Hip-Hop Gripes: Expert Sway Calloway Addresses Fans’ Issues With the Genre
Hip-hop fans love their culture — that’s a fact. A lesser known fact is that they hate it too at times. The genre’s godfathers are still around to witness rap’s development, moving from parties in Bronx, N.Y., to global shindigs and national reality shows with “hip-hop” tacked onto the title. From snapbacks to fitteds to snapbacks again, hip-hop has taken many forms, all of which don’t always sit well with those who support the culture.
To tackle the gripes of 10 hip-hop fans, The BoomBox reached out to Sway Calloway, an expert in the field, currently representing the culture at MTV and Sirius XM’s Shade 45. The Oakland native started his media career on San Francisco’s KMEL-FM, where he interviewed everyone from Biggie and Tupac to a host of others. He started his run at MTV 12 years ago and has since become the face of the network’s hip-hop division, from “Direct Effect” to “RapFix Live.”
In 2011, he returned to radio and scored a morning spot on SiriusXM’s Shade 45, continuing in his passion for documenting the culture. Sway has been a mainstay within hip-hop for more than 15 years but he’s been a fan even longer. Here he attempts to explain some of the genre’s most bothersome and baffling issues brought to him by concerned hip-hop supporters.
1. Why are fans — young and old — accepting the escapism being fostered by most current hip-hop music? — Branden Peters, 35, Atlanta
Sway’s Fix: Get Away
“Everybody likes to dream and it’s fun to pretend from time to time.”
2. Why has the mainstream only accepted two female rappers in recent memory? — Quia Querisma, 33, Dallas
Sway’s Fix: Be a Standout
“Apparently those two female rappers have struck a chord with the public through their music that appeals to the mainstream. True, it’s a male-dominant field but females have to find ways to stand out and be heard because of it.”
3. Why does there have to be such a division between mainstream and underground hip-hop? — Danielle H., 27, Atlanta
Sway’s Fix: Conquer the Divide
“There are a few components that create the division. One is that the business itself needs a way to categorize the genre that creates this confusion. Also, you have to remember the public decides what becomes mainstream or not. Success is measured by the public’s response, which is what people typically equate with the mainstream.”
4. Why do rappers with substance have to sell out to be relevant? i.e. Wale — Nadine Sudlow, 25, Brooklyn
Sway’s Fix: Define Relevance
“If they matter to you then they’re relevant.”
5. What happened to being able to give an honest opinion in hip-hop? Now if you like something or someone, you’re a Stan. If you don’t like it, you’re a hater. — Jimmy Williams, 31, West Baltimore
Sway’s Fix: Get In Touch With Your Feelings
“This may be true but who cares what other people think. It shouldn’t matter. The only thing that matters is what you feel about the artist.”
6. When will labels bring back artist development and begin producing quality artists that can last longer than next summer? — Douglas Rogers, 28, Atlanta
Sway’s Fix: Adapt to Change
“The music business has changed in such a way that the responsibility of developing artists isn’t on the label. In fact, I doubt many labels still have that. Artist development is now in the hands of the artist and their fans.”
7. Why don’t rap groups exist anymore? — Daniel B., 32, Atlanta
Sway’s Fix: Learn to Love the Crew
“Rap groups have morphed into crews — A$AP, MMG, Odd Future, Black Hippy, Slaughter House, YMCMB and others.”
8. If hip-hop started out as youth culture, why do so many people resist the direction that youth want to take hip-hop today? — Dominique Maldonado, 27, Brooklyn
Sway’s Fix: Don’t Fight the Movement
“Because that’s what hip-hop started as. What it’s morphed into is a multi-generational culture that’s shared by people of all ages. Without the youth though, it loses its fuel.
9. Is hip-hop becoming too hip-pop? Where is the creativity and storytelling? I don’t always wanna dance. — Rasheed Hamid, 33, Washington D.C.
Sway’s Fix: Take Your Playlist Into Your Own Hands
“Rasheed, you are responsible for your own journey. If all you hear are dance records then you’re not searching enough avenues. There’s plenty of music out there. Be a true fan and find it.”
10. Everyone is excited about Nas’ new album — and that will last about another two weeks, until someone else comes out of the closet, or the next big thing happens. Will hip-hop ever go back to having respect for the musicality process? Or will it always be as rushed or disposable as it is now? — Jacinta H., 32, Atlanta
Sway’s Fix: Be Present
“Music culture evolves in cycles but nothing will ever be the same. Don’t look back, stay in the present and look forward. I see fine examples of musicality when I listen to production by No I.D., Kanye West, Dr. Dre, Hit-Boy, Just Blaze, 40 and others.