Beatmaker’s Corner: Swifta Beater

Words: Yemi Abiade
Photography: Hyperfrank

You know when you hear a banger in the club, and you can’t help but scrunch up your face and release the most vicious skank known to man? Or when you divide a line in the middle of the dance and wait for the beat to drop for the moshpit to ensue? Well, chances are you have done all of the above to a Swifta Beater production.

The soft-spoken, sought-after beatmaker from Birmingham is the crème de la crème of grime, the brains behind countless undeniable bangers and, despite being only 28 years old, is a seasoned veteran across many underground UK genres. In the present day, his instantly recognisable tagline, tinged with an obnoxious Brum twang, means that a madness is on the way. You’ve heard it on tracks like Kano and Giggs’ “3 Wheel-Ups”, Jme and Giggs’ “Man Don’t Care”, Giggs and CASISDEAD’s “Hollow & Heston” and loads more, and with his operatic productions—rife with thumping orchestral elements, intimidating drum sequences and hi-hats and the most menacing basslines going—Swifta is the go-to for what I like to call ‘super saiyan grime’.

But outside the insanity is a cool, calm, and collected individual, whose frantic beats are the output of his energetic side, the side that enjoys the thrill of outdoor activities like “snowboarding and adventurous stuff.” He retains a suave demeanour as he labels his sound “fun, aggressive, moshpit-ready grime. I like to make energetic music across genres like hip-hop, bassline and grime, and I’m very hyperactive,” he explains. “That’s why I like to make skippy grime tunes and even my slower ones are quicker in tempo than your average slow song. My actual personality is quite laid back, but my music shows what my personality doesn’t.”

Swifta has been determined from young. His father was the music producer Wooligan, the mind behind Apache Indian’s 1993 ragga anthem “Boom Shak A Lak”, while his mother sang. At an early stage, Swifta was hooked on American producers, explaining: “I was listening to people like Dr. Dre, Swizz Beatz and Scott Storch. I took a lot from those guys, but it got to a point where I was just copying them. It’s easy to follow someone else’s style when you’re starting up but then you get to grips with music and then add your own elements.”

Swifta’s ‘getting to grips’ moment came via his PlayStation, where he began making skeletal beats on Music 2000—a contrived but necessary first step. “The beats were absolutely shit,” he remembers. “I tried to slice Eski beats and place them on Music 2000 like some others did, but I didn’t know how to. Then I kind of outgrew that and wanted to use the proper software, so my dad showed me the ones and twos on the computer.” With his father, he had a guaranteed entry into music that isn’t granted to many, but Swifta was proactive, soaking in everything from old-school garage to early grime.

“My music shows what my personality doesn’t.”

A devoted music head, Swifta was always a step ahead of his circle when it came to the latest mixtape drops. Making music, however, still wasn’t a realistic goal. “I was buying records with my lunch money before and after school,” he says. “My friends never believed I would be here today because, back then, producing wasn’t a thing you pursue. It was just a dream. I told my parents that I refused to get a normal job, and they could see that I was good at what I was doing.” Swifta would not be denied, and his meritocratic moves saw him become a bubbling presence on MySpace, before linking up with the E.O.G. (Element of Grime) collective, containing Dapz On The Map, Tazzle and more, producing various tracks under their banner and receiving national radio play on BBC 1Xtra by 2005.

Things took a turn when he linked up with bassline empress Kyla, soon becoming a fixture in a cult genre. “For the next four years, I was doing strictly bassline,” Swifta says. “I mean, I was still making grime beats but there was no one to give it to because it went quiet.” Despite grime being ‘dead’ in the late 2000s and early 2010s, Swifta trudged away making beats at the height of his bassline popularity, hoping that, one day, the genre would make its way back. 2012, with his Easy EP, was that moment delivered and he was right back in the thick of things.

With such big, atmospheric and screeching production, making the most use of every synth, snare and kick, Swifta’s creative process is somewhat understated, serving as a calm to the eventual beat’s storm. “I just open my laptop and get busy; I don’t even have to hear anything,” he explains. “It usually takes about 20 minutes to get a rough idea of a beat down, three sounds, and then the drums. I just do me and if whoever wants the beat likes it, they can fit into what I’m doing rather than me making something that sounds like a Metro Boomin beat or something like that. For something like ‘3 Wheel-Ups’, I had to bring something to the table for Kano, and, in some cases, if my beat doesn’t work, I’ll work to make something with an artist.”

Considering the factory-like efficiency with which he makes the beats, Swifta has been guilty of being overly critical of his work, and on the verge of making decisions that would alter the current path of UK music. The story behind one of his most popular beats, “Man Don’t Care”, is the biggest example. “I was actually gonna delete that song before I sent it to Jme,” he explains. “I just wasn’t feeling it. I made it in 15 minutes, and probably didn’t have much of a connection to it. When I made the melody, it sounded too much like a game, so I posted it on Facebook to see what people thought. It got a good reaction and my sister phoned me to say, ‘Don’t delete it! Think of someone you can give it to.’ So, I sent it to Jme and a year later, I met him at Eskimo Dance and he showed me the ‘Man Don’t Care’ video.”

Alas, he abstained from deletion and the rest is history, but while some may snark at his thinking, I see his willingness to discard a banger differently. Lord only knows what other fire he has in his arsenal if “Man Don’t Care” wasn’t initially up to scratch. Nevertheless, Swifta is the living definition of a workaholic, and he encourages other producers to be the same. “Producers can be seen as artists if they put themselves in that position,” he says, “like putting out a song where an artist is featured. They’re getting the recognition slowly, but they should be in the public eye more and be available for everything—mixes, interviews, DJ sets—so that more people get to know you.”

As we conclude, he announces a new EP on the way this year, featuring AJ Tracey, Chip, P Money and more, before a full-length album in 2019. Having conquered the grime and bassline worlds, Swifta’s vision is expanding at pace. “I’ve always wanted to branch out and I’ve got more poppy tracks,” he says. “But I also want my grime beats to go further; I want to put Drake or Future on a grime beat—that would be sick! I just want to take my sound worldwide.”

Swifta Beater linked up with fellow Brummie, Lady Leshurr, for Captain Morgan’s new drink aware campaign. Watch the video for “Live Like A Captain below.

Posted on March 21, 2018