Australian emerging rapper Swaz Benjamin’s latest music is uplifting and empowering, being deliberately constructed from a recipe of cross-pollinated productions, lyrics, emotions and imagery, all seasoned with time rather than being rushed out.
The style of the music, although contemporary and fresher than ever, tends to pay homage to the type of sounds that Swaz resonated within his earlier youth, primarily soulful, melodic and meaningful, lyrical hip-hop of the 90’s and early 2000’s from Australia, the US & Canada, New Zealand, the UK & Europe.
We sit down with the Tasmanian wordsmith/songwriter and chat about his latest visuals for a remix of his debut album’s title track ‘Daze Gone Bye,’ what influenced him and his very first record purchase.
Are you an avid vinyl collector? If so what was your first purchase?
I have been an avid collector/inheritor of vinyl – both my parents had a wide collection of LPs – from Hendrix, The Beatles, Bowie, Donna Summer, Curtis Mayfield and WAR to Michael Jackson, INXS, Santana, The Police, John Martyn, Van Morrison and beyond. I have also inherited records from my grandparents, uncles, aunties and even distant cousins! When I first started to think about the roots of hip hop music I researched all the classic drum breaks and samples, and later searched eBay and Amazon to find the albums that contained those holy grails.
I also used to trawl thrift stores and second-hand stores for vinyl every weekend for years, I used to get anything with cool covers or with names that I remotely recognised, as well as any classics I came across. I mainly collected for samples and to understand the roots of hip hop and modern sample-based production. I also try to collect obscure or limited edition hip hop, and records put out by people I know who I want to support.
My first purchase might have been ‘The Shaft’ original movie soundtrack from the Rokeby St Vincent De Paul for about $3.00.
Who influences you?
First and foremost, my family and friends, they are my foundation. Beyond them, I am influenced by almost everyone I meet. As I say in my track ‘Traveller’ (and I can’t claim that I made this phrase up but) “each one teach one”. I’m open to learning from everyone.
I also think I’m hugely influenced by women, by their love and insights. In terms of art, business and life I’m influenced or inspired by so many, but right now these names come to mind: A Tribe Called Quest, Rumi, Bob Marley, Jay-Z, Noam Chomsky, The Police, The Beastie Boys, Richard Branson, Qunicy Jones, Paul Kelly, Nas, Tim Winton, Drapht, Tim Ferris, Hilltop Hoods, Paulo Cohelo, Michael Franti, The Beatles, Richard Flanagan, Dr Dre, Van Gogh, Jimi Hendrix, Csikszentmihalyi, Tupac, The Rolling Stones, Yogananda, Gangstarr, Dali, David Bowie and all makers of great art who handled their business. I’m also really influenced by artists and business people I know from Tasmania – of which there are many.
In the current era of music, I’m mostly looking at Travis Scott, Mac Miller (RIP), J Cole, TDE & Rhymesayers, and incredible female artists like Jorja Smith, Kelela, H.E.R., Kali Uchis, IAMDDB, SZA, Mayra Andrade, Jhene Aiko, FKA Twigs, Banks & Kaiit!
You are releasing remixes from your album, what made you start this project?
For this album, I primarily collaborated with ‘HFNR.’ Once the album was completed I approached a number of Tasmanian producers (and a handful of others) that I have really wanted to work with for a while. I approached them to remix the title track ‘Daze Gone Bye’. I knew they would come with different takes on the track, but it is amazing how unique each of their remixes is. Not one of them sounds similar and they are all top quality! Make sure you purchase the limited edition vinyl EP to hear them.
You can expect to hear more collaborations between myself and all of these producers in the future.
Tell us about your album?
The full 10-track LP is called ’Souled Out Volume One: Daze Gone Bye’. I drew from the LP the 5 tracks that most represented the theme of the album and put them on a limited edition 10” vinyl (sampler) EP – The ‘Daze Gone Bye EP’.
The underlying theme of the album is transitioning from youthful confusion to a level of ‘coming-of-age’ clarity.
The core tracks that feature on the vinyl are – ‘Coaster Lines’, ‘Joe Citizen Jr’ and ‘MissUs’ which are all story tracks told in three verses. The verses set the scene, build the plot and then somehow resolve the initial ‘Daze’ or confusion so that by verse three the ‘Daze has Gone Bye’. Some of foundations of a handful of tracks on the album were written many years ago, however, it took time for me to be able to finish them – I had some more living to do before I could finalise what I wanted to include in the tracks. In this way, they are kinda like time capsules for ‘Days Gone Bye’.
Lastly, although the music is fresh as f#%k and contemporary, large elements of the production – especially on tracks like ‘Days’, ‘Daze Gone Bye’, ‘Escher’, ‘Constructs’, and ‘Joe Citizen Jr’ which tends to pay homage to soulful, lyrical hip hop of the late 90s and early 2000s, further alluding to ‘Days Gone Bye’.
What’s next for you?
Playing as many shows as possible with new live band format ‘Swaz & The Benjamins’ (with Alex O’Leary – lead guitar, James Walsh – bass & backing vocals, and David Choraziak – drums). Touring, recording and playing new music. Prime physical, mental health and love.