From afar, Malibu, California, seems like a mystical place, a sun-splashed, paparazzi-cluttered playground for the rich and famous. And while Malibu is just that for some, real people live there too — hardworking Americans who are just trying to keep the lights on and food on the table. For much of his life, Aaron Smith, the self-professed "only black kid in Malibu" who goes by the stage name Shwayze, has been the latter, hailing from the city's Point Dume Club mobile-home park, where he lived with his grandparents.
But these days he's crashing on Cisco Adler's couch, and while he doesn't have his own Wikipedia page yet, all of that may soon change for backpack hip-hopper Shwayze. With a single ("Buzzin' ") that's generating radio spins nationwide, a video that's something of a rotation staple for "TRL," a stint on this summer's Warped Tour and a reality-TV series coming this summer from MTV, Shwayze's making the transition from nobody to hitmaker.
Considered a protégé of Adler (that Jonathan Davis-esque dude who's dated Mischa Barton and Lauren Conrad), Shwayze is set to release his debut album on July 15. Produced by Adler — who played most of the album's instruments, save for a guitar solo contributed by Jane's Addiction's Dave Navarro on the song "Flashlight" — in his home studio, Lazy Days blends the artist's earliest rock influences with the rap and hip-hop ones that would come as he matured. The album was all but in the bag by the time Shwayze was signed to Jordan Schur's Suretone Records.
"I think it's really cool," Shwayze told MTV News recently of his music, which has been compared to Sublime. "It's like summer in a bottle. It's music that's indicative of this area — it's sunny, laid-back, summertime music, and it's something different than what's on the radio now. We made the record last summer, and it was sort of the blueprint of what we were doing. It had an 'Endless Summer' vibe to it."
The inspiration for the tunes, he confessed, came from the time he's spent party-hopping with Adler in the 'Bu, so most of the songs are about meeting girls, having fun and ... um ... meeting girls.
"We made the record on a whim, and we made it without a record label," Shwayze said during a spirited game of "street golf" — which involves stealing rocks from people's gardens — with Adler in his old 'hood. "And I think because of that, it came out natural and organic."
"I saw him at parties, and I was like, 'Damn, that dude's got some charisma, and I think he's got some talent — let's see if we can mold that into something special,' " Adler said. "And he started hounding me: 'Let's get in the studio.' We sort of looked at each other after we made a couple of songs, and we were like, 'Damn, this is kind of good.' "
In July, Shwayze's reality series, also called "Buzzin'," will chronicle the artist's journey from the streets of Malibu to signing a record deal. "It's about us rolling around, having fun, making music and trying to break an artist," he said.