Swizz Beatz is using his passion for music to empower New York City students.
Partnering up with Music Unites--a non-profit organization that helps fund music programs in inner-city schools--the Grammy Award-winning producer hosted the kick-start event of a series of music workshops entitled Power of One Music-Versity: Bronx Edition at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Jan. 17. Rallying for the addition of the arts in at-risk cities, Swizz has helped fund The Bronx Charter School of the Arts and has devoted his time to Music Unites endeavors.
"I think that a lot of people just don't understand creativity. I feel that music is a global language and I know that more kids can express themselves through art better than they can academically," he told VIBE. "Like with my son, he was going through a little bit of problems in school, then I put him in a college program for building video games--which is 10 times harder than the courses he was taking--and he came out an A student."
The Music Unites Music-Versity program showcased the talents of students in schools that have benefited from the organization's efforts, including Bronx Charter and the Women's Academy of Excellence. Students ranging from elementary to middle school grades performed various musical numbers including a guitar ensemble, a drum line, dance and a chorus. Enacting the mantra "The sky is not the limit, it's just the view," student ambassadors Candace Lee Camacho and Kyle Alfred also did a special performance of MU's theme song. Music Unites founder and director Michelle Edgar pointed to the importance of music as well as the program for students.
"There's an even greater need for the work we're doing where we provide free after-school programs in the schools because there is no support system right now," she said. "Our Bronx students never had a music education program. They never even had an after-school program. They don't even have a proper auditorium to have these programs.
Swizz Beatz also sat down with Billboard's editorial director Bill Werde for an intimate interview at the Music-Versity program to discuss his childhood connection to music and his early career. Chronicling everything from his early life in the South Bronx to his early days as a DJ in Atlanta, the producer encouraged the audience of students and pointed to music as a constant outlet in the midst of his struggles.
"I was facing certain problems getting to school and it was turning into certain altercations," he told Werde. "But even with the negativity I was facing, I'd always go right back to creating, whether it was art, whether it was music, and that's how I would vent my frustrations rather than going out there and doing something that's going to get me in more trouble."
Swizz also spoke on the incarnation of his fame with the Ruff Ryders. Recalling his need to prove himself as a viable producer among his family-run label, Swizz Beatz pointed out that his success had not come easy, and reminisced on the day he realized the level of his clout.
"You know, I never did music for money. I did music to hear myself in the club, and to hear my creation on the radio. For instance, when "Stop, Drop" came out, I was on 125th Street...and every car was playing the Ruff Ryders anthem," he said to Werde. "I thought I was able to retire right there. My job was done in my mind. It was like 'Wow, everybody can appreciate my work,' and it took me so long to get there. And that was in '98. So hearing every car driving pass, playing your song, that was my Grammy."
Swizz expressed to Werde that he hopes to make Music Unites a global effort to help fund music programs for children all over the world. He also talked with VIBE about his upcoming art gallery to showcase his own talents in the visual arts, as well as endorse some new faces.
"I'm working on my first exhibit now. I'm taking my time with it because it needs to be right. I'm also featuring a couple of new up-and-coming artists, painters and photographers because I feel like if I can use my announcement of my first show to also introduce new artists that people would never hear about, then that justifies me doing my show," he said. "Instead of me keeping my art a personal thing, we can use it to save lives, change lives and inspire."
For more info on Music Unites, visit its official website here.
Photo Credit: Martin Roe