Exclusive: Swizz Beatz Talks About Being a Part of the Hit Series 'Godfather of Harlem', The Grammys and More | lovebscott.com

Exclusive: Swizz Beatz Talks About Being a Part of the Hit Series ‘Godfather of Harlem’, The Grammys and More

Season 3 of the critically acclaimed series, Godfather of Harlem premiered Jan. 15th on MGM+.

The series that is a thrilling mix between the civil rights movement and the criminal underworld, picks up with Bumpy Johnson (Oscar winner Forest Whitaker) refusing to ‘bend the knee’ to the five Italian families, while he’s simultaneously losing control of Central Harlem.

Viewers of Godfather know how much music plays an integral role in the series.

Music director Swizz Beatz returned for his third season as executive producer of the soundtrack.

Swizz has the rare undertaking in composing modern tunes for a series that takes place entirely in the past, creating a soundtrack that joins the past with the present, aligning history with an emotional undercurrent that resonates in the new millennium.

The soundtrack of the series features some of today’s top artists; Skip Marley, French Montana, Cruel Youth, Jidenna, Sean Cross, Samm Henshaw, 21 Savage, Rick Ross , DMX, Dave East, A$AP Ferg , Jadakiss, Busta Rhymes, John Legend and more. They have all contributed original songs that have amassed tens of millions of streams and counting.

We sat down with Swizz to discuss his involvement with the hit series.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity purposes.

Swizz you are such a busy man. With tons of projects going on at the same time, what made you want to return for Season 3 to curate the music?

Swizz: Oh man, I’m totally committed to Godfather of Harlem as a series, as a movement as an educational piece and as a personal ask from Forest Whitaker himself. It’s an amazing project, an amazing team and an amazing story, I’m all in.

I was doing my research, but I couldn’t find the answer – How did you first get involved with the show?

Swizz: Yeah, I got a call from Forest, wait actually Pharrell [Williams]. Pharrell called me and said man Mimi Valdes [Filmmaker, CEO for I am OTHER, her company with Pharrell] told me there’s this show and Forest is trying to get in contact with you. It’s about Bumpy Johnson and Harlem, your family is from Harlem, you are from the Bronx, it makes sense, is it okay to give him your number? I said of course it’s okay to give him my number. I got the phone call from Forest and now we are in Season 3.

So, I have a two-part question: How many original songs did you make for Season 3, and what’s your process in making the songs? Do you watch the episodes beforehand?

Swizz: For Season 3 we made ten songs. I don’t like to watch the full episodes before, I like to watch them when everyone else watches them. So, what I like to do is get the synopsis of what’s happening, see snippets and see how things are going to film and certain energies. So, when you see Bumpy, I’m making music for what he might be thinking, I turn the music into a character as well. When you hear “Get Money Hustle Repeat” from Jadakiss, Bumpy is thinking that in his mind because he lost everything in Season 2 at the end with fire that burnt up all his work. That was the energy with that, and the theme of Season 3 is get money hustle and repeat. How is he going to get on his feet. Another example is when’s Bumpy meeting and interacting with Jose Battle [Yul Vázquez.] I had to bring in some Latin flavor in there. Having the freedom to maneuver as much as possible has been the cool part.

With your process of making the music and knowing the characters so well, who is your favorite?

Swizz: Bumpy is my favorite character for sure, but I feel like the entire cast is unbelievable. I almost can’t look at them in another role because they are playing these roles so well and everybody is falling in love with the story, you can see the passion, you can see that they want to be there and be a part of it. That’s been an amazing thing to watch.

If there’s a Season 4, do you have a list of artists you would like to work with?

Swizz: I don’t really have a list, because Chris Brancato and Paul Eckstein [creators and writers of the show] along with the rest of the writers have to do their thing. I have to wait to see what their energy is before I go oh we going this way now, then I’ll pivot. The cool thing is a lot of people are calling to be on the show, asking to save a spot. It’s been cool not having to chase down artist for the show which has been a great representation of the show.

With this experience on Godfather of Harlem, could you see yourself doing the same thing on another show? Or is this project too special to repeat?

Swizz: I only do projects that I love, a lot of different projects have been brought to the table even before Godfather of Harlem, but it has to have this energy. In Season 1, Forest, Chris, Paul, myself, my team, the artist that you hear on those songs were all in the studio together for weeks and weeks creating and having fun. It was almost like a clubhouse, we created this fun universe, that wasn’t so stiff and wasn’t so so corporate. I think that’s why we got those songs, especially the theme song [Just in Case] because we were having fun with it, we weren’t treating it as a job, it was more of hanging out and being creative. I think all creatives work better when there’s no pressure, I didn’t have no pressure and that’s when you get the best.

With this show being set in Harlem, and you being from New York, who were some of your musical influences growing up?

Swizz: On the hip-hop side definitely KRS-One, Rakim, HOV, Nas, DMX, The Lox, so many people. It’s Hip-Hop’s 50th so I have a lot of those people on my mind.

Speaking of Hip-Hop’s 50th anniversary, did you have any favorite performances from the Grammys?

Swizz: Absolutely, I loved the “God Did” performance, it was amazing with the Last Supper theme. The Grammys actually letting Jay-Z’s 80 bars play, that was a different level. But I also liked that I was able to be onstage with my Ruff Ryders family, The Lox. Holding the flag in the air for all the work and time that my family put in for the 50th anniversary. You know The Lox never really been on that stage unless it was like the feature. So, for them to be on stage doing their own thing and representing hip-hop and not coming on stage because it was safe, because it was with Mariah Carey or something, it meant a lot. That was a real moment for me, they performed “We Gonna Make It” on the Grammy stage and it’s one of the most hardest hip-hop songs period. So that was a highlight for me personally.

Godfather of Harlem airs Sunday nights on MGM+.

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