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Swizz Beatz

Producer, rapper, DJ and songwriter Swizz Beatz was the force behind countless hits in the early 2000s and beyond, his boundary-pushing approach to production helping to shape the sound of rap over several eras. Working with Ruff Ryders Records from the early days of the label, he produced hits for DMX, Eve, Styles-P and other Ruff Ryders artists, paving the way for work with Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, Kanye West, and many of the biggest names in rap. A 2002 compilation, G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories, would further highlight his unique studio style, and the years that followed saw him working with top-shelf artists ranging from T.I. and Cassidy to Whitney Houston and Beyonce. A Swizz Beatz solo album, One Man Band Man, arrived in 2007, allowing the beatmaker to flex his chops as a rapper. As the next wave of talent crested, the producer stayed connected, working with new megastars like Drake and Nicki Minaj while staying close to longtime creative partners like Jadakiss into the 2010s. His second solo album, 2018's Poison, did well on the charts, and he continued producing music for new generations of rap talent, as well as occasionally releasing new work under his own name like 2023 EP Hip Hop 50: Vol 2. Swizz Beatz was born Kasseem Dean in the Bronx borough of New York City. He relocated to Atlanta as a teenager, where he started to DJ parties. When his relatives became involved with the Ruff Ryders label, he began to produce tracks at the tender age of 16. Rather than relying on samples, he developed a sound based on live instruments (in particular two specific vintage keyboards) and tried to accentuate the performance aspect of his music. One of his earliest beats became DMX's 1998 hit "Ruff Ryder's Anthem," and he went from there to produce hits for Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, Eve, Memphis Bleek, and many others. The late '90s and early 2000s were busy for Dean, as he crafted hits for other artists and worked on shaping his own label, Full Surface Records, which officially launched in 2001. The label would become home for newly discovered talent Cassidy, as well as releases from Yung Wun, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Mashonda. Full Surface also released Swizz Beatz's 2002 compilation album, G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories, and his 2007 record One Man Band Man, an album of completely original solo material. The dawn of the 2010s saw the producer branching out into fashion design and art collecting on top of his already busy musical pursuits. He began work on a second solo album in 2008, but in 2012 spoke publicly about a shift in his preference as an artist to only release singles and not full albums. Along with a marriage to songwriter Alicia Keys, Dean worked with Drake, Chris Brown, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, and many others as the decade burned on, along with issuing many of his own singles. Despite his public stance on singles vs. albums, Swizz Beatz's second solo album, Poison was announced in 2018, slated for release late that year. He had recorded more than 70 songs for it, including collaborations with everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Bono. Ultimately, Poison's track listing was narrowed down to just ten and featured cameo appearances from Lil Wayne, Nas, Young Thug, Pusha T, and many others of rap's best-known stars. Poison peaked at number 73 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, and made it to the number 39 position on the Hip Hop chart. After the release of his second album, Swizz Beatz continued production work, mostly appearing behind the mixing board on singles for Rick Ross, French Montana, and other established figures. In April of 2023 he released the six-song EP Hip Hop 50: Vol 2. Though it was a less-involved project than his studio albums, the EP still included impressive features from Nas, Lil Wayne, Lil Durk, Jay Electronica, and others.
© Fred Thomas /TiVo


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