by Darius Baptist , Photography by Jonathan Mannion
Producer, rapper, artist, father and husband Kasseem Daoud Dean, better known by his stage name Swizz Beatz, can add yet another title to his roster. After previously designing for brands like Aston Martin and Christian Louboutin, Swizz has now taken on the role as Creative Director for Reebok Classics. When you really think about it, the pairing almost seems quite natural: a staple brand meets a staple in music and art. Catching up with the Grammy award winner in, where else but, a recording studio, he discusses how this joint venture came about and where he thinks he can take it.
DB: With all the other projects you have going on, how did your partnership with Reebok come about?
SB: Actually, through mutual friends. They were familiar with some of my design work and my interest in shoes and sneakers. We had a meeting, kicked it off, the deal came in place, and [we] saw how we could make this on a global level. Meeting the team was like coming in contact with your brother from another mother for the first time.
DB: So this wasn’t just some “give us your name and we’ll make it work” situation?
SB: Listen, at this point in the game with me, I can’t do anything regular. I’m not interested in doing any endorsements or little deals like that. I wasn’t going to do a Swizz Beatz sneaker because if that was the case, the only thing I would talk about would be the sneaker. We approached this deal as a global brand – one that encompasses global
commercials, videos, ad campaigns and things of that nature. When you set it up as a brand that means I’m rocking the hats, hoodies, sneakers and the full lifestyle. There wasn’t any other level for me to do it but global.
DB: What has the initial response by the public been like thus far?
SB: Extremely positive. We’ve tweaked it to where you really want to wear it. We have done something whereas the person who’s into styling, quality and great things can say I want to fuck with that. You might say, ‘I can’t rock the green ones, but I can definitely do something with the black ones.’ There’s something for everybody.
DB: What is one of your main goals with this project?
SB: I really want our generation and culture to look to Reebok for change. All the other brands keep reinventing the same damn sneaker in a different color, so this gives us the time to stand out. Let us not follow that. When you look at the style, you will say it’s taken from the old school Kamikaze style, but essentially you don’t think that it’s Reebok.
DB: What would be your response to the naysayers that think you are just another celeb “endorsing” a brand?
SB: I am a celebrity, but I’m not that to Reebok. I’m a leader. I am a part of almost every decision that goes down with the brand. The way that you see Reebok on television, I write that. The way you hear Reebok, I make that. The ad campaigns that go into the magazines, we collectively approve that. Anything that involves the movement of our culture and youth, I am a part of. Those aren’t the typical things that go along with just endorsing a product. I’m setting the tone for our culture to do business differently. It’s not about getting a $10 million check upfront.
DB: Is that how much your deal is worth?
SB: I didn’t get that upfront. That would be an endorsement deal. I bet on myself on a creative level, and I bet on the brand to believe in me and know that I am a powerful tool – and they definitely know that.
DB: How has the brand shown you that?
SB: Reebok is participating in my album; we’ve shot videos together. There are some monumental things that are coming. I didn’t come over here thinking I know everything. I listened, made suggestions, and we creatively developed as partners. I think a lot of
artists need to humble themselves and become students. The idea of how large this could be came from one tweet. We made our announcement about the partnership in Vegas during the trade shows, and the company would’ve been pleased with 3 million impressions, instead we got 18 million. That justified my global position.
DB: As Creative Director, what are your hopes for the brand?
SB: For people to want to wear it in a genuine way. For people who didn’t wear it before to come over and try something different. The people really run the brand, all we can do is put out a format. That’s why I went to the online media outlets first to show the sneaker. That’s who really makes the final decision. You either hate it or you love it.
DB: Is it at all overwhelming when you think of the possibilities Reebok Classics
SB: I always tell people, “The sky is not the limit, it’s just the view.” There’s thing beyond the sky, and that’s what I’m trying to reach. This is a multi-billion dollar operation, and there’s no reason I can’t own a part of that as long as I put in the hard work for it.
DB: Do you consider yourself a workaholic?
SB: I don’t look at it that way. From my music to working with other artists to this project here, I give everything I take part in my all. When I’m committed to something, there’s no other way for me to be.
DB: How many people make up the design team at Reebok?
SB: There are a lot. We have so many people coming up with ideas and new inventions. It’s a fun process because you get to see how creative people can be. I like to pop up at the headquarters in Boston and just see what these people do. It shows that we are a family, and in the end, this goes a long way.
DB: Touching base on music for a minute – with your upcoming album, Haute Living, you are quoted as saying the title is what you are all about. In what way does that apply?
SB: Haute living is the American dream. It’s the vision for people to live in an amazing way. In fashion, music and art, do it and live it the best. Dream for the best and have a haute day.
DB: Does this motto apply for Reebok Classics as well?
SB: All day, every day.
DB: What motivates you?
SB: I try to motivate myself. My family, people seeing me on the street and traveling
really do it for me. I think traveling is the biggest motivation for me, seeing new things and
learning something new is a major motivation for me.
DB: If we caught up with you one year from now, where would you like Reebok Classics
to have grown?
SB: I will take double where it is now. Everything takes time, and in order for a company to operate like a well-oiled machine you need time for everyone to get on the same page. I’m in this for the long haul. Once we accomplish that, I want us sold out everywhere.
DB: Well, here’s to growth.
SB: Constant growth is what it’s all about.