Swizz Beatz Talks Pushing the Envelope with “Godfather of Harlem” Soundtrack, Working with Jadakiss on “Hustle, Repeat” & the Future of Verzuz

Swizz Beatz has expanded his creatively on several levels. Check out his movie and music moves right here.

“Godfather of Harlem” tells a story inspired by infamous crime boss Bumpy Johnson (Forest Whitaker) who in the early 1960s returned from 11 years in prison to find the neighborhood he once ruled in shambles.

Season 3 found Johnson continuing to battle for control of Harlem, with other aspirants to the throne, namely the Cuban Mafia from neighboring Spanish Harlem.

Bumpy taking on the Cuban mob put himself, his loved ones, and his community in the crosshairs of not only the rival Italians, but also the Latin assassins, and ultimately the CIA. 

The series is also a collision of the criminal underworld and the civil rights movement during one of the most tumultuous times in American history. 

Swizz Beatz has been the executive music producer for the series since inception, and the hitmaker certainly delivered some eargasmic records.

Swizz spoke with AllHipHop’s Rea Davis about working with Jadakiss on “Hustle, Repeat,” crafting music for the ’60s time period, episodes around the Civil Rights Movement that impacted him, and the future of Verzuz.

AllHipHop: What was it like working with your brother Jadakiss on that single [“Hustle, Repeat”]?

Swizz Beatz: Aww man. Get money, hustle, repeat. Working with my brother Jada, I mean that’s what he does. He gets money, hustle, repeat since ‘98, and to be able to have him be a part of “Godfather of Harlem” has just been like a dream come true to bring your family on the ride with you, and be a part of something so epic with Forest Whitaker. The show is the only thing like it on TV, and I had to bring my bro in, so it was an honor.

AllHipHop: You are such a creative. You’ve been doing this for so long. Did you face any challenges with crafting music that fits the ‘60s timeframe?

Swizz Beatz: I didn’t really have a problem making the music because I was allowed to do what I wanted to do. Because I was able to pick like songs to where you didn’t know what time period it was. You just know what you felt when you were watching the film, and that’s the thing. I may put an old school vibe in it, but it’ll have a new school person on it, or an unknown person on it. You know we didn’t really go for what’s the hits on the radio. We went for what made the film look amazing, and what made Bumpy Johnson look great. 

AllHipHop: So each season, you get to change the musical landscape because of the year in which the show takes place, how did you change the landscape and push the envelope in Season 3?

Swizz Beatz: Well Season 3 had more of a Latin vibe with Jose Battle, which was a gangsta in the streets, also a C.I.A. agent. Then we were dealing with Cuba, and so we were able to mix a Latin feel into it, which we didn’t have in Season 2. So, I love these challenges to be able to like deal with the surprises. So it was like, okay, this season we are going to lean more towards the Latin vibe. Jade Herrera’s going to do the speech, and they are going to try to assassinate him. Malcom X… so this is going to be the vibe and the tone. Okay we got the notes; let’s deliver. 

AllHipHop: Knowing what Black people have faced in this country, were there any scenes that made you emotional?

Swizz Beatz: Knowing what we dealt with in this country as African and African Americans, a lot of scenes, they really definitely touched me. Everything Malcolm went through touched me. Everything Ali went through touched me. Even the gangster himself, what Bumpy Johnson had to go through because when you look at what he really was doing, he was really trying to change his environment and change the community although he had to start off in a negative way. He was eventually trying to get to a positive way, but he just faced so many challenges getting to that way, and a lot of us we start from the negative, and we start from the poor and the weak because that’s the cards we were dealt. I look at myself as coming from the Bronx to racing camels in Saudi Arabia and to graduating from Harvard. You know um, we look at a person like Bumpy that we might can ridicule and say all of the negative things, but there were a lot of positive things that he did, so that was an educational point for me, as well. It’s not how you start; it’s how you end it, although his didn’t end all the way well, but I know that’s where he wanted to go. 

AllHipHop: Who are your Top 5 favorite producers and Top 5 favorite rappers dead or alive?

Swizz Beatz: I’m bad with “Top 5’s.” I’m not gonna lie because l commend all of the producers, you know whether they were hot yesterday or hotter today. I just commend them for even giving their time to the craft and contributing to music. I could easily say Dr. Dre, this one, that one, but it was so many other producers that even inspired Dre, that even inspired me, that inspired so many producers. I just  give my hat off to all of the producers that took their time out to do something positive and give our community and our culture some sh#t we could dance to. 

AllHipHop: What’s next for Verzuz?

Swizz Beatz: Verzuz is coming back real soon. You know like um, sometimes you gotta take time out to regroup. What we built was phenomenal in the pandemic which lasted outside the pandemic, but the company got so big that we had to regroup. The way we are coming back…we’re coming back unexpected. We’re coming back new. We’re coming back fun. We’re coming back creative. The things that we were when we started. Just know that we are taking this time out to come back in a bigger and better way. [A way] that the people are going to love.