The Search for TJ Swan
Friday April 29th 2005,
Filed under: Features,In Search Of...
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Rap Ballads. The curse of many otherwise spotless ’80’s hip-hop albums, in much the way that Hip House was in 1989 and the token “Southern” records are on many of today’s releases. If you think back to Big Daddy Kane‘s first album for example, you’ll find that every track is certified dope except for “To Be Your Man”, and that was one of the better rap ballads! LL must also shoulder a large part of the responsibility, as he downgraded from decent love songs like “I Want You” to the vomit-inducing fairy-floss that is “I Need Love”. Many otherwise respectable groups followed suit, although I’m sure that hit-seeking A&R’s are also somewhat to blame for sappy pap such as Stetsasonic‘s “Float On”, Black, Rock & Ron‘s “True Feelings”, Mantronix‘s “Love Letter (Dear Tracy)” etc.

Amidst this sea of musical fluff, TJ Swan often provided the one redeeming feature in these otherwise fast-forwardable songs. Thanks to his vocal stylings, tracks such as MC Shan‘s “Left Me Lonely” can still be listened to today with minimal cringing. It was Swan’s work with Biz Markie that really shines, as his contributions to “Make The Music with You Mouth Biz”, “Albee Square Mall” and “Nobody Beats The Biz” are essential ingredient in these classic tracks. How many rap songs can you say that about? Usually, the sung chorus detracts from the quality of the track, but Marley knew that from years of studying The Force MC‘s, Cold Crush and many other old school harmonizers, that singing could still be hardcore. This lesson seems to have been largely forgotten (with the possible exception of Nate Dogg).

But what do we really know about TJ Swan? According to Biz’s “Vapors”, he originally worked for UPS and “used to try to talk to this girl named Fran”. He also rocked gold and “fly Bally boots, rough leather fashions and tough silk suits”. I remember Marley Marl used to talk about the album he was making with TJ Swan in a bunch of interviews, but sadly it never saw the light of day. DJ Ivory of the P Brothers confirmed that the album was finished, but hasn’t heard it. Why do I care you might ask? Although I pretty sure that 75% of the album would have consisted of Keith Sweat style ballads, there’s also a good chance that there were a couple of vintage “project sound” Marley gems on there, possibly featuring a never-before heard Big Daddy Kane guest appearance or something. When I spoke to Mike Heron a few months back, the topic of Marley came up, prompting the following exchange:

Robbie: Did you ever hear the TJ Swan album?

Mike: Who?

R: You know TJ Swan? He used to be on Biz’s records.

M: Nah.

R: He sang “Albee Square Mall”, “Nobody Beats The Biz”…

M: Oohhh, TJ Swan. You pulled out…[laughs]

R: What happened to his album? In every interview Marley was like “Yep, TJ Swan is gonna be big.” This and that, and it never came out!

M: [still laughing, talking to himself in disbelief] TJ Swan? What the fuck is that nigga talking about? [more laughter] Swear to god, you said that…I should’ve got TJ Swan on Screwball‘s album.

R: He was the best singer in rap. Forgot all that-

M: Yeah, he was the first Nate Dog!

Although that didn’t get me anywhere, at least it provided Mike with a few cheap laughs. If anyone knows the current status of TJ Swan, please let me know what’s going on. With the amount of horrible, poorly sung hooks invading the rap airwaves, 2005 would make a perfect time for Swan to make a return to the game and show these toys how it’s done!

Biz Markie & TJ Swan – Make the Music with Your Mouth, Biz (vocal) (Prism, 1987)

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23 Comments so far
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He killed it on his hooks on the Kid Capri album too, especially “this is what you came here for”.

I’d also love to hear a macked-out T.J Swan from ’88 produced by Marley and Biz.

Worst ever love jam on a golden-era has to be “something i can’t explain” by Nice & Smooth from their first album.

Comment by Brian Beck From Wisconsin 05.02.05 @

That Kid Capri track is a winner. There were some prety good songs on that album come to think of it.

Comment by Robbie 05.03.05 @

am i wrong in remembering a tj swan track called mellow love or something like that??
i swear i heard a swan solo track on westwood a few times.
it had the biz snippet repeated a few times at the start”tj swan rock the tj tj swan rock the house…so break it down”

or ami thinking of another track??

