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In arts and music, Bronx native Swizz Beatz continues on his own path to success

Grammy winner expands portfolio with accessible traveling art exhibition

Kasseem Dean, well-known as Swizz Beatz and for his famous catchphrase “Showtime,” has garnered critical acclaim for producing chart-topping Billboard hits for himself and other artists, including Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, DMX, Eve and Whitney Houston, just to name a few. For more than two decades, disrupting the status quo has been a common theme in the Bronx, New York, native’s journey. From DJ to recording artist to avid art collector, he blazes his own path. In 2010, he married one of the most successful and talented women in music, Alicia Keys. And recently he earned his certificate from Harvard’s Owner/President Management Program.

“Your roadblocks are a part of your story. … Failure is the biggest test, especially to be able to bounce back from it and grow stronger.”

Since Swizz Beatz entered the hip-hop game in 1998, the Grammy-winning producer has expanded his ever-growing portfolio. He served as creative director for Reebok and global ambassador for New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. and most recently developed an ongoing partnership with the spirits brand Bacardi.

After identifying a void in the art world, Bacardi and The Dean Collection created the traveling art exhibition No Commission to challenge traditional art fair formats by breaking down barriers for artists and collectors alike. The Undefeated spoke with the 40-year-old about this year’s theme, “Take the Shot,” for No Commission, his latest studio album, Poison, growing up in the Boogie Down Bronx and how his five children influence his personal quest for success.

How has your partnership with Bacardi evolved since its inception?

This is our seventh show. The plan was to make it an accessible entry point to help people get into the arts and have the understanding that being involved in the art world is not solely for rich people. They say the third time’s a charm, and to come back to Miami during [Art] Basel week for the third time is amazing.

What is unique about the No Commission experience?

The artists participating in the show are able to keep 100 percent of the sales. This does not happen at any fair I know, which is the unique aspect of No Commission. Although guests have to RSVP, entry is free for everyone to come in and experience the various forms of creative art, take part in the parties, performances, sip and paint, and panel discussions. The attendees are able to receive tools they can actually use to help them move forward to the next level with their love for art.


How did the Bronx street art influence your love of visual arts?

Growing up in the Bronx deeply influenced my love for art and music. I was able to wake up each day and actually go outside to see authentic art and hear authentic music. I witnessed it every day growing up, so it definitely shaped and molded me to naturally become attracted to those visuals and develop a love for both art and music.

Do you believe there is something missing from the current state of music?

I believe a lot of things are missing, but specifically [we need] patience. Everyone is consuming [music] fast and not truly enjoying the music. They are listening to it but not hearing it. It also has to do with the material being released. This is a reason I chose to focus on lyricism, poetry and different elements on my latest album, Poison. Although the patience and craft is missing, you have to let everyone do their own thing because each generation is different. But one thing people will always gravitate towards is quality.

Personally speaking, how do you define success?

At this present moment, success is based on my children and their viewpoints. Success is being in my kids’ honest and current top 5. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m aiming for it and I have some more work to do. However, I did make my entry point with the Lil Wayne song ‘Uproar.’

Many people view challenges and roadblocks as a bad thing, but why are these elements important to your path to success?

Your roadblocks are a part of your story. This is something that honestly worries me about a lot of the artists that are out right now. They have not experienced their set of failures yet. Failure is the biggest test, especially to be able to bounce back from it and grow stronger. This has happened to me at least 10 times. Many of the legends such as Jay-Z have also failed. The difference is we have witnessed their down moments, but we have also witnessed their evolution stemming from their setbacks. Their ability to overcome obstacles and roadblocks made us develop more respect for them.

What was your first major purchase?

Ansel Adams’ photography work.

When did you realize you were famous?

When every car was playing “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” by DMX [1998].

Who is your childhood hero?


“Growing up in the Bronx deeply influenced my love for art and music.”

Why is KRS-One your childhood hero?

He played a major role in hip-hop, and also I’m from the South Bronx.

Favorite board game?


Last museum you walked through?

The Whitney Museum of American Art.

What will you always be the champion of?


Where does your courage come from?

The South Bronx.

Dontaira Terrell is a writer for The Undefeated. She is an Ohio native, Florida A&M University graduate and a lover of all things music and pop culture.