Derek Andrew Safo has certainly come a long way and it’s been one hell of a journey. From selling his mix-tapes on the streets of Hornsey to releasing his debut album ‘This is my Demo’ on his own label Dcypha Productions, to beating 50 Cent at last years Mobos. Little Derek is doing more than ok-he’s doing pretty damn good.
Witty lyrics, reflective observations and sharp word play have made Sway a highly sought after man. Major record labels are anxious to sign him but Sway has refused to enter the game on their terms. Instead he held firm and sold his mix tapes on the internet, after gigs and basically anywhere his van could take them. Eventually he released the eagerly anticipated ‘This is my Demo’ to critical acclaim and a Mercury nomination. Despite being beaten to the accolade by Sheffield rockers: The Artic Monkeys, Sways’ star continues to shine bright.
2006 continues to be a jam packed year for the 23 year old mc, his schedule is crammed with tour dates and his appeal appears to be making the transatlantic crossover. He has recently recorded a track with another man of the moment, Lupe Fiasco and has plans to work with Chamillionaire, Akon and Pharrell. So what’s next for the determined mc? We caught up with Sway to talk about awards, collabos and the reason why he is lending his support to the HUGO URBAN RULES project.
So, how are you feeling after the Mercury Awards?
Sway: I’m alright about it. I think the nomination was massive do you know what I mean and if it was gonna go to any other person it should have been the Artic Monkeys and Hot Chip. The most sensible option to go for would have been The Artic Monkeys; the most dangerous would have been out of me and Hot Chip.
Sway: Because Hot Chip are dance and dance acts don’t really ever get it and obviously with the climate of the urban scene right now if I didn’t meet expectations it could make the Mercury look bad, do you know what I mean. I’m a big fan of the Artic Monkeys getting (the award) it anyway. I was gonna fight them though (laughs).
So why did you get involved with HUGO URBAN RULES and their search for fresh talent?
Sway: It’s an opportunity for the kids and aspiring artists. I am willing to endorse anything that will make their paths a lot easier than mine. I mean cause not everyone has to go through the grime I went through. There is not a network of people helping each other in the UK, like there is in America, do you know what I mean. You can trace an artist like Tweet back to Missy, back to Timberland, back to Devante from Jodeci- you can’t do that over here.
So what advice would you give to a young aspiring MC if they approached you?
Sway: Firstly, I would tell them to show me the skill! I would give them constructive criticism and ask them if they really wonna hear my opinion because he could be the next big thing to blow but might be not ready yet and I would tell you that you’re not ready yet. I have stopped giving my opinion to artists in the industry cause some people think that I’m hating on them Sometimes when you say look bruv don’t put that tune out – that means your hating. But if someone asks for my opinion I will give it because they could be the people helping me in the future. I am not a machine to make people big out here but if I have the resources, I will help as much as I can.
What are your feelings on the UK urban music industry?
Sway: The industry is alright, its growing. People are separating you know, the real from the fake, the talented from the non talented. Especially with Channel U, Channel U has been a wonderful outlet for me. It has helped me so much because I came with a quality product- when I came out I came with something different. A lot of people find it annoying and they think everyone is rubbish but its not that, I see a lot of talented people on Channel U.
So can you clear up what Flo Fashion was actually about, I think a lot of people misunderstood the song.
Sway: When I first dropped the song everyone thought it was about fraud. They do fraud man, they do fraud- do you know what I mean! A lot of people around me were like Sway you’re baiting us up! But I said listen it’s not about fraud it’s about credit cards and getting a credit card and not spending your own money and being an idiot. People can have credit cards – I haven’t got anything against credit cards, just everything in moderation you know what I mean. Buy what you know you can pay for and don’t end up in some crazy debt. That’s what happened to the character in the song.
Wise words. So how did your collabo with Lupe Fiasco come about?
Sway: I met Lupe in Texas, we had heard of each other. I was doing a conference called South by South West. He had my album and I didn’t even know that he knew of me. I met up with him and we both jammed, he was rapping my lyrics to me in his American accent! And I was like rare, this is for real! They were like ‘yo Sway this is all we listen to on the road’, then he gave me all of his mix tapes – all back dated. This guy’s an incredible MC and it makes sense why Jay Z is endorsing him so much. When he (Lupe Fiasco) got to London he was like Sway lets do a track for my album. Unfortunately we couldn’t clear the sample for that album. So he recently phoned me and said ‘look I need this track to come out Sway, I want people to hear it and I’m gonna leak it on the internet; I’m gonna give it to a magazine website or something’. We will definitely do tracks together in the future, maybe for my album or maybe for his second album.
Have you got any other collabos in the pipeline?
Sway: I’ve just done two tracks with Chammillionaire. I’ve done a Ridin Dirty remix and ive he’s done a Up Your Speed remix. Chammillionaire is my boy! He is in front of everyone for me right now. He has shown me so much love and looked after me. I showed him to tuck in his chain and all that. He came here with his chain dangling and we were like woah blood put it in! He was like here? In London? He didn’t understand we had to tell him the stories. He is just a cool, humble guy. Pharrell is another one. Pharrell reached out to me. He was like you’re that kid with the bandana right (laughs) I was like yeah –you’re that kid with the bandana! Don’t get it twisted a lot of these artists have their ear on the street, they know about UK talent. Pharrell knew about my hustles. I’ve got a future collaboration with Pharrell and Akon. I hooked up with Akon in Ghana, Akon was cool, we are definitely gonna do something.
So what’s next for Sway?
Sway: I’ve got a DVD coming out and the One Big Piss Take mix tape, as well as the second album.
Finally, any thoughts on signing with a Label?
Sway: Watch this space. We are talking to Labels but watch this space!
By: Michelle Adabra