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21 January, 2004@12:00 am

HipHopSite: Why did you change your name from L-Swift to Swigga?

Swigga: It’s just because my music is different now.  The things I get across now is different than when I was L-Swift.  I had that name in seventh grade.  For me to step it up to a new era of things, I felt I had to change it.

HHS: On your Cross Country mixtape, you use various styles suited for the targeted region of the track, which shows versatility.  But for listeners confused about your style, what is it?

S: I put out my single “Cruise Control,” one called “Same Old,” one called “Fish & Grits.”  Now “Fish & Grits” is on the mixtape.  But “Same Old” and “Cruise Control” is more like a base of what I do best.  Cross Country is just reflective of what hip-hop is now.  Like if you just came and listened to hip-hop for the first time, you could hear that and know what encompasses hip-hop now.

HHS: That’s good that you are adept at so many different styles, but what’s Swigga’s style?

S: Swigga’s style is all of those things.  With this Cross Country thing I just wanted to show people my versatility more than anything.

HHS: Is the aim of the new mixtape to get a deal for your Agatha Music with a large label?  Or is it kind of a reintroduction in preparation of an independent release?  And if so, when is that coming?

S: Right now, I’m just trying to get my weight up.  Now it’s different from back then where you couldn’t put out a mixtape on your own like that.  The Internet wasn’t that crazy.  I’m talking about ’94, ’95.  Well, now I have to exercise all those things that I have an opportunity to do.  I’m really a firm believer in giving the audience music straight from the artist to them, without the middleman.

HHS: So when it comes to the full-length, are you going to be looking to release it independently?

S: I eventually want a major distribution.  But I’m willing to take the time out to get my weight up.  To go back to what you were saying with the Swigga and L-Shift thing, I understand how to market myself now.  What my strong points are, what I think the audience wants.  I kind of know that now, so I can apply it.

HHS: What are your strong points?

S: I’m a songwriter.  I don’t just write raps.  Anybody can rap.  Anybody can spit a 16.  The kind of music I listen to is more melody driven.  It kind of captures you.  It’s not just oh I’m the illest emcee ever.  That’s corny to me.

HHS: So with the full-length, when’s it actually coming?

S: I got like almost 40 joints recorded.  I’m just taking it step by step, because I want to put out a couple of singles because the people that know me from Natural Elements, I feel like I gave them a lot of singles and I never gave them a full-length, but I feel like I’m gonna get a different audience now.

HHS: You said you got 40 joints, so can we expect something in the next six months or so?

S: Right now I feel like I’m going to be hitting the mixtapes real hard.  Like the Northeast Wildcats, that’s a whole other thing.  I just want to be consistent with it.  Like before I feel like I wasn’t consistent enough.

HHS: What’s the Northeast Wildcats?

S: That’s like my crew in the North.  Me and Eddie Brock.

HHS: Are there any plans to record as Natural Elements again?

S: Yeah.  It’s a lot of people in the past who tried to capitalize off us.  They would act like they wanted to do something for us and they’d want to juice us.  In a lot of ways, we had to wean people off.  So when I got out the hospital…

HHS: You were in the hospital?

S: Yeah, I was going through a lot and I attempted suicide and almost died.  In 2000, I took like 40 something pills.

HHS: Was that caused by the whole Tommy Boy situation?

S: It’s personal things like my living situation, with my mother passing away when I was 13.  Just a lot of things on my mind that made me feel like I didn’t want to be here.  I attempted that and I was unconscious for four days and I woke up.  And when I woke up from that, I realized okay, I made it through this.  What I’m doing now with this whole Swigga thing, I’m just following what God is telling me to do.  And I feel like I have to do this.

HHS: So did the suicide attempt lead to you being dropped?  Or would that have happened anyways?

S: I was in the hospital for three months, so I really couldn’t do anything.  I was really sick of that situation anyways.  Because I feel like we signed a deal prematurely.  We just wanted our fans to see us on a bigger level than what they used to seeing us on.  Before when I was 16 or 17, I didn’t think about it like that.  I was like oh okay, let me just rhyme.  Now it’s more concentrated.

