“Christian. Black. Family.” Those are the three keys of Swoope’s identity.
“I pride myself on looking at things and articulating things from a biblical worldview. I am learning to pride myself in my culture and my race… after the glory of the Lord, everything I do is for my family.”
Swoope’s family was very involved in their church when he grew up, and he said he fell in love with the things of God at a young age. “The music, the emotion, the expressive singing and preaching, the family aesthetic” were what he loved about the African-American church. Swoope gained most of his friends from church.
Throughout his youth, he considered himself a good kid. “I wasn’t on drugs. I wasn’t sleeping around. I wasn’t in gangs.” He said that at age fifteen he came to understand God’s message that “without my Son, you’re not good.”
Swoope started making beats at age fifteen. “There was a rapper who was supposed to come to the studio. I’m using air quotes because the studio was my mother’s basement. He didn’t show up, but I made a beat that was specifically for him and I didn’t feel like wasting it.”
That was Swoope’s first time recording his raps. He played it for his pastor who said, “You should make a few more of these.” Those few more songs became his first album.
“To me what seemed as a random joke turned into my career ten years later.”
Swoope is known for his lyrical skills, which he attributes to listening, watching, and reading. “Some of my favorite movies are metaphors. Inception is my favorite movie… worlds inside of worlds to articulate a metaphor of either family or freedom or anything like that.” He said that Lupe Fiasco is the greatest influencer on his wordplay.
With his new album Sonshine, “I want them to feel hope and I want them to ask how.”
The past few years of Swoope’s life have been difficult, which was expressed in his 2017 single “Lambo,” not included on the album. He says that though he is facing trials in life, his hope is inspired by Romans 8:28, “all these things are going to work for my good in some way, shape, or form, whether that’s the hope of glory in the afterlife or abundant life now.”
“How did you make it through all of these things? How did you get to a place of confidence and security and contentment and peace?” These are the questions he answers on Sonshine.
Swoope said that he doesn’t want to “beat people over the head” by saying that he made it through his trials because of Jesus, but rather explain that message “by sharing a common experience of humanity and humanity is filled with tension.”
In late 2015, Swoope left Collision Records and did a lot of self-discovery. “I had to live my own experiences so that I could sing the song ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness” from a disposition of experience and not voyeurism.”
Native North is Swoope’s new record label, co-owned by his good friends Natalie Lauren and KB. “Me and Nat were in a group together in 2011 and have been best friends ever since. KB and I have a really great friendship.” When Native North became an official business in 2017, “it was kind of a no-brainer” for Swoope to come on their roster.
“It makes no sense to me to not speak about the things that are going on today and the conversation of race is a very prevalent conversation in our society in 2018.”
In “TSNK,” standing for Thou Shalt Not Kill, Swoope shares his outrage of how unarmed black men have been killed by police who end up facing no consequences. “I think I would like them to be curious about an opinion that is not theirs. That curiosity requires a level of humility that I think will foster very healthy conversations.”
“I think systemic injustice affects my everyday life. There’s nothing about my life as an African-American in the United States of America that is not affected by some form of discrimination, some form of oppression, some form of marginalization.”
He is disappointed that when telling some people this opinion, they will not believe him unless he gives an example.
“I think the justification of me saying that should be my humanity. If you believe that all humans are created in the image of God, that’s the prerequisite for listening.”
“Black Boy” is a song Swoope wrote for his sons, Jeremiah and Micah. “I want them to know that the world is theirs and the Father, God, built it for them. I think throughout their life, they will hear so much of the opposite.” He says that because his sons are African-American, they will be faced with countless obstacles from individuals, stereotypes, and society discouraging them from reaching their potential.
“I want to give them a song that they can sing, that they can hear that their earthly father told them from a young age that ‘Black boy, black boy, the world is yours.’”
“Prior to the night that I’m getting ready to tell you about, I probably hadn’t cried in literally ten to twelve years.” Swoope was praying with his wife Natalie Lauren, Kareem Manuel, Mrs. Manuel, and Manuel’s sister. “His sister was praying, and I just remember her saying, ‘Lord, we know that you have us.’”
At that point in his life, he was questioning God because of all the turmoil he faced, “and to hear the resonating theme in prayer that the Lord has us just brought me to tears.” The following day, Swoope wrote “You Got Me.”
“There is a safety net of security and contentment in Jesus that is literally found nowhere else.”
“God is good all the time and all the time God is good.” This is a common colloquialism in the African-American church and is the inspiration for Swoope’s hit single “All the Time.”
“’God is good all the time’ became real to me when my ‘all the time’ wasn’t good.” He wants people to recognize that God’s goodness and love doesn’t disappear, even among the most difficult hardships, and decided to end Sonshine with that message.
Though he is known as a rapper, he considers himself a producer first. “If I had to choose one, I would produce for the rest of my life. There’s a small window you can rap in and it usually stops around [age] thirty-seven.” Swoope says that producing can be a lifelong career. “When you’re making music, you can do that forever.”
Outside of music, Swoope loves to relax with family and friends. He enjoys playing basketball, “watching movies, grabbing drinks, going out to eat. I am a very low-key, regular guy.”
“All things are going to work together for the good of those that are called by God according to His purpose and His will, that love God and are called according to his purpose. I am not creating my reality, so I look at my mom’s cancer different. I look at my bank account different, my relationships different.”