Music Fri, 30 Sep 2005

Rapper Who Swayed MOBO Judges

Newly-crowned hip hop star Sway has sent out a "big up" to his home patch of Hornsey fresh from a stunning triumph at the 10th annual Music Of Black Origin (MOBO) awards.

The 22-year-old MC and producer is now a bonafide music sensation after scooping Best Hip Hop act ahead of global superstars 50 Cent and The Game at the Royal Albert Hall last Thursday.

He snatched just two hours sleep on Friday morning after returning home from the after show party at 5am before the world's press and some of the country's biggest record labels came knocking.

Despite this he still found time for his local paper.

He said: "I'm really happy. I'm glad that I've been recognised for the work I've done over the last three years. Physically, I'm knackered. I'm just about to make myself a Lemsip and then hopefully I'll be back on my feet."

The former Campsbourne and Highgate Wood pupil, who now lives in South Tottenham, is taking it all in his stride.

"It has been a gradual build up so I've not really faced the mad facts of it. I'm getting used to it.

"Everybody on the underground and hip hop scene knows my name but I'm not a household name, where grandmothers know who you are like Craig David, but I want to get to that level," he said. "I want to work hard and hopefully I will get there."

Sway, real name Derek Andrew Safo, is a Haringey boy through and through.

He was born in The Whittington Hospital to Ghanaian parents and has lived in Crouch End.

"I love Haringey," he said. "It's a very good community. There's good and bad things about it. The more positive side is it attracts a lot of people because of the schools - Greig City Academy, Highgate Wood, where I went, Fortismere - a lot of people know Haringey.

"A lot of what it attracts is nice but you get the trouble too in Wood Green and Tottenham."

Living in Hornsey, between the relative affluence of Muswell Hill and the deprivations of Tottenham and Wood Green, has informed both his music and his memorable moniker.

"Sway that is actually how I am," he said. "I've always been a loner, you ask anyone from school - even when I was in a group of people, if that makes any sense.

"I've got friends all over Haringey. I'm influenced by both sides.

"Back in school I was good friends with the nerds and the bullies. That is the sort of person I am. I'm not a threat to people on the streets. I don't like bullying, I'm very placid."

As for the origins of the memorable moniker - it was his second choice.

"The name came out of nowhere. Back in primary school at Campsbourne and we all used to have tags that we would scribble on the tables," he explained.

"A friend called himself Swift, which wanted, but I couldn't so I picked Sway."

He began experimenting with making music at Highgate Wood.

"The school had a couple of facilities that we would use - it was one of the best schools in Haringey with the music department. I used to use that.

"Because I used to be quite shy in front of people - I've got that out of me by performing in front of thousands of people - I thought I don't want to rap, I wanted to stay behind the scenes, producing.

I only started rapping because of the lack of rappers. That is when I started my DIY method. I had a gift for words. A lot of people encouraged me and I started rapping more. I'm a music lover."

Sway honed his skills on pirate radio setting up his own production company and distributing mix tapes at markets and independent record shops and dropping tracks off at the capital's radio stations.

He cites his musical inspirations as Michael Jackson, George Michael and Madness - "I love Madness," he said.

Until his win, Sway was an unsigned rapper who sold home-made tapes and had resisted all temptation to sign to a major label.

But all that is set to change as demand for his music rockets and the logistics of supply and marketing put an end to his DIY days.

"I'm speaking to some of the biggest labels in the country about working on a second album. With the first album I'm sticking with the plan to release it DIY - off my own back, like I intended to three years ago.

"If there's big demand for me I will have to sign to a major label."

But what will not change is his affinity for home. "I wouldn't want to live anywhere else," he said. "Big up Hornsey."


Source: ghanamusic.com