Less than two weeks ago, Swizz Beatz hosted the annual No Commission art fair—this time, in his native South Bronx. The show, sponsored lavishly by spirit giant BACARDÍ, took place at a waterfront warehouse on Lincoln Avenue, in a neighborhood subject to a new gentrified identity. However protested, the show went on, and Swizz delivered a grand spectacle featuring some of today’s hottest recording artists backed by a soundtrack he himself produced. At the very end of the night, when all the dust had settled, we sat down with the hip-hop vet for a candid conversation on the production of the show and his intentions, to soon learn that Swizz had somehow managed to keep a lily-white real estate developer, Keith Rubenstein, from renaming the neighborhood the “Piano District.”
“I had him do that in 30 minutes,” he said with a smirk. “If I got that man to change his mind in 30 minutes about naming this the “Piano District,” what else can we [make] him do? What else can we sit down and have a decent conversation about, instead of protesting and being hostile? You don’t have to protest if a person is willing to listen to you, but some people just got they own agendas.”
Only later in that same interview we learned that while the name was being scrapped, the plan that would inevitably displace low-income families would still come to fruition. “The plans are already done,” he added. “So let’s go out with a blast at least.”
In theory, it sounded fine, if only for a split second. Right? Because Swizz was just a musician, not a realtor. The very thought of a band of artist activists on the other side, tirelessly fighting for the have-nots and the cultural significance of my crib, had quietly slipped into the void of space. Perhaps it was Swizz’s gift of gab, or the still-lingering alcohol-induced dreams of seeing any concrete positive forward movement, but his story was bought.
Bronx born and bred artist, Shellyne Rodriguez, is here to emphatically remind us how easily it is for some celebrities—smug with accomplishment—to become detached from reality, while suckling at the golden teat.
“Let’s take note first that [Swizz] is openly commending this landlord, who means to displace our community to build a new Soho,” she said to Huffington Post. “Rubenstein paid 2 Million dollars to have Bacardi and Swizz Beatz provide an amazing PR campaign by throwing a huge popular concert and major art event with an impressive Coachella level lineup of musicians,” later adding that, “This was a PR nightmare for [Rubinstein] and Swizz came in to clean that up. We bust our ass to go after Rubenstein for that arrogant colonizer bullshit. While Swizz Beatz was partying with him at the Macabre Suite, we were out on the streets.”
Edit: The author of this story refers to Rubenstein as “lily-white,” while the real estate tycoon is reportedly “Jewish,” which means he may or may not have to worry about brown people problems.