Orlando hip-hop legend Swamburger is set to release a new solo album, tenfold, released on his own AGDEPPA label via Dutchie Music in Miami.
Orlando Weekly readers were introduced to Swamburger (Swam to his friends) 21 years ago when he hit the cover in 1991. The groundbreaking artist had brought his talents from Chicago to Orlando and was quickly becoming a staple of our hip scene -local hop.
Swam played a key role in the flagship Phat-N-Jazzy parties at Dante’s Jazz Garage, Firestone and Sapphire Supper Club. He then toured as an MC/producer in the hip-hop supergroup Solillaquists of Sound, with MC Alexandrah, poet Tonya Combs and producer/songwriter DiVinci. To this day, the four are inextricably linked.
What tenfold Shares in common with the Solillaquists of Sound albums are socially conscious lyrics and sophisticated musical compositions. And, like all Solillaquists of Sound work, the tenfold listening journey is complex and demanding. You’d better not choose that as your background music.
“Life Commits”, the first title of tenfold, is a worthy introduction to the album in that it sets the tone with precision: it’s serious in making key points about the lives lived under the heavy cloud of racial injustice, it’s repetitive in bringing those points back at home, and it’s sonically glamorous, deftly weaving together a wide range of instruments and sounds to overwhelming effect.
Coming with mature Aries energy, the opening lines of the first verse charge strong:
I’ve been around for a few years demonstrating the benefits of
Hit with a character ruled by jazz
The respect due to learning with an arsenal of permanent pillars
Pierce the surface of artificial services
The next two tracks, “Heartless” and “Talk Is Cheap When Time Is Money”, are very much in the same vein as the first, giving the listener the impression that the album will move forward without too much variety.
This is false, as the opening notes of “All Hail Open Doors” amply demonstrate. Released as a single in September last year (and duly spotlighted by Bao Le-Huu here in OW), the song evokes the sounds of Chicago-born dance music while lyrically acknowledging the artist’s Orlando home.
While seen as a way to encourage black thinking and communicate truths about the black experience, the song operates in stealth mode, wrapped in club-appropriate sounds. The Swam influencer must be secretly thrilled to see a club full of sweaty, dancing people moving to the sound of his thought-provoking lyrics:
Yo, how don’t you remember?
Knocking ass beats with an African touch
Do not forget who you are !
Not to the fans
The person you can bear to see
Now let’s talk about track six, “Innocent”. It’s exciting, passionate, hopeful, real. It begins with an excerpt from a viral speech given by star wars actor John Boyega at a Black Lives Matter rally in London on June 3, 2020: “We have always been important. We have always meant something. We have always succeeded despite everything. And now is the time. I don’t don’t wait.”
Swam is equally daring.
Did you mention the big picture?
They declared war on your standards
If you don’t want trouble, you can pretend you’re guilty
Seize the threat to satisfy your debt
Selling yourself short tames the vision
The way you are portrayed can change the sentence
But I’m… I’m innocent
Most of the beats on the album were produced by Swam himself, a reminder that he continues to actively produce beats for rapper E-Turn and a few artists hand-picked for their vision, talent and line-up. with the energy of Swam.
Still demonstrating the leadership first seen two decades ago, Swam mentors young artists, offering generous guidance, even beats:
“If you’re a hip-hop artist, don’t just go to hip-hop clubs. Go listen to jazz and rock. Go out and make a lot of new friends. Be everywhere and listen to everything. You go to a rock show and be like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s crazy.’ You’re in the scene, happy with these chats and know a lot of people. You connect and stay in touch with these people. People don’t need to know you’re an artist at the time. It’s not s It’s not about you, it’s about the music. And when you release something, people say, ‘I didn’t know James was doing that.’ And they’re thrilled.”
Swam’s thoughts on self-assessment indicate how ruthless he is with himself: “In camera, compare and contrast what you hear with your own music,” he says. “Work on your shit. I say, don’t be afraid to re-record. Make the best version of your music.”
For fans of the underground hip-hop scene looking forward to tenfold to pass up, there’s likely to be a broad consensus that this new album is Swam’s finest take on music – while for the uninitiated, it’s a chance to meet your lowly neighbor from Baldwin Park and hear it in a new light. I bet they don’t know a conscious rap king walks among them.