Sixteen years ago Swizz Beatz was an unknown record producer crafting tunes for his uncle’s record label, Ruff Ryder’s Entertainment. Today he’s a hip-hop super producer, business tycoon, art collector and hubby to Alicia Keys. Talk about a come-up. As the lanky music man blows out the candles on his birthday (35!), VIBE releases our August conversation with him at Harlem’s Rucker Park, when he talked about the 15th anniversary of DMX’s “Ruff Ryders Anthem,” his reality TV show Dream School and how he plans to make Reebok jump over Jumpmans. —Christopher Harris
VIBE: “Ruff Ryderz Anthem” came out 15 years ago, Take us back into the creation process for that song.
Swizz Beatz: I had [the beat] for a minute and I remember X didn’t even want to do it—he thought it was a rock-and-roll beat. Then he did it and I remember being right here [in Harlem] on 125th, sitting down in front of the mart and seeing every car pass by playing the anthem. [Laughs] I thought I could retire then.
The full remix was epic, too. Who do you think had the best verse?
I like Drag’s verse on the remix.
Tell me about your new reality show Dream School?
It was an honor to do Dream School because it was an immediate form of giving back to kids that are like how I was. They have the opportunity to take something that they feel is negative and turn it into a positive situation. Dream School is like the last hope for those kids. So to be able to go into that school and uplift some spirits and get some positive energy, it was amazing. That’s the way I want to be on TV.
What’s your role?
I’m a teacher, mentor, all those things.
Are you happy with your role with Reebok?
Yeah man, look what we’re doing. We came in, we saw, we conquered, we’re still working hard and I like it because a lot of people didn’t think we’d get to this level and we’re not even nowhere near where we’re going to be. We just keep being consistent and putting this hard work in. I‘d say we’re in the top three right now.
Is your goal to get Reebok on everybody in the hoods’ feet?
It’s going to take a couple of chess moves but you have to start from the bottom and be willing to put that work in to get to these levels.
What else do you have planned for the brand?
The unthinkable. One thing about our brand is we really mess with the culture. A lot of those brands don’t do that, they just have artists for their campaigns. We actually show love to artists outside of our campaigns. That’s what makes us a little bit different. What makes us a lot different than those other brands those are athletic brands—we can do more lifestyle things and have fun and explore the arts with Basquiat and this that and the third. We’ve got Keith Haring now, we can do what we want. Once the people start seeing this is really for the culture and we keep putting that heat out we’ll be alright.