HHS: With other NE members, A Butta and Mr. Voodoo, what was their reaction?  Did they see your suicide attempt coming?

S: Nah, ‘cause I secluded myself.  I kind of left everyone alone.  When your mind starts working like that, you don’t have control, it just kind of takes you.

HHS: So do you think you were clinically depressed?

S: I would say temporary insanity, because before that and after that, I was fine.  Before that, they probably wouldn’t expect me to do something like that because they know me.  I’m more of the laid-back type of dude.

HHS: So it was just like a real dark period in your life?

S: Real dark because, I didn’t want to be here anymore.  This part where I’m talking to you right now, I didn’t even want to get to this part.  I kind of didn’t want to do anything.  When I came out of that, I started developing Agatha Music, that’s my mother name.  It’s a real spiritual thing because I know I didn’t have that before.

HHS: So you said this happened in 2000 after you had toured around the world with The Roots, the Fugees, so it seemed like everything was going good.  And you still felt like you didn’t want to be here?

S: Yeah, because when we signed that deal, we just wanted to get the album out to people and let them see some videos ‘cause we never really got seen.  So we didn’t want people to just say, “Damm, we like N.E., but what could have happened with them.”  It just didn’t work out.  But it was more than just the deal that made me want to do that.  My mother, my living situation with my girl, getting evicted out my crib.  It was just so much at the time.

HHS: So you said Agatha music is more spiritual.  Do you have anything that keeps you grounded now in terms of religion?

S: Not really religious.  I know you can’t make things faster than they’re supposed to go.  When we signed that deal in ’98, we was trying to come out in ’98, it wasn’t supposed to happen then.  So it didn’t happen.  I used to get frustrated.  Now I understand okay, this is supposed to happen this way so you can get to this point.  Thank God I was 16 when I put out my first record.  Now it’s ten years later and I’m 26, and I’m still young.

HHS: So you got to travel around the world at a very young age.  What was that like?

S: It was ill because it showed me that it’s not all about New York.  It’s not even all about America.  We was on tour with the Roots in ’99, and it was ill that people would look at them like they rock stars.

HHS: Getting back to Tommy Boy, you were talking about all the stuff going on.  What was the final straw that led to you cutting ties with them.

S: When our lawyer came at us and said they wanted us to sign the publishing deal with them, from then we got turned off to it.  I wouldn’t say purposely, but we didn’t feel the urge to record.  We gave them a reason, they dropped us.  We was happy, that day we found out, we was like oh shit.

HHS: With the 40 tracks recorded, is there any new stuff in terms of guests or producers, people wouldn’t expect you to work with?

S: Scram Jones.  That’s the dude right there.  After I got out of the hospital, I was in a shelter.  He used to come pick me up from the shelter and take me to the studio.  This was like 2001.  Me and him are real close.  He kind of gave me his top-of-the-heats beats.  With Charlemagne that’s my man too.  Charlemagne did the whole N.E. stuff so I talk to him all the time.  Put it this way, we not going to do the N.E., until we feel like we can do it right, properly, all the way.

HHS: So has Charlamagne been doing work out of the 40 tracks you got?

S: Um, a couple.  He been real busy, but that’s my man.  I knew him since I was ten years old.  I signed a production deal with him.  It’s hard to be on an independent and garner the kind of acclaim that will get you.  I feel like, no matter what kind of artist you are, always try to compete for the biggest thing.  If you an artist and the biggest thing to get is a Grammy, get a Grammy.  If you a basketball player and the biggest thing to get is a championship, go for that championship.  You don’t have to play at Rucker all of your years.  You can get to the NBA and do what you gotta do.

HHS: During that period when you got out of the hospital in 2000 were you in the Bronx?

S: I was in Harlem.  I went down to VA for a few months.  I was going back and forth to my peoples’ crib.  It’s much more stable now where I can concentrate on my music.  I have an injury from the suicide attempt.  The pills made my leg swell up and they had to cut open my legs.  I actually have a surgery coming up on my foot.  I have a little brace on my ankle.

HHS: Is it permanent?

S: Until the nerves come back I would have to wear that brace on my ankle.  I can put it in my sneaker.

  Mixtape D.L.
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