On Saturday night, politicians, celebrities and journalists put on their finest black tie attire to attend the 101st annual White House Correspondents Dinner. Among them, was our very own MTV correspondent, Sway Calloway, who was invited to the prestigious event for the second time. Over the course of the night, Sway shook hands with politicians like former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, chatted with stars like Laverne Cox and rubbed shoulders with other journalists like Al Roker.
But the highlight, for him, was running into Killer Mike. Below, Sway gives us some details on his “amazing experience” that night.
This wasn’t his first rodeo
"I actually went two years ago with my daughter, but you never expect to get the invite, so it’s always a pleasure and a surprise. [Members of] the Obama administration called Sirius and asked if I would attend and I was honored to accept it. I’ve never seen a physical invite; it’s always been either a phone call or email."
Members of President Obama’s team are big fans of his work
"The president’s administration, they talk to us a lot and they listen to [my Sirius XM] show 'Sway in the Morning.' They were literally pulling me aside at dinner to say, ‘We really appreciate what you’re doing on the political front, because you’re sparking these conversations every morning and we just want you to know that we’re listening, and we want to know how we can get more involved with some of the things you guys are doing.' So, that’s something I’m looking forward to."
Yes, lots of people commented on his hat
"I think the reason why I get invited to these things is because under every circumstance, I’ve always been myself. I’m the only guy in there with a hat on and everybody in there compliments it, including the president. And I do that because it’s my signature and for me that’s what I like, so nothing changed because of that experience. I’m being Sway. I’m being myself."
He was overjoyed to see Killer Mike in attendance
"The first time, I was sitting next to Anna Wintour and the cast of 'Modern Family' and this time, Killer Mike was there – which makes perfect sense to me, because he’s one of the most politically conscious artists of our time. It was the first time that I saw anybody from where we’re from, in there. I was walking by a table, heard somebody call my name and it was Mike… I almost couldn’t believe it."
He thinks Killer Mike’s presence was one big step in a very progressive direction
"I asked him what his conversations were like at the table, and he said he was talking about what he sees for the black men in America, considering all that has been going on with law enforcement, inequality and discrimination. He said he got a chance to talk about the teachings of Marcus Garvey and the honorable Elijah Muhammad, about how they were able to teach infrastructure and business. Anybody having those conversations at an event like that is making progress and making change happen.
Usually I’m the only one there, but this time Mike was there, and next time there will be two more of us there. As we evolve in culture, we also have to make our mark in politics."
This is a much different experience than attending awards shows
"Because I’ve been in broadcast journalism for two decades, since the '90s, this is an acknowledgment from my peer group and those that I see as iconic, saying, ‘You’re doing a good job, we recognize your work and we want you to be a part of this energy, and we want to encourage you to continue to contribute.'
You get to see people being honored during the dinner for work they’ve done—whether it’s covering 9/11, or the U.S.’s relationship with Cuba, or Iran negotiations, or Katrina—because somebody’s got to tell those stories. You don’t always know what kind of impact your work has on people, so for me, coming from hip-hop culture, to be in there on that level, really is an amazing experience and a great feeling."
Security was too intense for him to chat one-on-one with President Obama
"I was close enough to see President Obama and he was close enough to see me, but in that arena, you don’t really get a chance to go up to him and take pictures or talk, because it’s so hard. There’s an extreme amount of security there."
Those race jokes were even more brutal (but still funny) if you were in the room
"Cecily Strong was hilarious. When she made her joke that the Secret Service is ‘the only law enforcement agency in the country that will get in trouble if a black man gets shot,” it was like the whole room got hit in the gut…and then you started laughing afterwards. And when she said to Obama, 'your hair is so white now, it can talk back to the police,' that was another gut shot. And Obama’s comedy was incredible too."
He hopes this will be a positive example for hip-hop culture
"I’m glad I can sit in the room with our country’s leaders, and be looked at as a peer, having come from where I come from. And I hope to set an example, because I think we’re at a state in hip-hop journalism where we’re cannibalizing ourselves – in the sense that 95 percent of what we report is gossip, controversy, or opulence. That’s empty.
It’s entertainment, but we have to find a balance in it, and that’s why I was so happy that Killer Mike was there, as that dude up front who’s trying to break doors down. Some people would rather post a picture of Young Thug, drunk, with his shirt off, doing a dance, before they’ll post a picture of Killer Mike at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. So for me, I’m here trying to plant these seeds."