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Every musical movement has its linchpin, a key role-player who shuns the spotlight in lieu of fighting in the trenches for others. For Funk Volume, the defiantly independent outfit that includes chart juggernauts Dizzy Wright, Hopsin, and Jarren Benton, that keystone is SwizZz. One of the label’s founders, SwizZz is now poised to step to the front, with a style and sensibility unlike any of his peers and label-mates.
Funk Volume’s journey began a decade ago, with SwizZz shared a love for music with his high school classmate, Hopsin. “When me and Hop’ first started making music, for me, it was more of a hobby-something fun to do. I loved it, but I didn’t necessarily have it in mind to be a profession or a career,” SwizZz admits today. Like Hopsin, SwizZz—who rolled in different circles—felt a disconnect from what was represented in Hip-Hop, and closely associated with his region. “It’s not typical, but I take pride where I’m from. The duality of being Black and white, I played basketball, skated, and played soccer, made me different from what people might expect.” In a different world than the west coast iconography nearby, he totes, “Being from the Valley represented those things. I’ve never said I was from L.A.”
When the pair graduated, the San Fernando Valley native headed to University Of California Irvine, taking his beat equipment with him. “Many weekends, I’d catch the train to Hopsin’s house and kick it with him, making music.” Those sleepless creative sessions made SwizZz take audit of where his passions and his direction. “Three years in college, it go to a point where I felt like I was just there to be there.”
Dealing with what SwizZz calls a dysfunctional family-life in the Valley, returning home from college proved to be a challenge. In 2008, as Hopsin was dissatisfied with a botched contract with Ruthless Records, SwizZz was reconnecting with his recently laid off older brother and businessman, Damien. At his 21st SwizZz proposed his dream to Dame. With Hopsin, the three formed Funk Volume, and began a grassroots attack on conventions surrounding artist awareness and reliance on traditional media. Throughout this time, SwizZz, who has amassed five years worth of guest appearances and compilation work, got busy behind the scenes. “Any labor that needed to be done, I’d definitely play a hand,” he says, managing a lot of the team’s merchandising duties. “As far as recruiting artists as well, such as Dizzy and Jarren, I have a heavy role in the selection of who we put on the label.” Without a project, SwizZz says he still plugged away. “Throughout these past five years, it’s not like I’ve been completely unproductive or not working. But I never made that full gung-ho charge at it, ‘til now.” He adds, “I’ve got a studio at the house, and I’m constantly rapping. I’m not the most prolific at releasing music, but behind the scenes, I’m constantly improving my craft.” During this period, SwizZz’s deft, skillful rapping appeared on Billboard Top 100 albums including Stevie Stone’s Rollin’ Stone, Jarren Benton’s My Grandma’s Basement, and Hopsin’s Knock Madness.
With those high profile spots, in addition to standout cuts such as “I Am Raw,” “Funk Volume 2013,” and “Too Far Gone,” the table is setting for SwizZz. The same energy the MC/producer has given performances, he intends to bring to recording. “I take a lot of pride in my shows. I’m really aggressive and in your-face. I’ve got my own style.” Admitting that he plays a position to never eclipse his headlining label-mates, SwizZz is soon to be top-billing with an arsenal of music. “I just want to make my way back onto the scene and steadily release stuff again, to lead up to the album,” he says of the year ahead. “As long as people see me working right now, the album doesn’t matter. Visibility is the main objective.”
Overcoming the hurdles associated with depression and addiction, things that distorted SwizZz’s focus and talents, he feels ready to tell a story not often heard in Hip-Hop. “My mind-state was disastrous. I got swallowed up by my ego,” SwizZz says of his early twenties, explaining the delayed debut album. “It’s not that I’ve been patient, it’s that I’ve been afflicted. I had the tools, but I wasn’t in a good space.” The clouds are clearing, and one of the quiet giants within a highly successful musical movement has finally paid the emotional and mental dues to match his incredible abilities.