Swizz talks to Moneyish about authentic marketing, #MeToo and why artists should get paid more
Swizz Beatz is bringing Good Times to New York.
The hip-hop artist and producer is best known for his work on tracks by everyone from Kanye West to Beyoncé, but he’s forged a successful second career as a marketing guru of sorts, most recently collaborating with spirits brand Bacardi. Swizz, whose real name is Kasseem Dean, is also married to one of the most famous women in the world, the multi-Grammy winning singer Alicia Keys.
Though the duo work in the similar industry, the 39-year-old says that the two of them don’t clash. “We do two different things,” Swizz tells Moneyish of his R&B star spouse. And at home their opposite temperaments work in their favor: “It’s a partnership and we complement each other. I wait until the last minute to do everything, while my wife is six months ahead with the planning, which makes everything better. ‘Oh, it’s my dad’s birthday today? Damn.’ But she’s like ‘we already sent him a gift two weeks ago!’”
In recent years, Keys has emerged as an advocate for women to not have to wear makeup. Likewise, Swizz has been working with brands like Monster, Reebok and Bacardi, for whom he is “global chief creative for culture,” to present a more authentic front to customers. “Aside from being a creative, I’m a businessman as well and there’s a certain balance I understand,” he says of the relationship between commerce and culture. “Creativity sometimes clashes with business, but in our case, there’s a great understanding.”
Take for instance how last week, the Bronx native was part of a bar crawl throughout New York as part of Bacardi’s first ever “Back to the Bar” campaign, in which its staffers hit their local bar to encourage other patrons to try a cocktail from the 156-year-old brand. “Drinking and partying go together,” he says of the frequent tie-ups between rappers and alcohol labels. “When you celebrate, it’s usually with a drink in your hand.” He also half-jokingly adds that most people expect him to buy them drinks anyway: “The world can use more celebrating.”
The recent initiatives against sexual harassment of women began with revelations in the entertainment world, and hip hop is notorious for its misogynistic lyrics and treatment of women. That said, Swizz—who has four sons and a daughter—thinks that younger rappers are more aware than he was. And, he says, as they age they become more conscious of their responsibilities: “A lot of these artists are super young and came from nothing, like myself. A lot of people do anything to get out [of poverty] and don’t really think,” he says. “They start to understand their impact as they get older, just like I did. People are getting smarter because of access to technology and being more aware and conscious.”
Even as he works on these entrepreneurial endeavors, Swizz, who’s a trustee of the Brooklyn Museum, is also trying to change the way artists get paid. Just like musicians, he thinks that they should get a percentage of royalties if their art inflates in price. “Artists should be participating in these transactions, just like our masters are the compositions are we get paid every time,” he says. “Nobody’s going to lose money. It’s a win for everyone.”
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