Swizz Beatz: Outta Da Hood

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Images Reebok

In recent years, this new phenomenon appeared with the fashion industry taking the lead: the collaboration. It doesn’t serve just as a marketing move but a truly diplomatic creative product born by 2 different parties. Multi faceted musician Swizz Beatz, the “Renaissance Man” of our time perhaps, is no stranger to collaborations, having worked with brands like Christian Loubotin to Lotus Engineering. In 2010 it was announced that Swizz Beatz would play the global role of Creative Director for Reebok’s Reethym Of Lite campaign and redesign the classic Reebok Kamikaze. While Beatz’ Reethym of Lite party was held in Manhattan, he also took the time to attend Verbal’s Reebok party in Tokyo where it was also Beatz’ birthday. JUICE sat down to talk about fashion, his love for the arts and the ‘hood.

Happy birthday! We had so much fun at your birthday after party last night. How is it like turning a year older? Do you feel any wiser?
I do! I used to feel funny about getting older but I noticed the older I’ve been getting, the more I’ve been thinking – you know, the better I’ve been thinking, actually. They say as you get older you get wiser, I feel it so I have no problems with my birthdays anymore.

How did Reebok approach you?
It came through a mutual friend and they were looking to doing something new. I guess, for me coming from Christian Louboutin at that time, they must’ve thought it was a perfect match.

It looks like Jean-Michel Basquiat is your favourite artist. Was Reebok’s Basquiat line one of the deciding factors in why you chose to work with Reebok?
Yes, it is. The contract with Basquiat was up and I was like “wait a minute…” We needed Basquiat in the mix because it was the perfect opportunity for me to educate people on art and to make some cool apparel as well. I thought that was a very important part and that I will also be able to play a part for the artist I have a lot of love for [points at his Basquiat tattoo] and re-introduce Basquiat the right way, give him the proper respect to the culture and then find other amazing artists after that. It’s just another way of showing people that Reebok is involved in the culture from the arts and music standpoint. You have to have all these different things to connect with people now, I believe.

Could you tell us about the creative process in your involvement with Reebok? Do you oversee everything from start to execution?
The cool part is that I get to approve mostly everything. My creative process is that everything has to be perfect, everything has to be everlasting, everything has to have a story, everything has to speak to everybody and I try to keep a grip as much as possible. It’s hard sometimes, but most of the time I have the grip and that’s a cool thing.

With your vast knowledge in fashion and the arts, how has that helped you with Reebok?
It just gave me a great eye to understand what’s cool or not, what should or shouldn’t be done, it helped me make my decisions.

Was there any pressure reworking a classic like the Reebok Kamikaze?
There was definitely no pressure with the Kamikaze because (right) off the bat of my mind I knew exactly how the outcome would be. I thought that it was great because it set the tone for our announcement. I wanted people to see something different from Reebok and from me knowing that we collaborated together. I also wanted people to know that the Kamikaze is a Reebok sneaker and not a “Swizz Beatz sneaker”. I’m behind everything that comes out which makes my job even harder because if there’s something that’s coming up that people won’t like it’s going to be my fault. It’s an interesting position to be in but it’s fun.

Could you explain about your future art program with Reebok. Are you allowed to say much yet?
What we are trying to do is bring art to the community so that kids – not just the kids but everybody can have an outlet for expression. We’re in the middle of building a Basquiat campaign that’s going to be the start of it and we’re still working on it. It’s going to be pretty cool.

What inspires you both artistically and musically?
People. People at the Reethym of Lite party yesterday inspired me. Traveling and seeing different cultures, my family. I’m inspired by a lot of things, inspired by my surroundings – period!

What is your personal style?

You’ve recently attended New York Fashion Week a few days ago. Who are your favourites at the moment?
I have so many favourite designers, Tom Ford being my favourite. I just love the way his suits fit me. Margiela – so many. Just too many.

Okay, if you had to narrow it down to 3, would that be easier?
I definitely love Dior, Margiela and Tom Ford, for sure. Alexander Wang is amazing too. He makes these crazy sweatsuits that I like. He’s amazing. Actually that was one of the shows that I went to a few days ago.

Who are you listening to right now?
I listen to everybody so that’s the hardest question in the world but I’m listening to Watch The Throne now!

You’re a Producer/Rapper/Artist/Creative Director/Curator/Designer for Aston Martin. Is there anything that you haven’t already done, that you want to pursue in the future?
I just became the Vice President of Lotus Design as well to come up with ground breaking stuff. All I want to do is make history, push the ball and take things to the next level with whatever I get involved in and at the end of the day have this major empire that I can pass down to my kids.

What is the greatest thing you have accomplished?
Moving out of the ‘hood. That’s the greatest accomplishment especially seeing how many people that I grew up with that didn’t. I represent the 1% that had the opportunity to do what I loved doing and get out of that unfortunate situation.

How was it like growing up in the ‘hood? We come from such vastly different backgrounds and we can’t even begin to imagine how it’s like.
Growing up in the ‘hood was a learning experience. I don’t regret it, I feel that I learnt a lot of things from having access to real reality. A lot of people don’t have access to that reality and it can mess them up. They’re not prepared for the rest of the world like me. I could sit me at every part of the world and I’ll be comfortable because I’m already used to what might or can happen, or how a person can act. I know how to handle myself, which is priceless. You know, the ‘hood has a lot of culture, it isn’t always bad things. It’s just the unfortunate situation. It’s not like they don’t have creativity, some of the most brilliant people came from the hood – like myself! Like 98% of all the artists that you’ve heard of are all from the ‘hood like Biggie and Tupac. Everybody was from the hood, so shout out to the hood!

Lastly, if you had to pick just one person that has inspired you the most, who would it be?
It would be me! You inspire yourself.