— by Shaheem Reid, with additional reporting by Matt Paco
When MTV viewers hear the name Sway, they might think of our very own hip-hop VJ. But today, a different Sway is ready to make love to the MTV cameras.
Sway DaSafo, a.k.a. Derek Andrew Safo, grew up in Colchester, England. When it comes to the U.K. scene, Sway has rapped his way to the forefront.
"In school I was known as a bit of a joker," he said. "I used to mess around. I used to really be good academically without trying. When somebody takes the piss with me in a lesson, I dedicate the whole of the rest of the lesson to embarrassing you. That's my specialty. You don't want Sway to start, 'cause I'll corner you. I'll dis every single aspect of you. And this was before I was rapping. So what I done on the battle stage is combine that ability with my rhyming ability, and it took me through. People just loved me. I was only 16, and I was battling 25-year-old men, and people loved me."
Now 23, Sway is hoping to translate that love into record sales with the release of his first LP, the independent This Is My Demo, which came off the heels of his highly heralded mixtapes, This Is My Promo volumes 1 and 2.
"Basically it's a collection of stuff I've done throughout the years," he said about his official album. "Thoughts, just little things that I've been writing down throughout the years. I didn't want to go through giving a demo to the record labels, and I thought, 'Why don't I just give my demo to the people?' Let them be the A&R [reps], let them decide what happens with my career. Nobody is going to understand my plan. I've got too much in my head to explain on paper.
"Now I'm going to move on, and I don't even know if I'm going to end up signing to a record label, because this has been quite healthy for me doing it this way," he added. "I get all my creative freedom, I get to work with the people I want to work with, and I don't owe anybody much at the end of the day."
Last year, Sway's cocky swagger and rapid flow garnered him the U.K.'s 2005 MOBO (music of black origin) award for Best Hip-Hop Act, beating out heavyweights like 50 Cent and the Game.
"I love when I see people listening, you know what I mean?" he said in his thick British accent. "Listening and paying attention as well as having a good time. It's a very good feeling when you're rapping on the stage and somebody's ad-libbing you, and you've never seen them ever in your life. You didn't even know that person existed until you laid eyes on them.
"What's most memorable about my shows for people is the fact that I acknowledge everybody," he added. "I acknowledge everybody, from the boys to the girls, left, right. I get everybody involved. If you really want to be a star on my show and get involved in my show, all you need to do is be in the front and participate with me. I'll highlight you, man. I like making people feel special. I'm not the only star of the show, man. You are the stars for coming out, paying your money to see me. You're considered the stars in my eyes."
Now that Sway is already large overseas, he wouldn't mind coming to the U.S. and planting his flag on the scene here. All he needs is a chance, he said.
"This is my message to the people of America," he said. "I'm not Oliver Twist, I'm not the Spice Girls, I'm not anybody you've ever seen before, so make sure you buy my album, otherwise I'll come over there and do absolutely nothing. Sway."
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