Earnest, genuine … not exactly the buzzwords you hear the kids throwing around when waxing admiringly on hip-hop. Swordz is both those things — you can derive that from his work, his performance style and even through interaction with him. His music offers a good range, at times as anthemic as the catchiest T.I. songs, as visceral as 2Pac’s delivery and as refreshing as the kinds of acts being released on labels like Hiero Imperium.
Folio Weekly caught up with Swordz as he was leaving the studio, and he spoke about his views on making it big, finding inspiration through pain, and his high-energy performances.
Folio Weekly: A lot of your press touches on an artist on the precipice of breaking big, but then it doesn’t happen. Do you feel this is accurate and how would you define success?
Swordz: I could see people saying that. Seems like it’s been that way for a while. I’d agree to some degree. In terms of making it “big,” I’ve been on the radar industry-wise for some time. Not too keen on how current “big” labels do their business or handle artists these days and I’ve been independent since I began, so my main thing is to continue to make noise doing what I’m doing. Later on, if it makes sense to talk to a major, I’ll do that. As far as how I define success: Earlier in my career, I would have said a million-dollar contract with all the bells and whistles and all that comes with it. Nowadays, my perspective is a little different. I’m more of an introvert these days, so success would be me being able to make a living being as creative as I’d like for as long as I’d like, without being seen as much as possible … aside from performing.
How does Duval influence your work and what are your thoughts on the state of the local hip-hop scene?
I was born and raised here. I tend to draw from my personal experiences musically and, since I’ve been here my whole life, Duval influences my work a great deal. The hip-hop scene here I feel is growing, to say the least. We’ve always had our own sounds and colors, but the artists and consumers alike are very picky. We just like what we like. But present day, we, artists and consumers, seem to be more open to accepting new things, so I feel there’s more hope now than ever.
There seems to be a bit of a lull between 2010’s Solja Psychology and now. What have you been up to?
Been up to a lot of things, actually. I dropped a few bodies of work. Newest release is a mixtape titled The TakeOver Vol 2. It’s a mixture of exclusive remixes of some popular current records as well as some original releases. You can find it on soundcloud.com/swordz and my website, swordzmusic.com. Also, I’ve stumbled into acting through a close friend and video/film director I work with by the name of Adolfo Latorre. Through his company Mars3045, we released an indie film shot here in the city, titled Twisted, which got picked up by Maverick distribution as of Oct. 13 and will be released nationwide. Also working on new musical material.
How did the genre Hood Rock come about?
When Hood Rock came about, I was in business with a company called HoodLife Records. The question came about one day that if I were ever to mash-up with a rock band, what would I call the music? Hood Rock was born on the spot.
What fueled the choice to perform live with rock bands?
Around that same time, ironically, I had a manager named Squiggy. What’s happenin’, Squiggy! Squiggy managed a lot of talented rock acts as well. He was the one who asked the question about rock mashups. He thought my performance style and the energy of rock venues were quite similar. We tested the waters and here we are.
How would you describe your sound and what are your biggest influences when writing?
I’d use the word aggressive. Things I go through and how they’ve changed me end up in songs often, which is actually very therapeutic for me, so pain and suffering would be two of my biggest inspirations.
What is your favorite nickname for Jacksonville?
Any time I reference the city, especially out of town, I always say “the crib.” Lil old-school, but to me, it feels fitting.
What can an audience at a Swordz show expect?
Smoke, yelling, middle fingers, and broken equipment.