good. I'm just getting ready for this trip. Hopefully this will be a good
one. I'm just working on promoting the re-release of "Soulful Fruit"
and I dropped "War Games." I'm doing well. There's a lot going
on with me right now.
your approach change in putting together "Soulful Fruit" to
Games" being my third solo album, the growth is amazing. To be honest,
sometimes I cringe when I hear the scratches on "Soulful Fruit."
At the same time, it's cool because I get to see how much I've grown as
an artist, and I can think back to saying "if I could only do that
mixtape again" instead of "that's me at my peak and I didn't
get any better." I've definitely grown a lot and I think you can
hear it if you compare "Soulful Fruit" to "War Games."
Overall, there's just been a lot of growth that's taken place in the last
you do anything differently on "Soulful Fruit" if you were to
recreate it today?
what, honestly, I don't think I would arrange it any differently. I think
what I would have done is executed the scratches a lot cleaner and done
a lot more technical stuff because I've gotten a lot better. It's like
a painter. You could paint what you think to be a masterpiece today, and
five years later, after you've learned a lot more stuff, it may not be
a masterpiece to you anymore. It's not that I would rearrange my approach,
because if you listen to my mixtapes today, it's more or less the same
approach with rare grooves and samples. I just think that it would have
been a better-sounding mix-CD. You have to look at it with perspective
though. At the time, DJ's were just cutting up Hip Hop records and calling
them mix-CD's. I came out of left field where I decided to cut up samples
and breaks and arrange it in a way where it would still sound pleasing
to people. It's a certain state-of-mind I'm trying to capture. After "Soulful
Fruit," a lot of DJ's came out with CD's like that. I think it set
a new tone for the whole mix-CD world.
proud of the impact "Soulful Fruit" had and were you mad when
you saw other DJ's putting out CD's with a similar format?
proud of the impact it had and there's a reason why Fat Beats wanted to
re-release it. It helped to set the blueprint for what's to come from
DJ's. Even at shows today, people tell me "I lost my copy of 'Soulful
Fruit,' do you have any extra copies of it?" It withstood the test
of time and it's still a CD that people want, and it does make sense that
we're going to re-release it.
have any second-thoughts about re-releasing it?
Not at all.
Fat Beats came to me about doing it, and I said "let's do it!"
I think the timing couldn't be better, especially with "War Games,"
which came out in September. People are going to listen to "War Games"
and understand where I'm at now, and people are going to listen to "Soulful
Fruit" and understand how much I've grown. You can take my music
from Point A to Point B. The idea of re-releasing it is a good one, and
I'm glad we did.
the breaks on "Soulful Fruit" got sampled for songs, whether
the producers found it on your CD or not, how does that make you feel?
good question. I wanted to come with a CD that was different from what
other DJ's were doing at the time. DJ's were taking the latest Hip Hop
joints and just cutting them up and making mixtapes out of them. I said
I was going to take the actual songs that inspired them and flip them.
That's how the idea for "Soulful Fruit" was born. I'm not just
going to play another Hip Hop record. Why don't I just play the sample
where they got the inspiration for the song, and educate the fans about
the samples and where the songs came from. That's where a lot of my mixtapes
came from, to educate the kids.
be surprised if MC's heard "Soulful Fruit" and wanted to rap
over the beats on there. I know MC's that sit down and write lyrics to
that tape. On many occasions, cats step to me and tell me how they write
their rhymes to my mixtapes because of the ill beats. I've also had cats
tell me they've sampled music straight from my tapes and made beats. "Soulful
Fruit," for me, was a way to provide a sound source and reference
for Hip Hop and how people take beats and rap on them.
the Bruce Lee samples on there, how do you compare Bruce Lee to DJ'ing?
The way I
see it, Bruce Lee was very passionate about his art, martial arts. Just
as passionate as he is about the martial arts, I feel I am in DJ'ing and
turntablism. Growing up as a kid, he was always someone that I looked
up to because he was so good at what he did. And he promoted his art all
over the world to people of all races and genders. That's what I want
to do as a DJ, so everybody can learn about the art and respect it. The
Bruce Lee samples may go over people's heads, but there's definitely a
meaning to his voice behind the mix-CD.
you want people to listen to "Soulful Fruit" in 2005?
I want people
to see how I've grown and see how I've managed to grow into the artist
I am today and still have elements of the "1995 Rob Swift."
I want people to see that I've grown and reinvented myself, and that I'm
not the same DJ I was back then.
that you had to leave the X-ecutioners to grow as an artist. Looking back,
was that the right decision?
man. I feel that there came a point with X-ecutioners where I got stifled.
