Lyrics, lyrics, and more lyrics. Any graduate of the famed Sway & King radio Wake Up Show has one raw emotive similarity – his or her ability to craft a solid Hip-Hop performance through lyrical content alone.
Since the early ‘90s, the duo has been churning out talented radio performances from the likes of the pre-Roc Jay-Z, pre-Dre Eminem, and pre-Bad Boy Notorious B.I.G. Known for their ear for talent and knack for putting new MC’s on the map, Sway and Tech have dropped countless freestyle mixtapes and the acclaimed full-length album This or That. Way before that, the boys in the booth made records of them rapping.
Though Sway accepted a contributing role at MTV and now leads the Hip-Hop portion of the MTV News family, the pair continues to air their weekly Wake Up Show on Saturday evening syndicated across the country and globally through the net. Recently, Sway & King Tech took some of their precious off-air time to kick it with AllHipHop.com about the release of their upcoming album, Tech’s need for Hip-Hop to “raise the rims again,” and why they feel as though Chino XL may “eat” his way into Hip-Hop’s heart.
AllHipHop.com: Can you guys just explain to the fans out there what’s the meaning behind the title, Back 2 Basics?
King Tech: I was sitting down talking to Sway about a year and a half ago; we were talking about how everybody is using all the heavyweights to put on their mixtapes- like the Jay-Z’s and the DMX’s or whoever’s hot. And I just felt like a lot of brothers with talent wasn’t getting that same shine, and they needed some light, man. So we went and got some dudes that is just as good as these MC’s and put the spotlight on them so they can get some shine, too. And then also taking it back to the days where lyrics was important – just as important as everything else.
AllHipHop.com: So, how about, let’s just talk about a couple of those guys. Chino XL, he’s on five tracks, and I know he’s been on your radio show a lot. So what is it about him that makes you guys get so excited about him?
King Tech: Anytime we made a phone call to different cats, some dudes were on the road, some dudes were doing other stuff. This dude [wouldn’t hesitate]. You can hear the hunger in his voice a little bit when you listen to his songs. He was just here, he would just show up. And then, there’s actually four or five other songs that had samples in it that didn’t get cleared. So, it just winded up that his accapella was from at our anniversary. And then 2 other joints, he’s featured with different cats so…
AllHipHop.com: On that 2000 freestyle Chino bigged you guys up for feeding a lot of artists out here whether by your radio show or by your albums. You can see what the exposure does for them, but what does it do for you guys to put other people on?
Sway: When we broke artists like, before Biggie was worldwide, before he was outside of New York, he came to California and did the Wake Up Show in L.A. and San Francisco. At that time, we were syndicated in Philly and Chicago and a bunch of places around the world. And all that did for us is made us feel like we contributed something good in Hip-Hop. Here you had a dope MC that brought something new to the game and we were able to recognize his talent – the rest is history. We contributed to his success. When Eminem came on the Wake Up Show and got that major exposure in the #2 market in Los Angeles. Eminem came up there the same time Chino XL came up there, the same time Xzibit came up there, the same time Juice came up there. And he was able to move to the next level and the rest is history. We can honestly say, and those dudes can honestly say, that Sway and Tech contributed to that road to success. I remember when Jay and Dame used to come on the show before Roc-A-Fella Records was even signed to Priority Records, and Jay was traveling with Original Flavor, and Ski and those guys. Being able to let him to come on our show and bust “Twenty-Two Two’s,” even though that was on his album, he did that rap a long time ago. You know, way before that album! And knowing that we contributed to getting this man exposed. Same with Lauryn Hill, same with Wyclef, and now Sly Boogy, and now Crooked I, and now Chino XL. Keeping Gang Starr name alive. You know, letting the Alchemist come and get busy on our show. It’s not even about what it does for us, it’s about what it does for the culture and the people who love the culture.
AllHipHop.com: Sway, how does it do that for you personally being that you are constantly surrounded by the TRL or the MTV environment?
Sway: Well, my purpose in that environment is to bring balance. It’s undeniable that MTV, BET, and all these different entities are in the game of Hip-Hop or in the game of the music industry. My purpose of being in that environment is to bring the balance. A lot of times when I used to watch MTV after Yo! MTV Raps went off, I would see stories on Hip-Hop that were incomplete. So when they initially offered the job, the first two times I turned them down, because I didn’t think that they would allow me to do what it is that I wanted to do. The third time, we sat down and talked about it and I said that I wanted to bring the yin to the yang. I know this is a commercial entity, but if we are going to do a story on the Jay-Z and Nas battle, let’s break it down. Let’s tell the history of battles in Rap, so that people who watch this, the hundreds of millions of households that you reach around the world, will get the true story. So they don’t just think that it’s Black-on-Black crime or whatever, on record. This is like, something that comes from Hip-Hop, something that comes out of the spirit of Hip-Hop. These dudes don’t mean each other any harm.
AllHipHop.com: If you could change one thing going on in Hip-Hop right now, what would it be?
King Tech: For me personally, the two things I miss is the conscious Rap. I really miss the X-Clan’s and the Public Enemy’s, and when you get into you car, somebody gave you information on something in Arizona that you didn’t know about or something that was going on worldwide. I miss them type of groups. I know that nobody really wants to hear them right now, but I miss that era. I think the other thing that really bothers me is the lyrical skill level. The bar has gotten so low, that honestly I feel like I can rap at this point. You just listen to it and damn. It’s equivalent to like, if you watch the NBA, and go, ‘Damn, it’s ten feet high. The way he got in the air and dunked it, that’s incredible.’ You know, then the NBA brings the rim down to six feet, and you’re like, wait a minute, I can play this game, too! I want to jump in this! I feel like if the lyrical skill level of the early ’90s was a ten, and now it’s gotten down to a six and five, and in some cases a four, a three. At one point, I thought it was a zero. When I listen to some records, it’s zero! It’s like there is no skill involved in this, this guy is saying nothing! And, I don’t know, for me personally, that was a sad day.
Sway: I think artists like Jay, at any given moment, can slay you with a verse. But I think he also realizes that, “I need to sell records.” So, you know, he’s established his style. He says it almost every album. [Look at] whatever he said about Common. You know what he’s thinking! I appreciate that, but I just feel like a lot of dudes come into the game with the wrong mentality. It’s not even a hater perspective, it’s not even an old school perspective. We’re as relevant as they are. We recognize new MC’s who got talent, but it’s new MC’s who got talent! I just think the world of Rap is clouded with more talent-less music made with no soul than it is the opposite.
AllHipHop.com: Back 2 Basics, May 24, correct? What else can Hip-Hop expect from Sway & Tech?
Sway: Yes, May 24. We got WakeUpShow.com. People can listen to the show. We’ve got video streams there. We’ve got giveaways. We’ve also got SwayandKingTech.net.
Tech: You can download the sampler there, the album sampler for Back 2 Basics. The album sampler has bits and pieces of The Wake Up Show, the best freestyles we’ve had, integrated in with parts of the album.
Sway: And then we want to make sure that we let it be known that our company is called Bolo Entertainment. We got an artist named Sly Boogy who is signed to us and is on this project. And that goes through J Records. Chino XL, he’s also rolling with us. And an artist named Tracey Lane, she’s a singer out off Long Beach. We’re putting Chino out later in the year, too. Be on the lookout.