Filed under: Interviews,Promos & Exclusives,Steady Bootleggin'
Written by: Intifada
During the ’90s, Swigga went by L-Swift and composed a third of the explosive rhyme trio Natural Elements. As L-Swift, Swigga released a string of underground classics both as a solo artist and with Natural Elements. Natural Elements eventually broke up due to problems associated with their contract to Tommy Boy records (every record label sucks dick). During the dispute with the label, Swigga was hospitalized after lapsing into a coma for several days. After waking, he returned to the rap game equipped with a new outlook and a name-change and has been releasing independent hip-hop throughout the decade.
Idris: What was the reason behind the name change from L-Swift to Swigga?
Swigga: L-Swift was from the 7th grade. The type of music I make post-2000 is different from L-Swift. I had mad demons before. They piled up. When I survived being hospitalized in 2000, I was living a second life. Swigga is like a super L-Swift. Business-wise and musically I was different when I woke up. God changed what I was doing.
While researching for this interview, I learned more about you through the internet than seemed possible in the 90s, when you first started out. I was unaware you were born in the Caribbean. Do you think you will ever do any sort Hip-Hop with Calypso influence?
I would do that on a separate tangent. When I’m in that mode, I would record that down there. Anything I do, if I’m on a record, I don’t want mix too many zones. I don’t want to alienate people. St. Lucia, where I’m from, no one blew up from out of there. I’m going to be the only one.
The music I do is what I listen to. In my CD changer it varies, I don’t really rock an ipod yet. I could listen to Three-6 Mafia in the same changer, I see no difference when I listen to E-40 or Trick Daddy, and then Nas and then go with that. I’m ready to change. I’m ready for the criticism if I do that change. If people listen for Natural E in my new music, they are going be searching for something they might not find. I might not be in that N.E. frame of mind. If you want great music, you’ll be satisfied. I put steroids in the L-Swift character to make Swigga. People who don’t know L-Swift, I get the best response from. Because they never heard me before, they listen to my style and think it’s the best. They didn’t know where it came from. They think I got nice out of nowhere, not hearing my older records.
Your verses on “NYC” and “Paper Chase” seem reflect a darker side of your life. I wouldn’t have known about how real it was unless I found your website, where you talked about having to pull vics and all the wild shit you went through. Can you break down for me that part of your life?
I realized a lot of things during that time. First of all, I had to fend for myself. My mom had cancer and so we moved up here (Northeast Bronx) for her to get treatment. Then my mom had passed away. I had to fend for myself. I didn’t want to sell crack. Think about it, you sell this much crack and get that much time. It doesn’t work out mathematically. Me and my peeps would do robberies instead. Try and do what we had to do. Try not to hurt anyone. People thought we were underground and so we had no streets in us. They were wrong. I was young. In ’94 I started. I got signed to Tommy Boy at about 20 but all through this I had to fend for myself
Speaking of Tommy Boy. Can you speak a little about the NE deal you had there?
I will never complain about Tommy Boy. I learned a lot about the process of making
albums. I got to sit in on marketing meetings. I got groundwork and learning experiences.
Your new music doesn’t sound as dark. Do you think that has something to do with the change that occurred after you got out of the hospital? Did coming out the hospital force you to reinvent yourself?
I’m not just using Charlemagne (as a producer). Scram Jones brings out different things with me. Like when 50 stopped using Trackmasterz. He sounds a little different. I get to experiment now. I think a lot of guys, they don’t know what to do when they leave their zone. If I go to Timbaland tomorrow, it’s going to be just different. I want to custom fit my style to the change. My melodies too.
In Natural Elements’ “2 Tons” you said naturalelements.com was where you could be reached, it never worked for me, did you ever own that domain name or was that just a hot rhyme?
[Laughs] That’s a funny story. My man Vidal was on the technical side of things. I wrote the rhyme and we were in the process of getting the site. We let the record fly and it was cool. The site was already owned by some company that sold creams and lotion. But the record was already was out. We couldn’t own the site. We could have got .org or .net, but I didn’t say that on the record.
Can you put me on to your plans for 2007?
Keep it moving. Cross country. An original album. I record 9 or 10 songs a session. I want to put out an 18 song session. Digitally, no vinyl. Really, my whole thing is to do things while simultaneously shopping for a deal. I’m not going to be all independent. You can’t be on Koch and sell three million. If you do, you shouldn’t be on Koch. I feel like my music could be on a big level. So I want nothing less. I got three lawyers. We sit down and we shop to labels, we book shows, do promotions, look for any distribution, even maybe in Australia. Everything I could do on my own I do, everything I could learn I’ll learn. I do the music we (Natural Elements) would have done, in fifteen years. That’s how we would sound in fifteen years. I want to keep the music going.
Can you talk a little about the North East Wildcats project? How did it start? What up and coming plans do you have for the project?
The current CD, is called New Animal Features 2. That is just coming out. It’s going have more people on it than the last one, but it’s still me and Eddie Brock and Al Giddy (he’s from the projects, he’s 20). We’re all from the North East Bronx and I was young and I had my own crib, everyone would come to my crib, not having my mom around. Everyone would be like y’all some wild niggas and boom we the NE Wildcats.
North East Wildcats spell out N.E.W., cause like everything is new. We are trying to do a lot of branding. Something like all we wear is New Balance or New Era hats. Start trying to trademark and make myself a brand. You can do different things from your brand. We want put out new born baby clothes. We want to open stores where parents can take their kids. The N.E.W. thing is what stood out. We’re getting trademarks.
