Swizz Beatz will forever go down in history as one of the most legendary producers to ever do it. Hailing from the Bronx, New York, the 44-year-old knows a thing or two about hit records, with Kanye West even calling him “the best rap producer of all time.”
So who better to call to executive producer the soundtrack to Godfather of Harlem? After an exciting two seasons, the third season returns to MGM+ and HULU, taking audiences inside the true reality of the events that took place in Harlem, New York. The series stars Forest Whitaker as Bumpy Johnson, as he navigates the crossroads between the criminal underworld and the civil rights movement.
Sheen had the pleasure of chatting with Swizz Beatz to discuss the new season and his favorite song off the soundtrack.
How are you?
I’m good. A little bit of a late night, but I’m good.
Man, I was going to ask how the Grammys were!
It was great. Hip Hop celebrated their 50th anniversary. The Hip Hop 50th tribute, it was crazy.
All the legends performed, do you have a standout moment?
Selfishly, yeah. [laughs] When The Lox came out and I was waving the Ruff Ryders flag in the air.
Godfather of Harlem Season 3, what are you most excited about?
I’m excited. The transition that we’ve been making with the story and even dealing with Malcolm X switching out the actor, how the new Malcolm is doing so amazing. How even the story plot twist is getting more interesting and it’s changing. You’re starting to understand the characters and the roles that they play inside the episodes as well.
What’s your relationship with Forest Whitaker?
Forest is my brother, he’s the reason why I’m doing the show. I’m a big fan of his, as an actor.As a person, as a lover for arts and music. Forest is the man. Although he’s really starting to really turn into Bumpy Johnson. When I see him, I’m not thinking about Forest. I’m thinking about Bumpy Johnson when I see him now.
How were you able to gauge the characters in choosing the music?
Well, the cool part about my choosing the music is I have the freedom to explore. It doesn’t have to be known artists or hit songs. I can gauge each scene from what the feeling is. When I’m making music, when you see Forest, it’s like I’m the voice in his head. The music is representing what he’s possibly thinking about or his emotions. Turning the music into the characters has been an amazing thing to do for his show.
How was doing the soundtrack for this season, different from the first two?
Now we’re getting more into the Latin side of things, with Jose Battle. Forest is expanding his operation because he’s in a little bit of trouble with the Italians as always. Now we’re bringing the Latin flavor in, so we had to change the sound and the theme. This is what’s amazing about all of the seasons because Forest is interacting with so many different cultures and sides, that I have to follow that with the music as well.
Do you have a favorite song on the soundtrack?
Right now, it’s “Hustle, Repeat” by Jadakiss, which is the theme song for Season 3. Forest has to do it all over again. He has to get money, hustle, and repeat because he lost everything. In Season 2 at the end, the warehouse burned down with all of his drugs. [laughs]
How easy or difficult is it to call in the features of each soundtrack?
In the beginning, people didn’t really know what Godfather of Harlem would turn into. Although it wasn’t hard to call artists for the show. Now, artists are calling me for the show, to be on it. This is great because we might not use everyone at the table, which is a great thing.
Do you have a favorite episode?
Now that’s a hard one. For me, I love the intro of the seasons, because it continues where it left off. We’re getting people back into the action, before getting into the deep storytelling. So far for Season 3, I like the way Forest is interacting with Jose Battle. He’s able to maneuver on any terrain, to not give up, and settle for less. Just roll over and do what they say, and he’s just refusing to do it. Everybody thinks he’s crazy, but I don’t think that. He’s already in too deep.
Anything else we can look forward to from you?
All things. All things music, got a documentary coming out about VERZUZ. Which is shot by Lena Waithe and Amazon, it’s gonna be pretty cool. Lots and lots of music. Lots of new music coming out. Lots of new art projects. Same thing, different energy.