From producing classic hits for the likes of DMX, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, to partnering with Timbaland to create the viral Verzuz platform, the name Swizz Beatz is synonymous with big things and big things only. As if that wasn’t enough, the Grammy winner is a solo artist, entrepreneur, creative director, brand promoter, fashion designer, art collector, Harvard Business School graduate and much more.
It came as no surprise, then, that in 2022 Swizz – real name Kasseem Dean – is not standing still. As Music Week revealed, his latest move is to join forces with high-end luxury vinyl brand 12On12. The company invites notable figures in culture to select 12 songs that have had an influence on their life and collaborate with sought-after brands and visual artists to produce limited edition vinyl. To date the company has collaborated with Run-DMC, Travis Scott and Dita Von Teese for specially limited-edition vinyl releases.
“The inspiration behind 12On12 is a mixture of Desert Island Discs and This Is Your Life,” 12On12 founder and chief creative Claudia Moross told Music Week. “We want to be for vinyl what Supreme is to skateboarding.”
To that end, Swizz Beatz has not only curated his own exclusive 12” vinyl-only compilation exploring his love of jazz – christened Long Live Jazz – he is also now a co-partner/co-owner in the fast-growing music company. In the latest issue of Music Week, he not only talks about his career to date – including working with the late DMX, the astronomical success of Verzuz and much more – he also explains why the 12On12 partnership was a no brainer.
“Well, first and foremost, the company is extraordinary,” he told Music Week. “I started off as a DJ so I collected vinyl, but I always wanted to be an owner in a wax company – 12On12 was the perfect opportunity because not only do they deal with vinyl, we’re dealing with art and lifestyle, too. This is the perfect time for people to see something like this come together, and for my first offering to be jazz. Jazz has always been the backbone of the culture. For me, I was like, ‘How can we raise some awareness on such a great genre?’ I want to create a jazz label, so let’s start with it on wax with 12On12 and our partnership.”
Vinyl isn’t going anywhere – the more that you try to run away from it, the stronger it’s going to get
12On12’s Claudia Moross has already praised the energy and insight that Swizz Beatz has brought to the company so far.
“His business acumen is amazing,” she told Music Week. “He’s very knowledgeable and clear in his ideas, his energy is just infectious. Every time we speak, he has another idea for the business going down the line. He’s been an entrepreneur in everything he’s done with Verzuz and he’s got some amazing ideas for how we can take the business forward. There’s lots of ways he’s helping us.”
Following on from the recent release of Swizz's Long Live Jazz set, 12On12 are already looking to the future, and are keen to hear from other artists who might want to come onboard and curate a release.
“We have three in the pipeline – in the past we’ve done about one a year, because we’ve been very specific on making sure the collaborations are exactly what we want, and we are still maintaining that,” explained Moross. “I’ve scheduled pressing plant capacity for three runs, so I’m hoping that all of those come off. We like to work with people who are either established giants or up-and-coming talents. I’d love the music industry to send me people they think are the next big person. If we think someone’s worthwhile to work with, I’d love to pursue it.”
For Swizz the appeal also goes beyond just celebrating jazz, it's also about artistic freedom.
“I just want this to be something where creatives can come through and do crazy ideas and feel free, and take time to make the covers matter more,” said Swizz. “A lot of the art has been lost [in the digital age]. I remember getting a physical record, opening it up, actually feeling it, looking at the credits and photos inside. Vinyl just feels like something real, something you can have forever that’s not disposable. So many people are going through streaming, but there’s no relationship [to the music] because there’s so much going through that channel. It’s almost a blessing that vinyl is as limited as it is, it keeps it as a sacred relationship. One thing people can’t run from is quality. People are always going to go back to originality, quality and authentic things. Vinyl isn’t going anywhere – the more that you try to run away from it, the stronger it’s going to get. Everybody wants the nostalgia and to feel authentic. The [younger generation] have so much access to their phone that stepping away from it and having another form of music actually makes them feel better. It’s like, ‘I got the Metallica record on vinyl!’ It’s an experience.”
Subscribers can read our full Swizz Beatz feature here.