As Executive Music Producer providing soundtrack selection for each episode of EPIX’s gangster drama Harlem Godfather, Swizz beatz found another home to showcase her in-depth knowledge of rhythms, rhymes and life.
Now that the show’s second season is underway, episode five recently aired, Swizz has teamed up with XXL via Zoom to provide details on the ins and outs of his role as an executive music producer, and what it takes to become the voice in the head of actor Forest Whitaker.
For those who haven’t touched yet, each episode of Harlem Godfather, which airs every Sunday at 9/8 p.m. ET / CT on EPIX, is a fascinating piece of the story of Harlem kingpin Bumpy Johnson, portrayed by Forest Whitaker. The series peels through layers of the civil rights movement and its intersection with the criminal world of the 1960s. Other stars of Harlem Godfather include Vincent D’Onofrio as Chin, Nigel Thatch as Malcolm X, Ilfenesh Hadera as Mayme Johnson, and more.
To capture this period of clicking, Swizz beatz appeals to a legion of introspective poet artists like Nas for “Fallen Stars Flying” to soul carriers like Sam Cooke for the soothing track “Good Times”.
“We have selected artists who have the character and atmosphere of the show. And get them to play a musical character on the show from a sound level rather than picking everyone who has had # 1 hits on the radio just to be cool, ”Swizz notes about his sound. music selection process for the soundtrack of each episode. “I think what’s cool is getting the music to connect from now on to the visuals from there.”
Although the series lives and breathes through a flashback perspective, the “Touch It” producer has not shied away from using songs released in 2021 and showcasing talent like New School rappers. Melvoni and Badda TD, both from Brooklyn. They can both be heard alongside Brillo on the song “Forgot About the Streets”, featured in the second episode of season two.
“I just like the melodies and the hunger,” Swizz ponders his choice to use this record. Connecting new artists to an old narrative can be difficult, but Swizz says he naturally knew how to make it work. “If you organize it right, the one you put in there will fit the space and it will feel great. And I love this song.
His goal of complementing New York City-focused cinematography with the perfect soundscape came to fruition with “Been to War” starring Swizz, French Montana and the recently fallen hip-hop legend DMX, which helped spark episode one with a bang.
“That energy was DMX energy,” Swizz said when asked how the track came together. “[I] i just wanted to keep him involved in Harlem Godfather because he liked movies. He is an actor himself. He’s a huge Forest fan… And these are actually the last vocals I’ve done with him personally.
Hip-hop always mourns the DMX death. As a collaborator, friend and brother of the artist who sells platinum records, Swizz continues to carry on his legacy.
“As far as I’m concerned, we try to keep his creativity on schedule and keep it up because that’s what he wanted,” says Swizz.
After more than two decades of collaboration, DMX and Swizz have blessed the game with timeless hits such as “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem”, “Party Up (Up in Here)” and countless others. Continuing this streak, Swizz will play a major role in X’s posthumous debut album, Exodus, scheduled for release on May 28.
“It’s my job and our job to keep that alive even though the physical is no longer there,” he says. “He wanted people to hear his music, so we’re going to keep doing it by all means.”
“We have such a long list of people to celebrate. And it looks like the outside is coming back so when people can come out, we’re going to come out too. And that will be cool because imagine being able to physically go to those Verzuz that you loved before… We haven’t even started yet.
Watch Swizz beatz Talk with XXL about his role as executive music producer of Harlem Godfather, keeping the legacy of DMX alive, the next steps in the Verzuz series and more below.
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