Swizz Beatz has always been for the culture which is why, for him, the creation of his latest venture was practically a no-brainer.
Recognizing the need for a space in which artists could be free to create what they want and capitalize off of it in a major way, the award-winning emcee and producer took to Miami’s Art Basel to kick off No Commission
: an art showcase where artists keep 100% of their profits.
In collaboration with the Bacardi brand
, Swizz has transformed No Commission into a global movement that’s providing opportunities for talented people across the globe.
Last month marked No Commission’s latest show in the Chinese city of Shanghai. This summer, the show will travel to Berlin to continue its expansion, and fresh off a flight after scouting venues in the German capital, Swizz hopped on the phone to discuss the necessity for platforms of this sort.
The Source: First off, of course, how are you?
Swizz Beatz: “I’m good. Trying to figure out what time zone I’m in, but I’m good.”
Let’s start with you as an artist, coming up, trying to get into music, trying to find that big break. How much of those experiences that you had in your earlier days did you pour into the creation of No Commission?
“It pretty much shaped all of No Commission. Imagine if there was a platform for young people that want to get involved with the arts and there was an entry point that they felt comfortable with. Yeah, there are galleries. Yeah, there are places with art. But, do you feel comfortable coming from the streets or not really having anything like that? Do you really feel comfortable with certain places?
So, I said I wanted to create an environment that embraces everyone. That’s why there’s no entry fee, you don’t have to pay to see the art. You don’t have to pay to see the performances. The artists keep 100% of what they sell, and it’s just something that celebrates the arts 100%.
That’s what I always wanted to do because it always seems like people use the arts. People definitely support the arts, but they always have their hand in someone’s pocket; always have their hands in the artist’s pocket some type of way, and I just was like, “You know what? Let the artists be celebrated for once.’
I just knew it was going to take an artist to celebrate the artist. You know, by the artist for the artist.”
When you were creating this how easy was it to get it to align with the Bacardi platform?
“No Commission was already its own platform. I partnered with Bacardi from a strategic partner standpoint. I said no at first because I didn’t really understand how the brands and the artists would work because most brands don’t really understand your vision.
They just want what they want and the artist is just a face. I didn’t want this to be that. But, fortunately Bacardi has a cool CEO. His name is Mike Dolan and he comes from creative so he understood the vision. When I sent him the things that I wanted, it was kind of a polite note, kind of like nobody’s going to agree to this. He wrote back and was like ‘this is exactly what we’re looking for.’
‘We’re looking to do something that is 100% giving to the culture; 100% what you feel you want to do, and we want to represent the artist and the people there. If they drink our drink that’s cool.’
We did our first show and that was a great success and now we’re around the world with it and they’ve been a great partner because they let me do what I want to do. Sometimes I put some logos up. Sometimes, I won’t put no logos up. It depends on the setting.
The artist should always come before any brand. Once you put the brand in front of the artist, you’ve lost. But, once you put the artist and the people in front of the brand, you’re in a really good space. So, I think they understand that and that’s a good thing.”
NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 11: Swizz Beats (R) and CEO at Bacardi, Mike Dolan (L) attend as BACARDI and Swizz Beatz’ The Dean Collection present “No Commission: Art Performs” – Day 1 on August 11, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images for BACARDI)
The major theme is ‘freedom for the artist’, and making sure they have that platform. Not everybody is doing this. You know that. In what ways do you see it making an impact?
“It’s been a blessing, you know. The show has been way more successful than I ever could imagine in such short time. Just from the last couple of shows, we gave the artists over 3 million dollars back in their pockets. I’m talking about unknown artists, you know?
We’ve had over 1 billion impressions globally and that’s not even adding China. It’s an amazing story. So many people I see them hang their work up in No Commision then a few months later I see them and they have all these stories of how galleries are picking up their work, and they’ve sold out.
It’s an honor to be able to have a concept where you really see people benefit 100% from it.”
So, you just wrapped up the show in Shanghai earlier this month.
Yeah, that was the biggest show so far which is good because it’s our latest one. The reason why I feel it was bigger is because of the activations, the people that showed up. The concept was different. The location was monumental.
Globally, it really stamped No Commission. Even though we did it in London, which started the global movement, for some reason China just made everybody realize that we’re going big. [We] went from China to now Berlin, then we’re going to hit Africa. We’re going to hit Miami, Dubai, Brazil.
I want to liberate the artists from all over the place. I want people to know that no matter where you live, or where you’re from, you can have a chance to be a part of this platform. We’re taking it one show at a time and that’s it.
Your mind probably has 1,000 ideas running through it for No Commission. Is there anything you can share as far as how you see it growing and the things that you have in store?
“I’ve had No Commission planned out for probably like 10 steps at a time. I’m only in the first phase right now. The second phase is going to come very soon which is the technology side of things which is going to really activate the people in a way that’s going to be very cool.
Some people are going to get upset because of the access that I’m giving the people to the artist. I can’t really worry about that. Like I said, it’s going to take an artist to understand the needs and wants of an artist, and that’s just it.
I’m really taking my time. I want people to grow with us. I want people to be a part of it. I want people to critique what we’re doing. I don’t feel we’re that perfect yet. We’re always growing and expanding and learning from the people. Each show I learn something new. Next show we gotta do this or next show, we gotta do that. I want to add this.
Berlin is going to be completely different from Shanghai just like Shanghai was completely different from London, and London was completely different from Bronx. We build it. You experience it, and we change the whole concept every show.”