It’s a personal responsibility of mine to share other artists’ stories on my own Hip Hop platform. People tend to judge rappers based on their appearance, especially when it comes to the “rap persona” that seemingly glorifies drugs, sex, and exploitation of women. However at its core, Hip Hop was born from people in the struggle- largely of the Black and Hispanic communities in New York’s boroughs like Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx. Young and up and coming rappers can talk heavily about Hip Hop’s roots but very few were there when it happened, let alone got to witness it. It can get overwhelming for me when I think of how serious that “gang lifestyle” can be for many. Without passing judgement, there are real men and women whose lives revolve around gangs; sometimes by choice, or family affiliation, or simply for protection.
Northsides Swiss is one of many OGz that got to see the growth of Hip Hop in his own Bronx community and even rapped to Flavor Flav back in the 80s when they lived on the same street. At first glance, one might think that Swiss is just another NY gangster rapper; but his flow, lyrics, and voice transcends that. “I can’t deny that the streets raised me, probably more than my parents did. I’ve seen friends die right in front of me and I’ve been harassed by cops just for standing outside my house while carrying my daughter when she was baby,” said Swiss. Although he was never really in a gang, his music initially got a lot of attention from the gang scene in his area. However, he knew that he had to break away from those affiliations if he wanted to expand his music.
Swiss’ music career spans over 2 decades, in which he has done some writing for major rap and r&b artists, performed at various venues around the east coast, and put together his own music projects. “I had opportunities to sign and work with labels but chose not to get blinded by the attention that comes with the fame. I wanted to show my children that I made it and that they can change and make it also,” said Swiss. He has also helped various artists in different aspects such as song construction, recording, performing, etc.
“Growing up in New York was rough” said Swiss. For most of his childhood, Swiss’ father was in and out of jail and was primarily raised by his single mother. As the oldest child, he always felt like he had to look out for his siblings and be the man of the house at a young age. One day, his father got released from jail and showed Swiss and his siblings how to construct some rap bars, and even wrote a little verse for him. “Despite my father’s absence, teaching me about music and writing was probably the most priceless gift he gave me. I never forgot that verse and I never stopped writing and rapping ever since” said Swiss. At the end of the day, Swiss mentioned that he does music for the love and passion of sharing his story and being able to vibe with the crowd at live performances, which he enjoys doing the most.
Swiss’ voice and flow reminds me of other New York pioneers like Big Pun. While often credited for making party music, he states that he likes to blend the party vibe while keeping it real with lyrics that come from more personal and darker spaces. “I feel that life is a cycle of pain and pleasure and sometimes you just gotta remember to smile, and take the good with the bad” said Swiss. He went on to express that “one thing I’ve seen in the changing music industry is that there are a million different ways to ‘make it,’ you just gotta stay creative and stay real to your story and your own message.”
Today, Swiss continues to write, record, and push out his own projects, including his “PAIN” and “Party Next Door” EPs. His latest single, “Muzik” (Produced by Churchboy Beats) sold worldwide across a number of streaming and download platforms. The single expanded his name to other countries and Swiss soon found that he had fans in Africa messaging him about his music. He is also now a proud father, with his oldest daughter Kaila currently delving into music. She is only 11 years old and just recorded her first song called “I Aint Playing.” Check out Swiss across his various music and social media channels, you won’t be disappointed.
*Photo by Margie Remolacio
Sitting back at my work desk at my campus job, barely coming down from the mini vacation my friends and I had on the island of Maui this past weekend. Pretty much after finals last week, we all took a hella short (30 minute) flight to the Valley Isle. "Yes, I'll take a mimosa...or 5."
We arrived on Thursday evening. That first night, it was just myself, my wifey Gie, and my cousin Jayslie. None of us had not visited Maui since we were little kids and even though it's just a short time away from busy Honolulu, it felt like a world away. Granted, we got to stay at some of the nicest beach resorts in Lahaina but I was amazed at how laid back everyone was and how surreal it was to see bunches and bunches of banana and mango trees available to be picked. It almost reminded me of the Waimanalo and North Shore areas on Oahu. Being that we were in "haole" country (and I mean that in the realest way), we got looked up and down and even smirked at more than a couple times. This was probably because we looked like a bunch of asian thugs with our hats backwards and urban fashion. But who cares about them...we were at a resort! So anyways, the first night it was just 3 of us and we got a huge 1 bedroom suite to ourselves at the Maui Kaanapali Villas. The front desk personnel was so helpful. They knew we were "kama'aina" (Hawaiian word for local) and treated us very well. We spent the first night doing what college students do when finals are done...DRINK! (and some other things I can't mention, just know that it was LIT). Mahalo to the homie Jah for rolling through with the good stuff.
