Hip-hop's Swizz Beatz recently made headlines for receiving his business degree, adding Harvard grad to his list of credits, which already include recording artist, producer and art curator. But we're curious as to how this jack of all trades plans to use it for the latter. Swizz told BET.com exclusively, "I think as artists we need to understand that it’s the art business." He feels it is important to be able to represent yourself and understand the business side of everything.
Swizz's global platform for the arts, No Commissions, will once again be on display at Art Basel in Miami. No Commission Miami is the sixth in a series of artist-supported collaborations. He has previously held it in New York, London, Shanghai and Berlin. Artists retain 100 percent of sales proceeds of their artworks sold. The No Commission platform is a partnership between Bacardi, Swizz Beatz and The Dean Collection in their continued support of cultural visionaries around the world. Pretty noble cause, no?
Here's what Swizz Beatz had to say about marrying his love of education and arts:
BET: What made you want to pursue a Harvard business degree, and what are your plans for using it?
Swizz Beatz: There comes a point in time where your creativity hits a ceiling and you need education to get past that ceiling so you can have a great idea, but don’t really know how to execute it or you can have a great deal and don’t really understand it. I think as artists we need to understand that it’s the art business, the music business, the fashion business, the movie business. Everybody wants to ignore the business side when it’s the most intricate and important side of it.
I decided to invest three years into my next 20 years of planning. I think the way it’s going to affect me in the art and music world is I’m going to actually know what I’m doing, make things effective, plan things out and know how to speak the business language. Nobody can out talk me or I don’t understand what they’re saying and I can also protect the artist as well. I have to protect myself. I think the artists are going to save the artists.
BET: What inspired you to become a curator in the first place?
Swizz Beatz: You know I’m an artist myself, and when I looked at the landscape I was seeing a couple of things missing, and I was wondering why with all of the outlets nobody was really changing the conversations or fixing a couple of things that were obvious. When I was working, doing other fairs and different things, I was noticing that the fair wins, the gallery wins, the collector wins, but the artists has to kind of find their way home, which is kind of my term. I always feel like the artist on all formats get the short end of the stick.
And so I said if I ever got a chance I wanna create a platform where the artists are really, truly celebrated. So with No Commissions, the artist keeps 100 percent of their sales, and my slogan is “by the artist, for the artist, with the people.” With the people coming in they don’t have to pay to see art, and my show is an entry point where you can buy something in my show for $50, $100, $500, $5,000, $10,000 up to a couple hundred thousand. So now we have something that is accessible.
BET: How does an artist get into Art Basel? What's the process?
Swizz Beatz: I want people to understand that No Commissions is a global platform for the arts, not just a domestic movement, that’s why we’ve done Shanghai, London, Berlin and all these different things, and we’re going to continue to travel abroad. Everywhere we go we try to have artists from that place. All of my artists are my favorite because we picked them for the show and everybody is doing progressive things. To watch all of the artists from the show grow and see their careers take off with No Commission, you know it’s the gift that keeps on giving, and I love that, and that I have a part to do with that.
BET: We recently spoke to your ex-wife, Mashonda, about curating her first art show. Did you check it out? Did she ask you for any advice on curating?
Swizz Beatz: She always comes to me for advice, and I’m always there to give it to her because she found a passion in art. She's my son's mom. She found peace in it, and I respect it. I support anything that’s positive, and she’s an advocate for the female arts. I think it’s a great thing for her. I support it, my wife [Alicia Keys] supports it, and it’s a good vibe.
BET: You’ve shown at Art Basel before, but what can we look forward to that's different from the past times you’ve been there?
Swizz Beats: Now, what you’re going to expect is the unexpected. We’ve added panels, shops where people can come and be artists themselves. It’s all about the vibe, it’s not a sterile environment. We’re just having fun, man, no politics over here.
(Editor's Note: Quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.)