When you’ve been a staple in the music game for 20 years, the last thing you probably want to do mid-lunch at Ace Hotel is be interrupted by a guy with a dictaphone. And yet, when it comes around to talking about art, Swizz Beatz lights up, debating and discussing as if we’re old friends.
Sitting at the top of his game as a producer - from dominating East Coast rap with his Ruff Ryders crew through the early 2000s to working with the world’s biggest artists from Jay Z and Kanye West to his own wife Alicia Keys - Swizz has found it refreshing over the past few years to find himself back on ground level in his work as a painter, curator and creative consultant.
“I love it because you can only go to the ceiling from there. I love starting at a level where growth can happen,” he enthuses. “You should always sharpen your pencil. You should always be open to get more knowledgable in something that you’re doing. I started in music, but then I moved into business. I was like ‘Shit, they’re still looking at me like I’m onstage with DMX, even though I’m bringing these deals to the table.’ I didn’t feel comfortable with it but I understood that I needed to go to the next level in my education to learn the language. Now we can talk about anything!”
He’s currently in the capital to prepare for the London edition of the No Commission art fair - a collaboration between Bacardi and Swizz's The Dean Collection - which began at Miami’s Art Basel last year and followed up this Summer in his home borough of the Bronx. “At Basel, people are there for art, the whole world is there,” he admits. “But people had to come to the Bronx. The mix was crazy, you had people from everywhere there. People that were established, unestablished, billionaires, zeronaires, thousandaires, whatever. They was all in this space.”