The Graduate

DJ Swizz Beatz doesn’t like the number one. For starters, it’s an ego thing. But also because, “I don’t think I’m number one. I think I’m the one.” And in a year that promises to be his greatest yet, we couldn’t be more intrigued.

Born in 1978 as Kasseem Dean into the rough and tumble South Bronx borough of New York City, Swizz Beatz has always been around music. As an adolescent, rather than hitting the asphalt of the neighborhood basketball courts, Swizz spent time watching local DJs and rappers spinning tunes on the streets. “I remember going to the back park, and all of these famous DJs were there doing their thing, and I was inspired by that,” explains Swizz. So inspired that he grew up to become a DJ, as well as a record producer, rapper, artist, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and the United Nations’ Music Ambassador for World Peace.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing, however, for this young protégé. “I used to get into a lot of trouble. I always had music. But, you know, growing up in the Bronx, you were always faced with decisions you had to make.” And for Swizz that meant deciding whether or not to protect himself. He started slipping down the wrong road and found himself in trouble at school. Faced with possible incarceration, Swizz had another decision to make. He credits his then-stepfather for saving his life when his job transfer relocated the family to Atlanta. Leaving behind a legacy—he became the No. 1 DJ in the Bronx, No. 1 in mix tapes, and the No. 1 DJ at his school—Swizz held on to his dreams for success in the music industry. And with a little help from his family, Swizz was able to immerse himself in music at an early age. His uncles, Dee and Waah Deen, began the Ruff Ryder’s record label, and, at just 16 years old, Swizz produced DMX’s chart-breaking hit “Stop, Drop.”

But this story is not about his past shortcomings or unfortunate roadblocks; this is the story of his commencement. “2010, I consider it my graduation year. Because from 2009 and back you were dealing with somebody growing into a man.” And what a man he has become. With more than 250 million records sold, his own Full Surface record label, and collaborations with countless music greats including Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z, Gwen Stefani, Chris Brown, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, and Eminem, Swizz is a force in the music and entertainment industries. The release of his first solo album Presents G.H.E.T.T.O Stories put him on the map, while collaborations on “On to the Next One” with Jay-Z, “Million Dollar Bill” with Whitney Houston, “Nasty Girl” with Ludacris, and “I Can Transform Ya” with Chris Brown made him a household name. These notable relationships formed with such illustrious talents that reinforce Swizz’s dedication to the craft of music—whether it is hip-hop, rock ‘n’ roll, or R&B. His success is tempered by his humble approach to life. “I didn’t let my problems take over my dreams and my wishes. I just used them accelerate to a whole new level,” says Swizz, who is clear to point out that he has never used his unfortunate upbringing as a launching pad for his career.