I was on a record label that was telling us to make music a certain way.
It seemed that as a group, creatively, we weren't in synch and on the
same page. All of that was getting in the way of my creativity. Since
I left the X-ecutioners, I finished "War Games," which includes
a DVD based on the album. I launched a new website, robswift.com, I toured
Europe by myself, I'm going to Japan tomorrow. I'm having fun again. I'm
grateful for what I experienced with the X-men. Obviously being down with
those guys helped get me to where I am now, but it was time for me to
venture out and see what's out there for myself. The way I look at it,
everything happens for a reason and I don't regret my decision for a second.
I definitely feel like I'm in a better place right now.
always had sick skills on the turntables but how do you keep improving?
what the key is man? To stay a fan of the art form. I think DJ's that
"fall off" only fall off because they feel that they reach a
point where they're the best and nobody can fuck with them. Any new styles
that come out, they feel "oh man, it's wack because it can't fuck
with what I accomplished in the art." When you have that kind of
mentality, you don't learn anymore because now you're not a fan. Now you
just feel that you're God's gift to DJ'ing. No matter how many times I
hear I'm the best or how nobody can fuck with me, I don't buy into that
because I'm a fan. I don't let myself think I'm the best or that I know
all there is to DJ'ing. I always remind myself that there's younger cats
out there that are doing shit that I can't do. I'm humble enough to know
that there comes a time when I have to learn. As long as I keep learning,
I'm going to keep growing with the art. To me, that's very important,
and that's why I think I've been able to stay relevant.
of producers say that it's necessary to DJ and learn how to rock a party
before you start making beats. Do you feel that way?
man. I think that you should always try to be well-rounded in anything
that you do, whether it's sports, music
no matter what it is you
do, you want to be well-rounded. For me, that's another reason why I've
been able to stay relevant and stay in the limelight, so to speak. I've
done it all, and I still do it all. I respect battle DJ's as much as I
respect mixtape DJ's. I respect club DJ's just as much as I respect radio
DJ's. I party-rock, I'll do showcases, then I'll produce, then I'll make
albums. I'll do it all. As long as you have your feet in a lot of things,
it keeps it fun, it keeps it new, and it keeps it exciting as opposed
to doing one thing where you can limit yourself. Plus you may never find
out what else you can accomplish. Being well-rounded definitely keeps
your name out there.
you feel about the CD-J's?
I feel most
comfortable using the CD-J's in the studio. I relied heavily on the CD-J's
for "War Games." If you listen to the album, you can hear me
scratching live news clips and sound bytes straight from TV, like George
Bush speeches, because the album is like a social-political commentary
to what's going on in the world. If it wasn't for the ability to burn
what I saw on TV to CD and then to scratch it, I don't think the album
would have been able to be created. The CD-J's played a major role in
the album, but I don't feel comfortable using CD-J's in club environments
or competitions. It's just not the same as cutting up records on the turntable.
What I do
use is some software called Serato Scratch Live. It's made by Reign, they're
one of my sponsors. They made software that allows you to burn music onto
CD, transfer it into your iTunes, and then play it and scratch it live
with Serato Scratch Live. You have two or 3,000 songs at your disposal
and you're not lugging crates around. And you're still using turntables
because they make these special records called "control records"
that reads the MP3's through this interface they made that's connected
between the interface and the laptop. With technology like that, you can
still have the feel of the turntables without having to lug crates and
crates of records. I do use that, but the CD-J's I feel more comfortable
using in the studio environment.
do you see DJ competitions going in the future?
hard to say man. On one hand, I kind of feel that DJ's today aren't doing
enough to push the envelope. It seems that they're still too busy looking
up to me, Q-Bert, Roc Raida, and Mixmaster Mike. DJ's have to get past
what we've done and what we've accomplished. It doesn't stop at what we've
done. There's still other styles to create and discover. I think that
because DJ's still look up to us and look to us to introduce the new shit,
it's kind of reached a stagnant point where kids are waiting to see what
Roc Raida or Rob Swift is going to do instead of taking it into their
own hands. There's some DJ's out there like Ricky Rucker, DJ Xcess, Toadstyle,
there are some up-and-coming cats out there that are sick with it, but
I don't feel that there are enough DJ's out there to push the envelope.