The next day was Friday the 13th, the day of 808 Lava Squad Mafia's (LSM) album release party. The morning started off chill, washed down breakfast with beer and wine. What's the point of the morning time if you don't start it on a HIGH note? Absolutely nothing. Also, there is NOTHING like getting lit on a sandy beach with the slight taste of ocean salt and sunshine on your skin to greet you. Good Morning! More drinks at the pool? Oh sure, I have plastic money. Swipe! We later checked in to another time share called the Konea Beach Resort & Spa, still along the Kaanapali coast just a few minutes away from our first hotel. Friday night was hella fun. We all went to Lulu's Bar & Grill to check out LSM's show. Lots of talent in one room. As a performer, this was probably the best crowd I've had in a local type of crowd and establishment. Big mahalos to Dizzy Daz for setting it up. Also shouts out to the host and DJ!
Saturday started off early as my team and I took an hour and a half drive to Haiku, where the Inside Out Universe recording studio is located. Located in the back of a warehouse type of set up, one would never know that a full fledged recording and video production happens there. One word to describe the vibe at the studio? Maui Wowee (okay technically that's two words but it's one name. Lol). The video interview went fairly smoothly, Jahsun (Host of the "Real Talk Hip Hop Hawaii" podcast) and his team definitely got something good going on. Time really flies when you're having fun. The rest of the day was spent BBQ-ing with the fam, checking out the beach, and cruising around the 4 different pools that the resort had. It was also cool to find some other local people hanging out at the resort. But overall the crib was hella nice- two rooms with separate showers and hot tubs, a full kitchen and bar area, and a huge balcony over looking the coffee farm across the way. Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery to put life back in perspective.
Saturday night was supposed to be a major turn up but most of the crew fell asleep after a few shots. Oh well, we still got to play some beer pong. My uncle and I were the only ones up till 4am and decided to take a midnight drive around Lahaina to find a bar of some sort. Sadly, nearly all businesses in Lahaina close by 10pm and they stop serving alcohol at 11pm. We still cruised more back at the hotel. The stars were clear to see and it brought me back to childhood nights back before I remember how Oahu got so urbanized. Maui is truly beautiful. It's different from Oahu because of how much open land there is, I love it. No crazy tall buildings, no rail, no traffic and in fact, no freeways!
Sunday seemed to be just a "pick up where we left off" type of day because everyone who fell asleep early, woke up ready to drink and party. So we did! Haha. Beer pong and eggs? Sure I guess that works...Lol. Later that afternoon, my homie Kim and her fam had to fly back to Oahu. So, Jayslie, Margie, and our homie Jan checked back in to the Maui Kaanapali Villas but this time we stayed in a loft! It was like a "big kid" sleep over because there was a full kitchen, a living room area, a balcony with a swing, a twisty staircase that led upstairs to a bedroom with its own bathroom, and to top it all off, Jan found a freaking nook with 3 bunk beds and a TV. It's like we just jumped into a Tumblr photo! Haha.
Monday was our last day so we checked out of our hotel in the morning and headed back to Kahului near the airport. One of my grandparents who live in Waikulu also had us over for a nice home cooked Filipino meal- chicken, pancit, and pickled mango! It was a good way to kind of bring the trip to a close. As expected, we had to stop at Krispy Kreme to pick up donuts for friends and fam back on Oahu. The helper was rude to me for no reason but other than that I liked the donuts and coffee.
Overall, Maui is truly beautiful. It's different from Oahu because of how much open land there is, I love it. No crazy tall buildings, no rail, no traffic and in fact, no freeways! It's also crazy to see how different each island of Hawaii is and that back in the day, each island was its own territory with its own kings and queens and leaders. Taking in all of the unique history and vibes from Maui, it was refreshing to hear different local rappers' stories and chop it up with other folks in the Hawaii Hip Hop and music scene. Definitely coming back to Maui real soon.
OTDHipHop is an independent music blog and network, curated by Rapper/Blogger Jehzan Exclusive.