Comment by beatlover 05.07.05 @

I’ve never heard that song. It might have been a test-pressing or some shit that never came out.

Was it any good?

Comment by Robbie 05.08.05 @

“The Other Level”- now that’s a love jam for the ages.

Comment by Ian 05.08.05 @

it was ok.would sound outdated now though.sure marley was playing it at the time of the la gear capital rap show rap exchange.he was also playing the good version of no bullshit with the i`m your puppet sample.thats a track i wish i could get,along with the original versions of tragedys at large,black rage and the original version of mc champion with another mc on it.

Comment by beatlover 05.09.05 @

hey u are write tjswan did have a joint named mellow love with the biz sample the beat was from bizmarkie single the(doodoo)u can here it on biz beats lp it was hot a joint.

Comment by jonny snipes 05.18.05 @

TJ Swan didn’t so much sing as he did whine. He was the first rap whiner.

Comment by Nixon 07.03.05 @

tj swan is my father…i mean sperm doner..he fell off and is gonna stay off..he doesnt take care of his daughter’s (he has 3) i am his 1st daughter n i want evryone to know he’s a liar and a loser and I don’t respect him.

Comment by nicole grant (tj swan's oldest daughter) 09.01.05 @

I use to be a fan but bring your personla shit makes no sense. So just because he didn’t love you we should not love him?

Comment by RJFranco2007 09.02.05 @

You said he fell off, he is smoking crack?

Comment by RJFranco2007 09.02.05 @

Adding extra personal stuff to try and bash the legendary TJ Swan. That’s not cool!! Two sides to every story. I’m sure there was some baby mama drama in that scenario!!

Comment by Marc Davis 09.03.05 @

why’d you have to leave me that wayyyy
i love u to this dayyy
and it hurts to think of the
words you used to sayyy (sayy)


Comment by Cinister Cee 09.06.05 @

20 years later and we are still know he is the best. Maybe someone can break into Marley Marl’s safe and steal the TJ Swan album. I know I would buy it. TJ Swan why did you leave your fans soo lonely?

Comment by Bill 09.17.05 @

TJ Swan added flavour to the Juice Crew tracks, but I doubt I could listen to an entire album with only him singing. He wasn’t that good imo.

Comment by Lotuz 09.18.05 @

left me lonley is a pure classic!!!
IF ANYONE HAS ANY IDEA HOW TO FIND THE VIDEO for that jam let me know!

Comment by Nick 11.22.05 @

Yo Nick!

I got that joint on an old BET tape! Shan in the Suzuki Jeep with the Puma sweat shuit and Kangol. That song was a prophesy for me. My girl left me in 87 because I was cheating on her…with Hip Hop!!!

I ain’t all ditigally proficient, but I’ll dub it for ya!

Comment by Elphonics 12.04.05 @

I don’t know if someone will developped this discussion, but i’d loike know a littlòe things. the tj swan, members of juice cre who sang with mc shan , marley marl and so on… is the same tj swan who dropped some gems of disco rap in the late 70’s and the early 80’s…
I’d like to know if he is the same person who rapped some classics (and you know that / get fly / are you ready) of first era of hip-hop (from 1979 to 1983). go to and search tj swan – you will find his appareance on obscure labels like express, love train, eclipse with two other freinds (peewee mel and barry b ) which constitued the group “maximus 3”.

Comment by Vinile 09.14.06 @

Comment by dead prezident 10.05.06 @

Check out that myspace link above and see for yourself… sounds to me like TJ need some new beats to work with :-/

Comment by BC 10.21.06 @

hi i am the real nicole i don’t know who this fake chick is but she is not my father’s kid nor is she me!my dad is a hiphop legend and i am proud of him he don’t smoke,gamble,don;t do drugs and never been in jail how many rappers can say that!my father left the business at the top of his game and he’s still balling!if u ever see this i love u dad aka tjswan your daughter nicole.

Comment by the real nicole 11.16.06 @

oh yea that fake nicole is probably some chick my dad dumped u groupie bitch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Comment by the real nicole 11.16.06 @


Comment by nICHOLAS VALINOTI 07.16.09 @

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