Mar 30, 2021
The year is 1982 – a heavily pregnant young woman arrives at London, Heathrow from Amsterdam. Her ultimate destination is her place of origin; Ghana. She’s to rest in London for a few days before proceeding with her journey, taking a cab to North London to visit an old friend.
Not long before she decides to recommence her journey, her waters break and she is rushed to hospital. Moments later she gives birth to a wide-eyed healthy baby boy, and a few days afterwards mother and child make it to Ghana, but they soon return to England to escape the struggles and hardships of life in parts of Africa at that time.
Fast-forward to 2006 and that baby boy is now a young man known to the public as Sway. The 23 year old grew up and spent most of his early days in the streets of Hornsey, North London.
It was at the age of 11 that he first truly discovered his passion for words and music. In his own unique manner, he started to mimic some of his favourite artists, changing their lyrics and doing his own versions of their songs. In secondary school he would spend much of his spare time utilising the equipment in the music department, trying to hone his talents as a producer. “I didn’t want be a rapper because I didn’t wanna be famous”, says Sway. “My forte was production but people kept demanding to hear me rap. I started thinking that these people were trying to tell me my beats were rubbish…I liked my beats!”
He began producing tracks for local talent and although this gave him some respect as a beat maker, people still insisted that he should combine his humorous and quirky personality with his song writing ability and pursue a career as an artist. After months of practice he managed to gain more confidence in his ability to perform, and began entering open mic competitions.
He managed to get to the grand final of an open mic session at London’s Dingwalls despite at 16 years old being too young to even be in the club! He came second to Chester P of Task Force and the bug had set in. Then, weeks later, as the youngest of a Tottenham based rap trio, ‘Phynix Crew’, he reached the finals of Choice FM’s ‘Rapology ’99’. What happened? “We lost innit. But it was at this point my career was really born”.
Soon afterwards, Phynix Crew joined up with two other collectives to form the group ‘One’. By now, Sway was tired of battling. He wanted to start making songs and between working at a part-time retail job, studying at college and composing ring tones for a company, he began putting together his own studio in his bedroom.
When One finally recorded enough tracks and raised enough money to independently release their debut 10-track CD ‘Onederful World’ Sway was responsible for 50% of the production.
Through their street hustle the group managed to sell a decent number of units without external help or distribution. After a copy of the CD reached a member of the ‘MOBO Unsung’ committee, the group reached the final five of the competition and although they didn’t win, they began gaining airplay from Radio 1’s DJ Tim Westwood & 1Xtra’s DJ Semtex.
Then in 2003 Sway decided it was time to make himself a priority. He shortened his name and began jumping on mixtapes all over London. His name and face were already well-known on the underground British rap circuit and so now he wanted to branch out and explore more musical avenues: “UKG was big at this time but I just couldn’t do it because I never felt the vibe of the scene suited me, British hip-hop was just so dry and grey, Hip Life [West African Hip-Hop] was a no-no ‘cause I couldn’t rap in Twi [a Ghanaian dialect and his mother tongue], Drum & Bass just hurts my head sometimes and I can’t sing good so RnB was out the question! I never felt at home anywhere”.
Despite this in the previous year Sway was invited by his cousin, Drum & Bass DJ Ink (Metalheadz/ Renegade Hardware) to feature on some D&B tracks and became a core affiliate of the collective now known as ‘Fifth Element’.
2004 saw Sway writing and recording at a frantic pace, devising a Masterplan for success, and setting up his own a totally self-run production company and label Dcypha which would be the independent outlet for Sway’s first trilogy of releases ‘This Is My Promo, Volume 1’, ‘This Is My Promo, Volume 2’, and ‘This Is My Demo’. Sway’s aim with this hat-trick of releases Was to express and establish himself as an artist before signing to a label.
The two This Is My Promo volumes exhibit Sway’s all round natural abilities in a traditional hip-hop mixtape setting and are album length collections of rough tracks, radio appearances, skits and bootlegs all combining to make an electrifying demonstration of Sway’s raw talent and undeniable abilities. The mixtapes were originally intended as small scale precursors to the More fully-formed This Is My Demo album, but their success grew bigger than ever imagined propelling Sway into pole position as the UK’s biggest selling mixtape artist and resulting in waves of positive attention.
As well as masterminding, planning and running his career, Sway also found time to tour with Dizzee Rascal and to bring his inimitable style to a raft of releases as a guest artist: Sway’s cheeky chappie chat up lines shone through on Terri Walker’s ‘Whoopsie Daisy’; he rode roughshod on a verse in Taz’s ‘Cowboy Film’ remix; and cash-backed in style with the Mitchell Brothers and Mike Skinner on ‘Harvey Nicks’.
Sway gained a reputation as a future Star and one of black British music’s hottest artist. All eyes on Sway. Awards quickly followed; Sway walked away with ‘Best Newcomer’ at the Urban Music Awards, ‘Best of British’ from the Channel U Awards, and ‘Best Hip-Hop Artist’ at the MOBOs despite still being unsigned, not having released An album, and being up against rap heavyweights 50 Cent and The Game.
Having taken the music scene by storm throughout 2005, by the close of the year Sway’s This Is My Demo was one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of 2006. A culmination of all his work and ideas to date the album is a triumphant and truly British cross-pollination of influences. Encapsulating a plethora of ideas, originality and creativity, the record draws on a broad range of musical styles including hip-hop, grime, soul and pop to create a sound that matches the freshness and originality of Sway’s lyrics.
Sway produced half of the 14 tracks himself, proving his natural abilities behind the mixing board as well as in the vocal booth. His witty flow and distinctive rhymes cover subjects as diverse as credit card debt [Flo Fashion], downloading music [Download], a child’s imagination [Sick World], city living [Products]. On one track Sway even goes as far as adopting the persona of a husband within a violent and abusive relationship [Pretty Ugly Husband].
The album dropped in February to widespread and massive critical acclaim and is becoming increasingly viewed as a landmark moment for British “urban” And hip-hop music. Since the album’s release Sway has been headlining his own UK tour – the dates have taken him up to Newcastle, down to Penzance, And many other cities, towns and venues in-between.
The quest for world domination continues with Sway now set to be main support for The Streets On his April / May UK tour, a further single release lined up for late May, and Sway back in the studio working on fresh material… This is the end of The beginning…
LOST INTERVIEWS BECKY HILL S.2 E.6 'FOREVER YOUNG'
Laura Alexandra in conversation with BECKY HILL.
Hill talks about working in the studio with 'LITTLE MIX' and more.
LISTEN to 'Forever Young' in ALIEN BOOTH at the end of this amazing interview.