Swizz Beatz: The Legend Returns To Haute Living 10 Years After His First Interview To Discuss Who He Is And Where He’s Going

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Swizz BeatzPhoto Credit: Alex Teuscher

If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting or knowing Swizz Beatz, it’s immediately apparent that he’s an enlightened spirit, destined for greatness. He started his career in hip-hop, where he has and continues to tell some of the most impactful stories through music. Though he humbly and gratefully recognizes the milestone of reaching one of, if not the highest milestones in any musician’s career—a Grammy win—this achievement some years ago ended up being a pivotal moment in his career for a more unexpected reason. It marked the beginning of his quasi-hiatus from the industry. As a result, he has become so much more than just a recording artist and producer. He has become the true embodiment of a serial entrepreneur by diversifying his portfolio and successfully tapping into several different spaces that shape our culture. He has most recently foraged partnerships with some of the biggest luxury brands in the world, including Bally for fashion and Zenith Watches for timepieces—both with Swiss roots dating back to the mid-1800s. He also co-founded The Dean Collection—“a contemporary, family art collection focused on the support of living artists” with his Grammy Award-winning wife, Alicia Keys. Through this platform, his artist-focused initiative No Commission was born, returning for the third time to Art Basel Miami Beach this year. But it wasn’t without the highest levels of discipline, sacrifice, hard work, vision and of course, some hard-learned lessons that allowed him to get to this point, and that continue to push him to new heights that pre-Swizz, did not even exist.

Swizz BeatzPhoto Credit: Alex Teuscher

One of those lessons he learned was discerning how to separate his business and personal lives, and figuring out when to say “yes” versus “no.” “Learning more and more about the business world and further educating myself is what actually showed me how to navigate certain relationships and to be cool with saying ‘no’ instead of just saying ‘yes’ because it’s the easy way to get something moving along or get something out of the way,” he notes. Some situations were less tough than others, including when he was approached with the opportunity to partner with Zenith Watches, which was, needless to say, an “easy yes.” That partnership has ended up becoming one of the brand’s most successful to date. “What first and foremost drew me to Zenith was the longevity of the brand and its 100 years of excellence, but it was also Mr. [Jean-Claude] Biver [former president of the LVMH Watch Division] and his over 40 years of experience that attracted me,” he begins. “For him to tell me that Zenith was going to be his last hurrah and invite me to be a part of that made me really excited. I just knew we couldn’t fail because Mr. Biver and Zenith shared heritage, experience, excellence and mastery, which are all qualities that I aspire toward, as well.”

Swizz was right. He and Zenith launched their DEFY Collection last year, which sold out in less than 48 hours. Impressive and unprecedented. “To go to [Baselworld] Switzerland with all of the big dogs and the amazing craftsmen, artisans, watchmakers, collectors…and for my watch to have been sold out in less than two days as a newcomer and disruptor in the industry was amazing,” recalls Swizz. “Julien [Tornare], the CEO, is really thinking outside of the box. When you see our new watch that’s coming out, it actually comes with a record player that you can play records on. We’re literally thinking outside of the box!”

Swizz BeatzPhoto Credit: Alex Teuscher

That new watch—his second launch with Zenith—is debuting at Art Basel Miami Beach this year, with an entry-level price point of just under $8,000—a far cry from the six-figure price point of his first Zenith project. “It’s important to have an entry-point product with quality, which is why our next DEFY Zenith watch is going to be the first e-commerce product for the brand but with one of the most impressive movements in the world. So, you can have something bada** on your wrist without spending $80,000.”

Additionally, Swizz will be returning to Art Basel Miami Beach with his No Commission event, together with Bacardi. “No Commission has been such a jewel to the artists, as an extension of The Dean Collection,” he explains. “It’s such a gift to allow the artists to keep 100 percent of their sales and not have them pay for anything at all. My intention was to free the artist, because when you free the artist, you free the world.” This year, No Commission will exclusively feature photography in an event at the Faena Forum called “Take the Shot,” where even guests are exempt from paying an entry fee and where they may enjoy a free concert, along with food and beverages. Artists taking part this year include Kehinde Wiley, Derrick Adams, Todd James, KAWS, Ebony Patterson and Cleon Peterson, who also designed the cover art for Swizz’s latest album called POISON, which released just a few weeks ago.

Swizz BeatzPhoto Credit: Alex Teuscher

POISON is celebrating my return back into the industry after my hiatus,” he notes. Working with some of the most talented and world-renowned music figures, such as Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar, Jadakiss, Styles P, 2 Chainz, Young Thug, Jim Jones, French Montana and Nas, the 10-track body of work truly represents the renaissance of the musical Swizz Beatz, showcasing his evolved creative process in all areas of art, whether that be in music, visual arts, design or fashion. “My creative process is very simple,” he states. “I internalize what I want to create, I process what I want to create and then I deliver what I feel. But I’m always trying to compete with my younger self, create history and think 10 steps ahead, to make the world stop and pay attention. Like with the Wayne record [called “Uproar”]—that was created with purpose, but it was also free, without boundaries. It kind of just happened. My creative process is just letting it flow.”

However, in the years he spent away from being full-time studio resident, Swizz realized one of his greatest accomplishments to date, which may remain unmatched for a lifetime: Kasseem Dean—as he is more formally known—graduated Harvard Business School last year, proving that education and accomplishment really show no bounds. The Bronx native actually never went to college in his youth, as he began his music career shortly after graduating from high school. This triumph, however, reflects much more than what it simply seems to mean at first glance. The reality is that Swizz Beatz never had anyone to show him the way to greatness, which forced him to become his own role model and to blaze a trail both for himself and for those who will come after him. “Basically I just want to show the youth that if I started in the South Bronx at a time when it was really South Bronx and then ended up graduating from Harvard, that they can now pull from my notes and read the Harvard Case Study on me to get pointers they can use in real life. I want them to know that they don’t have to be afraid to be different and to go further than what their surroundings offer,” he says, with passion. “Now that I did it, they can do it better.”

Swizz BeatzPhoto Credit: Alex Teuscher

As we wrap up our chat, I ask him about his legacy and what he hopes to leave behind to the generations that come after him. He pauses, chuckles and then says, “I just wanted to create a blueprint that wasn’t really a blueprint, because a blueprint is actually something with rules. I wanted to create a non-blueprint manuscript of doing whatever the f*** you love and whatever you feel that inspires you to inspire others and just take the risk.” When asked to elaborate, he continues, “Imagine driving in a car and just focusing on getting from point A to point B. But you don’t realize that in the middle of that, there’s a whole world. So now imagine that you slow that car down and you actually look at all those destinations in between. If you don’t do that, you’re just passing all of these different things that are in front of you every single day, and you’re speeding so fast that you just missed all that s***! But if you just slow the car down and really look at your surroundings, you can see the different destinations, and you can change where you stop along the way, instead of taking the predictable route that you were taught to follow when you were a kid learning to ride a bike for the first time. Once you do that, you realize that you, in fact, now know how to fly.” 

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