Less than one week ago, Swizz Beatz released his first album in more than a decade. The arrival of POISON has the hit-maker for DMX, JAY-Z, Beyoncé, T.I., and Styles P promoting the Epic Records LP. However, few interviews in Swizzy’s 20-plus-year career are as engaging as his second sit-down with Drink Champs. Speaking with hosts N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN, Swizz (who is later joined by The Breakfast Club co-host and podcaster Angela Yee) discuss what the Bronx, New Yorker learned while he attended Harvard University. The man born Kasseem Dean emphatically reflects on some of the jewels he learned at the Ivy League college, including a powerful illustrative story from one professor.
“You know what we need in Hip-Hop? We need to know that we can do it all [and] we need to know that we [already] have it all. When I was in school, they taught me,” begins Swizz just after the 2:00:00 mark. N.O.R.E. asks, “Harvard?” Swizz responds, “That one; the H. I was in class one day. My professor at Harvard said, ‘You want them to feel like they win, make them feel like they own something.'” Swizz admits that he may get banned from his alma mater for sharing this knowledge but that he does not care. “What does that mean? They’re literally teaching people how to take advantage of us.”
He makes an extended analogy to share the wisdom. “You have $2 in your budget. You know who your superstar is, and your superstar knows who he is. He comes to the meeting [and you make him feel that his position is gone]. You take the spot away from him; it’s done. The superstar no longer thinks that he’s a superstar because you told him that the position was done. But you know that you’ve got $2 in your budget,” proposes Swizz to illustrate the lesson. “So you took the power away from the superstar [who says], ‘Whatever you need me to do I’m willing to do. Call me tomorrow.’ They call the guy tomorrow–I’m telling you what they taught me—you call the guy tomorrow, ‘Yo, they gave me a good report on you. They said you really, really should’ve got this job instead of this other guy. I don’t have $2 to pay you like you [wanted]; I have $1.’ You give this guy $1. ‘You gotta work more than the guy that’s getting $2, but I’ma give you $1 because I’m not even supposed to have you here, because we got who we wanted’ [which] f*cks with your mental. You give this guy $1; he’s working so hard. Hard. He’s grinding his life off because he doesn’t feel that he’s in that position that he was supposed to be in so he’s going hard. He’s not even sleeping. You walk up to him in the grass while he’s cutting it and say, ‘Man, you did all this? You cut all this grass?’ [He says], ‘Yes. That’s me. That’s my work. I’m me.’ [You say], ‘Wow. I knew that you was one of my special guys. You know what? Don’t tell nobody, let me give you another dollar.’ But you had $2 to start with. You made him a slave now because he only thought $1 was involved. He wasn’t qualified. But you knew that he was your target this entire time. You played him. You gave him a dollar to start with and another dollar to enhance his influence. So now you’ve got this guy working for you on a nonstop condition because he thinks you really care about him. But you never cared about him. You been had $2 for him [and played him].” DJ EFN says, “He thinks he’s indebted to you.” “Facts,” responds Swizz. “F*ck that sh*t! Know your worth. Know what you hold. Know you’ll withstand. Don’t play those games.” Swizz says he has applied that logic to offers of label deals and other industry maneuvers throughout his career.
Earlier in the extensive chat, Swizz also speaks to the principles of negotiation. “We’re too emotional that we don’t handle business,” begins the producer/DJ/investor at 1:16:00. “We get in front of a person that’s higher ranking; what do we tell them? They wanna do a big deal with us,” asks Swizz, before warning, “We do sh*t like this as a culture and we gotta to stop it.” He explains “We get in front of this big guy, this big f*ckin’ tycoon and we know he’s the biggest guy – billion dollars, whatever the f*ck the money is. [You are sitting] next to the [boss]; hee’s worth a billion dollars or she’s worth a billion dollars [pointing at guest Angela Yee]. You’re on her boat, she paid for you to fly out here on a plane, and they want to do a deal with you. You know that what you have is a good product. You know why people want to meet with you? You know why people have meetings at dinner? The reason why [is that] they want to know how much they can take advantage of you,” declares Swizz.
“When they sit down and have an out-of-office meeting with you,” “–they want to read your body language,” interrupts EFN. “F*ck your body-language; they want to read your mind language,” Swizz states. “They might have $100 million dollars on that table, but you might leave out justifying $10 million based off of your conversation that night [because they sized you up].” Swizz explains that the powers that be may brag about their education, whereas you could make up the fact that you acquired your wisdom from the streets. Stressing that “knowledge is power,” he continues, “At that meeting, they’re assessing how they should handle you going forward, and we gotta know that. When we sitting down, I need to be able to tell you more about your company then you f*ckin’ know.”
Swizz says that having that insight gives you, as the possible partner, greater negotiating power. “You gotta flex on these mothaf*ckas, man! Let’s stop being sitting ducks that’s waiting to get shot. We just so happy to be in position that we f*ckin’ ignorant about the position! If they talk to you, they need you. Y’understand? No, when a person comes to you they already know how they can take advantage of you. We gotta stop being the sitting duck that’s waiting to get taken advantage of and we gotta know our worth. If Angela Yee is $10 million, then f*ck it, it’s $10 million!”
Swizz elaborates on why he chose to study in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “The reason I went to Harvard is because I was doing mergers and acquisitions [of companies].” As N.O.R.E. says he should go to Harvard to smart, Swizz corrects him. “Let me not mislead the people. You don’t need an Ivy League school to be educated. I went to Harvard as a challenge to myself. It was a wall that I wanted to knock down. But everything that I learned in school you could learn online.”
At 1:27:00, Swizz says, “This is the realest sh*t I’ma say tonight: you can’t pay for time. You can’t exchange cash for time. Most people get this money and think that means something. The time that you put in with your kids is more valuable than the f*ckin’ currency. The currency of time, and talking, and education, and father-time, and mom time with your kid is the most valuable thing that you could ever do in life. There’s no payoff of that. I don’t give a f*ck if you get them a Bugatti, they’ll crash that sh*t and you’ll still be the deadbeat dad. You understand? F*ck that! Put your time in with your kids. Educate them, and give them freedom too, ’cause they can’t be saved from this world. What’s gonna happen is gonna happen. Let them have their freedom but give them the goals to understand the meaning of why they’re here. Give them the blueprint to start to discover why they’re here. Because life is a discovery.”
Also during the interview, Swizz Beatz revealed why he’d give his last beat to the MC he came into the game with, POISON, and why a JAY-Z, Nas and DMX collaborative track he produced has never been released.