Before becoming one of hip-hop’s superproducers and graduating from Harvard Business School, Kasseem Dean was just a kid from The Bronx who gravitated to the art he saw. Whether it was the graffiti on the trains and the brick walls or the fashion of the late 80s and early 90s, Dean, better known as Swizz Beatz, digested it all.
Now, with a few hits and Grammy’s under his belt, the 40-year-old multihyphenate’s newest muse is the upliftment of other living artists by way of The Dean Collection. Collaborating with American Express and Marriott Bonvoy, a new travel program for Mariott International, Swizz Beatz, premiered his latest art installation “Deluxxe Fluxx” inside Manhattan’s Skylight Studios.
Created by Brooklyn-based duo Faile & Bäst, members of the media, musicians, art lovers and more were able to take part in the immersive experience, which featured neon-colored lights, old-school arcade games, and music that wasn’t “regular,” as Swizz said.
Before the night’s activities began, VIBE caught up with Mr. Dean to discuss the newest addition to the collection, what art has done for him and what he thinks art is supposed to do for the masses.
How are you, Mr. Dean?
I’m good. I love that you call me Mr. Dean.
Well, that’s how I was raised.
My first question to you is: The Dean Collection began in 2014 and from my understanding, you started it because you wanted to support living artists.
It’s one of the reasons, yes.
So, what triggered the launch?
The Dean Collection started as me and my wife’s personal collection because we wanted to create a museum for our kids to run when we weren’t here anymore. It was all about building a legacy. But then we realized shining a light on living artists with our star power, created more star power and more synergy, more education. More! More! More! This isn’t something we should keep private. This is something the masses should know and we should help hundreds of thousands of artists around the world if possible with our gift. It’s just been a blessing.
What is it about FAILE that you took to?
Well, I’ve been a fan of colors and vibrations for a long time and these guys have been killing it for a long time. They’re such masters of their craft. I feel our culture needs to understand FAILE and we should support them and celebrate them as creatives. I just wanted to show the culture an amazing experience and different forms of art, not only canvasses on the wall but also an immersive experience. Even the music I’m going to play tonight is not going to be regular. “I want people to know I celebrate all artists. Whether you’re African-American, white, Asian, you name it. We at The Dean Collection celebrate all artists.”
What is it about this kind of art, like you said not just canvasses on the wall, that feeds you?
Well, it’s visually and sonically stimulating. Most of us are in our heads all day–
dealing with what we’re dealing with, so if I can bring you into a world that can take you away from negatives and bring you into a positive and a creative state of mind, then we’ve done a good job and that’s what art is supposed to do. Art is supposed to take you to another level. Although my next show might be canvasses, this particular one in New York City I felt that we needed this in the city right now just to shake this up.
I’m a disrupter, my partners Amex and Marriott they’ve been disrupters as well for a long time, and it’s organic. When you come in here you feel like it’s about the creativity. Even though we have strong brands backing us–and all artists need strong brands to back them–but its how you collaborate with those strong brands, and the artists trust The Dean Collection to represent them well.
What are you wearing?
I have on vintage Dickies. This is my Father’s Day gift from my wife and my kids. I have on a cool G-Shock that happened to match the vibe.
I dig it.
Thank you. Oh, and these shades I’ve got are ECOODA.
My last question: You’re a kid from The Bronx. Before Ruff Ryders, before Harvard Business School before you met the love of your life how did art keep you?
You know, different sides of the art kept me. Growing up in The Bronx, I grew up with graffiti on the trains and on the walls. It excited me. I grew up around fashion where you painted the back of your jacket. It excited me. I grew up around DJs and music and DJing so that excited me. Those chapters have been written before, how they organically came out, I just let it flow.