aren’t who you think they are. All the typical shit I was learning, but it hit me harder. It hit me different.
Talk about releasing “Quicktrip” and what it did for your career.
Best thing I ever did. Probably one of the biggest risks I ever took. I was doing a stupid ass job doing water meters. I was the reason you had water in your house. It sucked, I had to dig out in the sun. I lived in Atlanta, that Georgia heat ain’t no bitch. I had $300 in my account, my homie RJ — I don’t know how much money RJ has. For all I know, he might be a millionaire. I’m like “bro, this video’s the one.” I believe in myself enough. I went into overdraft promoting the video, then he matched my $300. I was going crazy. The plan was to get a million views, it stopped when Metro hit me 3 days later. The goal was achieved, to get on from this shit. It’s the most important thing I ever did. Some people still say that’s one of my most popular songs.
You say you want a Grammy & respect in hip-hop. What are some goals for yourself as an artist?
I want my music to last forever. The biggest thing that’d fuck me up is if I kept seeing people weren’t living with the music a year from now, 3 years from now, 10 years from now. I don’t want to make momentary music. I don’t ever want to hear I’m off on this project, it’s old, etc. I hate temporary shit. That’s my biggest goal, to always have longevity and for people to recognize that, accept it and love it.
Favorite person to follow on IG?
Elissa, ‘cause her photos are fire. And Desi Banks. He does comedy, Atlanta shit. His shit’s funny as fuck. If you ever wanna know how Atlanta is, follow Desi. He imitates every person from Atlanta.
What’s a normal day in the life?
I wake up, feed my dog ‘cause he’s barking at me to get up. Play a little 2K before I leave the house. Go to the gym, come back, then get some food. I’ll prolly go get a piece of clothing during the day. Come back to the crib, relax, change. Go to Sahaad’s house, play Madden. I know that sounds so unproductive, but that’s literally my life. I can’t be like Metro, I can’t be in the studio all day. If I’m in the studio, I’m in that bitch. But I’m not the type of person to force myself to work and do shit.
3 things you need in the studio?
Essentia water, candles, and my engineer. I’m big on smells. I kick people out. If there’s too many smells in the room, I can’t do it. You have Waffle House, I have Burger King, he has Cookout. Nope. It’s not working. I don’t let people smoke in sessions either. Never smoked in my life. Weed in my sessions makes my head hurt.
What would you be doing if you weren’t playing music?
I’d be playing basketball. If I wasn’t playing basketball or making music, I’d be making something. I like houses and shit. Do some architecture, taking photos, making clothes. I’d be creating something for sure.
What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
They all mean the same to me because the fact that people are asking to be fans of my shit, people take the time to listen to my shit, is the craziest thing to me. The craziest thing that’s happened so far was at my album release party, somebody flew from Houston to come see me. A group of guys flew from Alabama to come see me, just to come to my album release party. That shit’s crazy. That’s shit I really have to think about at night, I can’t stop.
Most played artist on your phone?
Playboi Carti, as crazy as that sounds. Him and Nas.
Anything you want to let us know?
Don’t expect no album from me no time soon. I can’t do it. If I give people an album right now, it would sound too much like Pure Infinity. The last thing I want is to make a Pure Infinity 2 or Pure Infinity .5. Buy my merch when it comes out. I want to thank everybody. Also keep streaming my music!