Swizz Beatz have made millions of dollars, won numerous awards and hits under his belt, also served as Creative Director for companies like Reebok and Lotus Cars, but despite all of his success and achievement, he feels education is important as well. The producer is now enrolled in Harvard University’s Business School at the age of 35, where he is taking courses while living on campus in a small dorm room.
This week, he sat down with The Breakfast Club Morning Show to drop some gems on his decision to return to school, as well as the valuable information he’s already received regarding true ownership. Outside of business school chatter, he also reacted to blogs making a big deal out of his recent vacation with wife Alicia Keys and ex-wife MaShonda.
Peep the highlights:
On why he decided to go back to school:
I just felt like you have to keep graduating your brand. A lot of people get complacent with their success and things that they’ve done before and I just wasn’t comfortable with that because I started transitioning from producer to business owner. I would be in these rooms and, no matter how big the deal was or how good it is, people would still look at me like ‘Oh, he’s the rapper guy. He’s the rapper friend.’ I’m like, ‘We all in this meeting because of what I’m bringing to the table.’ But being that I didn’t really have any credentials to go with those different things, I didn’t feel like I was getting the respect that I deserved. So I said, ‘You know what, let me go and sharpen my pencil a little bit and really walk back in these rooms a different person and different man.’ Really invest that time into myself because I started when I was like 18. I was gone since then. And a lot of different things I would learn and do just off the cuff, but I really didn’t know the language. I didn’t feel comfortable with the language of doing business.
On now living in a dorm:
It was amazing to go from my crib to a dorm room. [Do you have a roommate?] Nah, they didn’t do me dirty with a roommate. My room so small, I can’t even have a roommate. Twin bed. I got my own shower. It’s just a humbling experience because that same small room could’ve been my jail cell. Coming from where I came from and the things I’ve been apart of it’s like, man I’m in this small room, but I’m here to educate myself and hopefully educate other people. It’s never too late because a lot of people say “Man, why are you going back? You got all this money.” I’m like, “Money doesn’t make you smart!”
I could’ve definitely lived off campus but I wanted to be apart of the experience. It’s Harvard. I just really wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing no pieces. I didn’t want to come off as the big celebrity; this that and the third because I’m a small guy in my class by the way. There’s people in my class that businesses do a billion dollars a year. To be around all these people; they’re staying in dorms too. Just because I have celebrity status I didn’t want to separate myself and be some type of way.
They didn’t even know I was Swizz Beatz. My tag says Kasseem Dean. This is the hardest class to get into in Harvard. You have to be successful already. So when you send your resume in they have to cross check it with financials and all the different things you’ve done in the business world. Then people on your staff have to fill out information.
On being on a scholarship:
There was a person in there that put money that they had from a scholarship towards my situation just because they got a scholarship, but that person’s business makes a lot of money.
On if he’ll have a degree when he is finished the program
When I finish I will be a Harvard Alumni so I’ll have the alumni status. I thought that was pretty cool because having the alumni status, I can always have access to the programs. So if I ever want to do something else or be invited to other things….I just wanted to have it.
On how he finds the time to run his businesses and still go back to school:
You just got to do it. This right here helped me so much. It let me know a lot of things because coming from the music industry, we would see how they would treat us. They were taught to treat us like this. Being that I’m in the owners’ program, they’re teaching you as an owner to run your business.
The illest thing that my professor said was… a lot of ill stuff, but he particular said, ‘Make them feel like they own something and they’ll work harder for you.’ I’m like, ‘Oh God, that’s what they do in the music industry! Give them a label deal!’ and you know when you get the label deal, it becomes a “we” conversation.
I’m an owner. You know we want things so bad that we will take anything just to have a title, but after you do the ratios and the math, does that title really mean anything? I just tired of the smoking mirrors. I want to be an owner for real. Be apart of IPO’s for real. Have veto rights, have seats on the board and do things for real because a lot of our industry got a lot of potential but we’re not really exercising it.
On the photos of him with Alicia Keys and Mashonda on vacation:
I thought that was a very positive message but even in that, they want the waters to be dark. They want the clouds to be black. They [blogs] were saying all kinds of things. “Oh, Mashonda stupid. Alicia is stupid.” This and that. I said no, there is kids involved. We got to go to graduations for a long time. We got to go to games for a long time, you understand?
Our personal things that we went through in the past that’s the past. It’s going on five years already. They’re both great parents. Mashonda didn’t fly over there, she happened to be over there already and she wanted to see our son. What are we going to say, no? My wife is not like that. You want to see your son, yeah come, we here, let’s go. That’s how it is. It’s not this big wrestling match like everybody think it is.
Everybody has graduated to a very mature level and I can definitely respect that because even myself. It was a lot of frustrating times for us and to see this thing come together to a positive place I think that’s what people should focus on. Okay, it’s not how you start, it’s how you end it and these two amazing women are coming together for the kids like you know what it can be a positive message in this moving forward. Everything don’t have to be what you see on TV, this that and the third. There’s other sides to our culture that’s pretty cool.
Watch the interview below: