Swave Sevah Interview
The Stronghold, battle-tested MC has been turning heads with raw verses for years, but now the spotlight’s on him, as his solo album Son of a One-Armed Man is finally out. Peep Swave Sevah as he talks about his battle roots, rolling with Stronghold, getting the album out, and more.
Congrats on the release of your debut album Son of a One-Armed Man. How does it feel to finally have it out?
Man, it feels like a weight has been lifted. I felt like I was holding the world on my shoulders and now it’s a relief. It’s gone. I can walk around freely and be happy now. It’s a great feeling.
With how long it took for the album to actually come out, was it ever hard recording new music until this dropped?
No, no creative block, to be real with you. I’m constantly recording. That’s probably why I took so long, because I was struggling with what I wanted to put on the album. Every time I did a new song, I didn’t want to put it on because I didn’t want to have an album with 30 songs. I was doing the process of elimination. I had released a project called Words to Live By and I had put a few new ones on there and took some songs off the album and put them on there. Then I eventually locked the tracks in for Son of a One-Armed Man and once I did, it made it easier for me to put it out.
How many different versions of the album have actually existed?
Oh, man, I don’t even know. About five, probably. (laughs) Five versions. I had so much music, man. It was about five versions, but it was five different visions that I had for it. And this one is the one I fell in love with.
I’m a big fan of the album, and one of my favorite elements of your style is how unpredictable it is, where the listener never knows what you’re going to say next. What’s your writing process like?
My writing process, to be honest with you, I don’t even know how to explain it to you. Certain times when I hear certain music, it just talks for me. Certain beats put me in certain moods and make me feel certain emotions and that’s what comes out in the music at the time. It just depends on the music. I might hear a beat that gets me writing right away. All of my beats inspire emotions. Maybe it’s something that happened during the day. And normally when I start something, I don’t stop until I finish. They wind up becoming songs. I’m inspired by the things I hear and the things I see.
You worked with a lot of different artists on here, from Sean Price, Ike P, and Poison Pen to Killer Mike. How did you decide who to feature on Son of a One-Armed Man?
Sean Price is my favorite rapper, and plus he’s my boy. I didn’t want to do a project without having him on board. And as far as Killer Mike, I think that’s something nobody would have ever imagined. Nobody would have ever really thought of me doing a song with Killer Mike. When I told people I had him on the album, they were surprised. I like the reaction I get when they find out I had him on there. And Ike P has been rapping with me forever. Same with Poison Pen and Stronghold. That’s family.
For those who don’t know, what’s your relationship with Poison Pen and Stronghold?
Poison Pen, that’s my brother. Stronghold, baby! I got over ten years in the game with Poison Pen, Breez Evahflowin, L.I.F.E. Long, Immortal Technique, Stealth Index, DJ Static, C Rayz Walz and all of them. We go way back, even to the earlier circuits. We were the clique to beat. We were killing shit. I go that far back with them.
You’re also known for being a great battle MC. How does your approach change from battling to making songs?
It’s a different state of mind. Battling is a totally different mentality. It’s no holds barred, murder, death, kill, with a splash of entertainment. Andc music is more well-rounded. You have to be more versatile and willing to talk about different topics and explore new topics.
Do you think the stereotype of battle rappers not being able to make albums is finally going away?
Yeah. I think I’m one of them helping it. I think battling has just gotten so big that people can’t help but to give a battle rapper a shot if he actually makes music. You want to at least listen to what they have to say or how their music sounds. Now if you listen to one and their music happens to be trash, then that might turn you off. But if I see somebody kill somebody in a battle, it makes me want to hear their song just to see what it sounds like, just because of the battle.
You’ve been working with Grind Time and their battles, which has really taken off. How is the battle scene growing today?
It’s real big. It blew up, man. It’s way bigger than it used to be.
I don’t know. I think it’s the format, the way it’s being done now. The way the events are being done with different battles going on. And YouTube’s got a lot to do with it. Remember back in the days, Fight Klub, that was by invite only. They would be in a secret location and you had to be somebody to know where they was going to be at. You had to be connected. And then Smack DVD was on DVD and they didn’t always have an announcement of when the next DVD was coming out so you just had to catch it, and they would have a battle. But now they have a format where they announce that they have a certain amount of battles at a certain location. I think people who were into the 106 and Park Freestyle Fridays and the Fight Klub battles, this is drawing their attention now.
Grind Time and URL started in stores and it got too big. Then they started going to small clubs and now they’re selling out Webster Halls and arenas. I’m supposed to be going out to the Philippines April 9th to battle at Araneta Arena where Ali fought Frazier at. 16,000 people, so it’s getting crazier and crazier and crazier.
Do you think there’s a different type of hip-hop fan that gravitates towards battles or are they becoming more mainstream?
I see a lot of people paying more attention to battling. I know that. I see a lot of sites are posting more battles and a lot of comedians got their battle rap jokes. I don’t know. I see a whole lot more attention being paid to battle rapping and that’s what’s making the websites pay more attention to it, because of the attention the fans are paying to battles.
Do you worry about being labeled as a battle rapper?
It don’t matter to me. I could give a fuck about what people think, to be real with you. The warrior spirit comes out in me when I’m battling. That’s me. That’s the type of shit I like doing. And music is what I like doing. That’s my first love, and that’s what I love doing. I don’t have no problem doing both. I do music and I put out an album and I just had a battle February 24th and destroyed a guy and then put out an album a week and a half after that. Yeah, I don’t mind labels and I’m not stressed out by it yet.
You mentioned your warrior spirit. How did your father help foster your warrior spirit?
I gotta give all of that to my pops. He gave me the code that I live by today and he introduced me to the arts, My father, the title of my album, Son of a One-Armed Man, is named after him. It means a lot to me because of the man that he was. He lost his arm at 11 years-old and became a top-ranking practitioner in martial arts. He’s nice! And for you to do that with one arm, that was amazing to me. It’s like a testament that you could do anything that you put your mind to in this world. All you need is focus and determination, you good.
Do you feel like you take a similar approach to your music?
Exactly. I’m very analytical. I analyze everything and I break everything down. That’s why I love my style of rhyme. That’s why I don’t care if people didn’t like it, because I’m just being me and as long as I’m able to do that, I’m happy. And I’m nice. I’m nice. I put words together very well.
You gained a lot of new fans on Sean Price’s mixtape Kimbo Price for “Bars of Death.” What did that song do for you?
Definitely. Shout out to my man Sean Price. That’s like my brother. I got a lot of calls off of that. I remember him calling me and telling me it made the mixtape, and when the mixtape dropped, up until that point and the time between the mixtape actually dropping, I ain’t hear nothing else about it and then when it dropped, my phone went crazy. It got a lot of love. Even people that go to the battle scene and they’re Sean Price fans and they tell me they heard me on that. So yeah, I got a lot of recognition for that and I appreciate him for that.
What are your goals for Son of a One-Armed Man?
Really, unrealistically, it going platinum. But, you know, I’m realistic, so me, personally, I just want it to do well. I want everyone to hear it out and give it a shot. I don’t care if you bootleg it and give it to your peoples. Just pass it around and get it out there. Help me spread the word and show people my hard work. Just give a dude a chance. I promise you will like it.
What are your plans now that the album is out?
I’m still going to do battles. I’m making good money doing battles. I look forward to doing some tours, me coming around to cities and tearing it down somewhere. I look forward to doing more battles and keeping my fans satisfied. I told myself before that I was going to quit battling when the album dropped but battling has gotten so big that I feel I would be a fool if I let that window close, so I’m going to be available for that as long as I can.
What’s it going to take to get a Swave Sevah battle?
The numbers have to add up and the opponent has to be cool. But if somebody feels like they’re nice and they feel like they can hang and the numbers add up and the situation is right, holla at me, I’ll take your head off.
That’s very generous of you.
Yeah, no doubt!