You don’t make the ground shake with business as usual. A seismic shift in the culture requires a quality or gift that burns like molten lava. Your ideas and subsequent creations must move the Earth—as Swizz Beatz does. 

What makes renowned renaissance man Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean’s moves powerful, prominent, and fearless? Of course, he makes the answer sound very simple. “I don’t do anything that I’m not into, you know, those days are gone,” he reveals. “I have to really feel something. I must really be excited. People have to get something from it.” 

Ebony Hip Hop 50 Swizz Beatz, shot by Keith Major

Casablanca Jacket, Shorts, T-Shirt. Louis Vuitton Shoes. Photo by Keith Major for EBONY Media.

There is a starting point when creative spirits like Swizz begin a new project. I wonder: Is the goal to shift the landscape or just do the best work? “I would say it’s a little bit of both. I mean, I’m attracted to doing things that one may be scared to do or don’t even know that there’s the opportunity to do, but I go into those places, wanting to be my best.”

“I could have stayed, getting Grammys, but [I would have] never created so many verticals that would put me in the position that I’m [in] today where my name is brought up, not only in music but all things creative and all things disruptive.”

-Swizz Beatz


The Cambridge Dictionary describes a disrupter as: “a person or thing that prevents something, especially a system, process, or event, from continuing as usual or as expected.” How does Swizz Beatz measure up? He doesn’t. He has redefined what it means to be a disrupter. “You can’t play it safe. Everything that I did, I took a risk.” The Bronx native says that after winning his first Grammy award in 2011, music ceased being his sole artistic playground. He was hungry to take on new challenges in various other disciplines.

“I could have stayed, getting Grammys, getting Grammys, getting Grammys, getting Grammys, but [I would have] never created so many verticals that would put me in the position that I’m [in] today where my name is brought up, not only in music but all things creative and all things disruptive.”

For some people, titles are very important, but Swizz says they are limiting; they can put you in a box. As a matter of fact, he says, in the past, a title could never define the scope of what he’s been capable of doing. “My title was all things creative, right? All things great, all things disruptive.”

Tom Ford Suede Jacket. Ethika T-shirt. Saint Laurent Jeans. Adidas Shoes. Photo by Keith Major for EBONY Media.


Swizz recently shook up the music world with the groundbreaking Verzuz platform, where artists face off, trying to one-up the other with their hits. It is like nothing the music industry has ever seen. Created by Swizz and record producer Timbaland, Verzuz brought incalculable joy when it began during the early days of the Covid pandemic. One of the things that it illustrated was a sense of camaraderie between artists.

This was a music battle in name only. The participants were really a part of the mutual admiration society. Swizz is, however, well aware of its lasting impact on the music industry on several levels. He boasts about how Verzuz helped increase music streams for participating acts. But that’s not the first thing he mentioned when asked about the Verzuz phenomenon. He says it has been a reminder to the industry and the audience that great music doesn’t have a shelf life. “Verzuz single-handedly proved to people that music does not have an age limit,” he says. He cites the epic battle between The Isley Brothers and Earth, Wind & Fire as the perfect example. Both legendary acts saw their streams increase along with a boost in their album sales. Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight, who also set the Verzuz stage on fire, saw boosts in their streams too. 

To read the rest of this cover story, pick up the Fall 2023 Hip-Hop 50 commemorative print edition of EBONY Magazine in partnership with Mass Appeal at, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Walgreens, Target, Publix, Safeway, Kroger, Books A Million, and more, plus select retailers in London and South Africa on September 19th.

Editor-in-Chief & SVP, Programming: Marielle Bobo
Creative Director: Rashida Morgan-Brown
Executive Producer: Tracey Woods
On-Set Producer: Suze Lee 
Video Editing: Mega Media
Stylist: McKay Loving
Groomer: Niecy Small
Photo Assistants: Zach Hughes, Briana Edwards 
Digital Tech: Kim Tran 
Production Assistants: Gade De Santana, Ramie Roth