Sunday, 2 October 2005

This Is My Journey: Sway

From Ghana With Love: Part 1

Music consumers looking for an ounce of sonic truth in this saturated hip hop age are under more pressure than ever not to fall prey to PR fiction. Derek Safo, better known by his alias Sway, is one producer and rapper from Hornsey on a mission to abort any misconceptions that he might be just another chapter in that book of hype…

It’s the age old story - you work the underground circuit for a number of years and then bang, you drop a tune, a real heater that suddenly propels you onto lips of the many. In Sway’s case ‘Flo Fashion’ did just that and now has come the time to back it up.

Where Sway’s profile is concerned there seems to be two main schools of thought at work. The general consensus is that he’s the biggest talent to have emerged from the UK underground in a long time. On the other side are those who are yet to be swayed (pun intended). On first impressions it would be easy to get it twisted. Just another spitter from the ends, his pants worn baggy, cap down low and fresh sneaks. Then there’s the three mobile phones. But stereotypes done. Don’t get him twisted. If you don’t respect his music you’ll at least respect his business or mind. A composed, analytical thinker, he’s also without the arrogance and attitude that harpers so many. He’s quick witted, sharp and always one step ahead.

“I’d just describe myself as tall and the most good looking ugliest person you've ever met”, 22 year old Sways says thoughtfully with what transpires to be a rare grin creeping across his face. “Honesty, personality, understanding, loyalty that’s very important to me.” He doesn’t smoke nor care for alcohol much, preferring instead to be 100% in control, a trait that’s seemingly mapped out his path (and the interview which despite a great length, doesn’t see him lose a bit of concentration).

Sway’s road trip in life has had it’s shares of twists and turns. Born in England after his mother unexpectedly went into labour en-route to Ghana from Amsterdam, he spent his first few years of life back in Africa with his grandmother while his mother returned to London to set up home. Like most things in his life he sees this as one of those events that happened for a reason.

“She just saw opportunity in England. We were from a semi- wealthy family in Ghana, my grandad owned petrol stations and a timber business, but there was so much more that could be done for me here.”


You’re history seems important in your music?
It is. It should be important to everybody, in order to find out who you properly are you need to know where you've come from, the elements that made you and understand them… the more you find out the more you can decipher the future and put your life in a direction that will be prosperous.

Are you proud to be British?
Yes, a lot of elements in London made me. I've got a lot of characteristics and things I don't think I'd be doing if I hadn't been raised in an environment like London. I can only be real, I've been in London for 18/19 years. All I really know is London but at the same time, when I go home at night it's like being back in Ghana.

What do you hold your strongest views on?
Belief in God. I've been bought up in religious conflict. I'm not Muslim but If I sway towards any religion it's Islam. But there's too much that counteracts the society I'm living in in Islam at this moment of time. It's direct conflict being a Muslim doing as I do.

There seem to have been a lot of UK rappers who've come out of the Nation of Islam, has the Nation ever tempted you?
Nah, the Nation of Islam and Islam in general are two different things. The Nation is very geared towards racial issues and black power, I'm not a pro black person in the same way a black person can stab me in the back so can a white person. As far as I'm concerned you love the people you love and the other people don't matter… I'm not into this all black people sticking together, at the end of the day you're always going to have conflict. You have war in the world, in your street, in your house... it's got nothing to do with black people. Weak people or people who don't know their purpose feel the need to stand for something and will use any excuse. Islam to me represents living the right way.

In a similar way to Rastafarianism?
It's similar but there's no person, no living man to look up to. In Islam every man is equal with everybody including women, only women are not really equal to men in what they can do in society.

So they're not equal then?
They're equal value wise, you need a man and a woman, but men are in charge only because of the characteristics of a woman. A man is like the strong bear. Some women are cool with the female role of the man bringing home the food, but some women especially now where there's so many broken homes and girls are been bought up to be their own fathers, they don't respect men anymore.

Who did you vote for in the recent election?
Labour. I don't know too much about the parties but I know when you're on that voting list there's more opportunity and it’s easier to get a mortgage. I don’t like Blair though, he’s fake.

Why not vote for someone else?
They were the only people I knew and as far as I'm concerned I don't have time to try change the country. Labour are already in power, they're all gonna do the same thing, they all say they'll do this, they'll all from the same tree

How do you think we can get people to vote again?
Voting is bollocks to me full-stop. I'm not too concerned about politics because I don't know enough about it. Maybe If I researched it more, you never know it might be a field I go into later in my life, but I'm not going to pretend I know a lot about it and penalising things or people. It's very possible that I'll go into politics actually.

There's one track you have forthcoming which has an anti-abortion message, do you ever consider whether you might isolate your listener when you write bars?
That track’s called Deep Breath and goes through lots of different sexual downfalls. I have an opinion, I'm not saying 'don't do it' or 'it's wrong' I'm just saying I wouldn't do it and I'm against it. I believe if you're willing to do what you did to get to that stage you should deal with the consequences. Life is a different thing to writing a rhyme, you can make a mistake on a bit of paper and start again… if you have the potential to bring a healthy person into the world then try your best at it. It's a gift.

If you'd been 15 and got a girl pregnant do you think you'd have felt the same way?
I dunno. It's a view I've held since the subject matters been close to home to me. I've thought about it, you know getting a girl pregnant, I think ahead a lot. Even when you do think ahead mistakes and not just mistakes like accidents happen. You could be the most conscious person but there's one day you think you're invincible.

Do you think part of our problem is youth think ‘the World’s against me’?
Of course, it's an excuse, 'the system messed up so I stabbed 5 people and went to prison', no you stabbed five people because you wanted to and you got caught, that's why you're going to prison. If you wanna be cool go and work in Sainsbury's. It will get you enough money to save a bit, get yourself a deposit and a credit rating. You can work with the system you just wont be as rich as Puff Daddy.

As a young man, is adult life what you expected?
By the time you've realised what life is about you're nearly there anyway. A lot of people have blinded themselves into thinking life is hard. It's not. If you want work for it, if it's fathomable reach for it.

To read the second half of this article pick up a copy of Big Smoke Magazine. Part 2 will follow here soon....

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