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DJ Rob Swift
Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
by Christina Li on Sep 15, 2010
Part of the groundbreaking X-ecutioners crew with Roc Raida, Total Eclipse, and Mista Sinista, New York-based DJ Rob Swift has helped push hip-hop turntablism to new audiences around the world. In addition to appearing in the documentary Scratch, he’s appeared on the David Letterman Show, and even Sesame Street. He was the first DJ invited to the Savannah, Georgia Jazz Festival, and with his latest release, The Architect, he pairs hip hop with classical music. Catch him at SOM on Sept 25th in a tribute to Roc Raida, who passed away in September 2009.
SF Station (SFS): I'm sorry to hear that legendary New York record store Fat Beats is closing. The decline of record stores seems to be imminent. How do you feel, and would you change this?
Rob Swift (RS): Fat Beats closing is a mere sign of the times. Initially, I was straight angry — angry at the fact this generation of music consumers has grown lazy. I say that because technology has made it so people don't leave their homes.
Remember not too long ago, you'd take a walk to your local blockbuster or mom-and-pop movie rental store and rent a flick in person? Now, people would rather download movies straight to their laptop or TV. If you wanted to buy an album back in the day, you'd make the trek out to Fat Beats, cop that latest Breez Evahflowin or J Live joint and take a quick survey of the shelves to see what else might be worth getting. Now, instead of buying an entire album, consumers rather download a song or two for 99 cents off iTunes. Technology has made it so people don't get off the couch and as a result, stores like Fat Beats are closing worldwide.
Can I change this? The truth is I'm just one man and there's but so much I can do by myself to combat how technology has influenced this new iPod generation. However, the key to longevity is adaptation. Thus, we in the hip hop community must learn new ways to adapt to the technological changes taking place everyday. I myself just released my latest project, an EP called Sketches of the Architect, online for free because I have to apply the same creativity in composing my music to distributing my music as well.
SFS: When did you decide that DJing was something you wanted to do with your life?
RS: I consciously made the decision DJing was something I wanted to do with my life the day after I graduated Baruch College with my degree in Psychology. Up until that moment, DJing was something I did as a form of self-expression. I entered DJ competitions, I toured with Akinyele and Large Professor, I formed The X-ecutioners with Roc Raida, Mista Sinista, and Total Eclipse but it wasn't until I received my first royalty check from Fat Beats for a VHS Tape called X-ercise, featuring Raida and Sinista, that the idea of actually making money became a reality for me. I haven't looked back since.
SFS: Your latest releases pair classical music with hip hop. If you could live one day in a classical composer’s shoes, who would it be?
RS: Frederic Chopin. I released two projects this year, The Architect and Sketches of the Architect, which were directly influenced by Chopin's "Prelude #4." Chopin's style is very dark and if you listen to my work dating back to my 2nd album Sound Event, you'll discover I too have a darkness to my sound. Both releases are my interpretations of what classical music would sound like if scratching existed during the initial renaissance of classical music.
SFS: What would you like to hear more of on hip-hop tracks?
RS: I would love to hear more producers emphasize sampling in their beats. A lot of producers today don't sample because they want to avoid dealing with sample clearances but as a result, the gritty traditional feel of a hip-hop beat, with static and all, gets lost most of the time. If more up-and-coming producers challenge themselves to incorporate sampling, the authenticity of the music will remain intact.
Visit Rob Swift online at http://www.djrobswift.com
by Christina Li on Sep 15, 2010
Photography by Robert Adam Mayer