Hopefully albums like "Soulful Fruit" and "War Games"
will inspire the young cats to want to go out there and do some other
shit. I know what inspired me was watching Cash Money, Jazzy Jeff, and
DJ Aladdin. That's really what I'm trying to do right now, is spark kids.
your main focus today?
My main focus
today is trying to figure out new ways to use the turntable as a tool
to speak my mind. I feel that with "War Games" specifically,
I've figured out a way to do that. And I'm not just using it to show-off,
because that's been done a thousand times. A lot of people can scratch,
but what else can you do? On "War Games," that's me coming at
you on some thought-provoking shit about what's going on outside your
crib, what's going on in Iraq. I got a song on there with Large Professor
called "Another Friendly Game of Baseball" about police brutality.
To think that just a couple of weeks ago in New Orleans, a 62-year-old
man was almost beaten to death by police officers. Knowing that I recorded
that song months ago because I thought that that kind of shit still happens,
it lets me know that what I'm doing with the turntable is definitely dope
and hopefully people will see that I'm using the turntable to convey a
message this time instead of just showing off and showing my skill. I'm
conveying messages that are relevant. I'm conveying messages with the
turntable. I can't help but really feel proud that I figured out a way
to use my talent to say something that goes beyond how dope I am as a
of times the rapper has the voice, and you never know where the DJ/producer
stands on anything. How important is it for the DJ to have a voice?
We're always put in the background. I used to hate watching Arsenio Hall
back in the day, because when they had a rapper, he'd get to sit on the
couch with Arsenio and the DJ would go backstage and you'd never see him.
That would always bother me because I feel that a lot of the times, the
DJ is the backbone of the show but the rapper is the one being talked
to and given the attention. My goal since I've been battling is to show
people not to sleep on the importance of what we do. That's why "War
Games" is an album I wanted to make because it shows that DJ'ing
goes beyond showing off your skill. I don't have to spit lyrics into a
mic, I can do it with scratches. That's always been my goal, to introduce
and awaken people to respect what we do, and that what we do is very important
to Hip Hop and music in general.
time do you currently spend practicing?
I spend a
lot of time practicing, not as much these days though as I would like
to. I'm always on the road, doing interviews
I always try to practice
at least two hours a day. That's how you're going to have longevity in
this. If you stop practicing and feel that you don't need to practice
and that you know everything you need to know, you're going to fall off.
I'm always going to be a fan of this, always, and that's what's going
to keep me out there.
untapped potential do you have?
what you can do with turntables. There's no limit as to what you can do.
I feel that it goes as far as I want it to. There's literally no limit.
Just when you thought Grandmaster Flash was the best DJ in the world and
nobody could stop him, then Grandmixer DXT came out cutting it up on "Rock
It" showcasing new styles and scratches. Then came Cash Money wining
every battle he entered. Then came Steve Dee, then came guys like me,
Q-Bert, and D-Styles.
plan on doing more with jazz music?
working on an album right now with Bob James. It's going to be some ill
jazz and turntable fusion. Hopefully it'll be finished in the coming year.
When people think of Rob Swift, for the most part, they always think of
jazz music because I always use jazz. Even when you listen to "Soulful
Fruit," that's heavily influenced by jazz. I've always tried to incorporate
the jazz influence to what I do.
with Bob James on "Sound Event" as well. How is it working with
man. He's someone I looked up to since I started DJ'ing. To know that
I'm collaborating with a legend that's won Grammy's and who is a legend
in music, knowing that I'm working with him and that he respects me for
what I do on the turntable is a great feeling. I'm definitely lucky, for
sure, and I think that he's going to help me introduce what I do to his
fans and vice versa, I'm going to be able to introduce what he does to
do you have for kids that want to get into the DJ'ing game?
Do your homework,
really. There's a history to this. Anyone that wants to get involved in
the world of DJ'ing and turntablism, they shouldn't just do it to be able
to walk into a club and have people notice them. They should do it to
try to have a difference and to contribute to the art. If they do that,
they will go down in history. If you're good to the art, it's good to
you. Don't just do it to get girls and shit like that. Do it for the love
and to try to impact and to spark people. That's the advice I have for
anybody that wants to get into this shit.
you want to say to everyone out there?
I would just
say to go out there and support turntable music. Go out there and buy
my albums, "War Games" and "Soulful Fruit." Go out
there and support other DJ's like D-Styles and Q-Bert. No matter how much
you love the music, at the end of the day, we're competing with people
like 50 Cent, Eminem, and Dr. Dre. If people support our music, it's going
to keep it going and it's going to open doors for them to eventually go
out there and record their own shit.