I remember Eddie Brock records from the nineties, do you two have more joints, from the past decade, that y’all did together?
Well you know “Meltddown” from the compilation that came out on Hydra, with me and Eddie Brock. We’re from the same hood. We reconnected when I got out of the hospital. He’s doing his solo thing too. He always doing his own thing. What we do with North East Wildcats, we got branding and we got music. We think of things different, which is why we work together well. His favorite rapper is G Rap. He’s more lyrical. I love having him around. ‘Cause I don’t care about who I offend, I think about it after, I don’t let my pen stop but he’s more thoughtful.
It says Rok-One did the art direction for the “Fish & Grits” single. Is that Rok-One who used to be on Fondle ’em? If so, will y’all be doing a joint together?
I believe so, I think it was him. Absolute introduced me to him. Absolute is A-Butta’s boy. I did a song with Rok-One and Absolute. We did two songs a few years ago. He (Rok-One) was supposed to put it out.
Can we expect maybe an N.E. reunion, or a joint with you and A-Butta, or with you and Mr. Voodoo? It seems like Mr. Voodoo is a lot less visible than you and A, have you been able to stay up with him?
A-Butta is on my new shit. We are definitely going to do new things together. As far as Natural Elements, I don’t know. Mr. Voodoo, I don’t know if he’s rhyming anymore. Voodoo got Myspace, so he can be reached. He’s got family. He’s older. Me and A are the same age. But me and A absolutely are doing our thing.
Who is handling your production now? I’ve read that you are starting to work on beats yourself, is that true? Will we be hearing you over a Charlemagne, Kenny Dope, DJ Spinna, or a Scram Jones beat again?
I’m moving to house with my own studio, so I’m right on the cusp of making my own beats. Charlemagne is still going to be doing beats for me. He’s on three of the joints on my CD. I ain’t talked to DJ Spinna or Kenny Dope in years. Those joints were just for compilations.
“Daydreaming” was such a dope joint.
I’m going to do a joint like that again, but I’m going make an easier pill to swallow. Not just an underground joint like that but one for everyone to get with. Me and Scram Jones are definitely working together. We are working on a joint tomorrow. He’s got the Beast Music thing, I’m part of it, I’m extended fam, so is Nature and Venom or Jack Venom. We keeping it moving and just make great music.
How has the rap industry changed and is it for better or worse since you got in the game?
I think it’s changed for the better. A rapper can make a living off of what he does. You can make millions. We need a pension plan for the old-school rappers, cause they got jerked. We are living off the sweat off their backs. Like Jay said “I’m over-charging niggas for what they did to the Cold Crush”.
Do you remember doing a show in ’98 at the Nuyorican with Percee P and Aesop Rock? I was there as a young teenager. Do you still do live shows? If so, do you still rip live acappella like that?
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. The promoters in New York, in certain ways they are scared. They scared to book shows in the city. We get in where we fit in. We do shows out of town. April we got four shows coming up. It’s up on the website.
What year was Natural Elements’ “More Than Vocals (MTV)” recorded?
We (Natural Elements) made a couple attempts to record again. That must have been one of the last songs we did. We made that like early ’04. Voos’ (Mr. Voodoo’s) homeboy Lou put together that beat. We also worked with [DJ] Sebb and we did two songs with him. We have mad songs people didn’t hear. Charlemagne made beats all day. So there is just mad songs no one heard. The album people have, it was never mixed down. Nothing was mixed down. The song “I’m Not Sure Anymore” (Track 3 of the Natural Elements Unreleased Tommy Boy Album), we were going to have Super Cat on that one. Those are skeletons of songs. They were in pre-production period.
I didn’t know you worked with Sebb, are you gonna work with him again?
I’d like to work with Sebb some more. I mean, he’s in Europe doing his thing, though.
Who are your influences?
I don’t have any in newer rap music. It’s very stagnant. From Outkast, I can learn new formats but that’s about it. I learn from alternative rock, emo, or Top 40. I look at what Rob Thomas or Coldplay is doing. I think about what Top 40 artists do because I want to be on that level. I don’t do exactly what a group like Maroon Five does but I listen to the way the melodies are laid down and how many choruses they have.
I like Tupac. There is no comparison between him and Biggie. You could tell who’s in the studio and who’s partying. Tupac had so many songs on so much subject matter. He was a Gemini like me, so he had mad opinions on subjects. He even had opinions on things like a cup of juice, he could make 5 songs on it cause he had mad opinions. “Dear Momma” and “Keep Your Head up” have the same emotion but a different sound. When I first started rapping, the rapper who influenced me the most was Rakim. KRS-One was an influence cause he’s from the Bronx. I like MJG and Juicy J, not cause of their lyrics but just because they make me laugh. Redman, he’s definitely one of my favorites because he does what he wants and that stands the test of time.
What’s better “ayo”, “no homo”, or “pause”?
I don’t know, all three of them work in different spaces of time. You can say “no homo” while you’re in the middle of talking. “Pause” comes after talking. “Ayo” is like everyone knows that, of course. They work at different places.
Is “dope” a played out word only said by backpackers?
The south is still saying old school sayings, its all good, if someone says dope, if that’s their expression then go ahead. Dope is cool.
L-Swift & A-Butta – NYC (Where Ya At?)
L-Swift – Daydreamin’
Natural Elements – Live It Up Pt. 2
L-Swift & Eddie Brock – Meltdown
Natural Elements – I’m Not Sure Anymore
Swigga & Scram Jones – No More Scrappin’
Natural Elements – MTV (More Than Vocals)
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