Swizz Beats Talks Blending Art and Music for ‘No Commission’

Lewis Smart /
Jun 28, 2017 / Opinion

A lot of people would say that I’m shaking up the gallery tradition, but I would say that it’s just educational. The youth and today’s generation are going to do what they want to. They are not really the generation of falling in line with things because of tradition.”

Art and music is a strange beast. It’s a matter of personal preference. Some like modernistic art, others traditional. Some like Hip-Hop whilst others love Classical. All however are a form of expression to inspire and educate a generation. Their very existence is carried by those creative enough to put everything on the line as they slather their deepest emotions onto a canvas.

In early 2015, a partnership between music’s finest Swizz Beatz and Bacardi bought a project titled ‘No Commission’ to life.  A roving art and music experience began and since then the movement has gone from strength to strength. Speaking while enjoying some downtime in Miami with his family, Swizz explains:  “No Commission all started as this vision that I had. I just wanted to celebrate and support artists. I’d been to a load of places and nowhere had celebrated the artists 100 per cent. I said to myself, If I could create something where artists can keep all their profits, something that’s free for people to see and enjoy, that would be something to celebrate.”

Having won himself a Grammy back in 2009 for production duties on one of JAY-Z’s biggest tracks ‘Onto The Next One’, as well as having produced tracks for many famous faces, Swizz certainly has the music side of things covered. He isn’t, however, one to fall into a certain box, being an avid art collector also. Not shy to getting his hands dirty, it’s obvious that there clearly is no one better than himself to take the reigns on a project such as ‘No Commission’ and to lead it into something extraordinary.

‘No Commission’ is a project birthed from a simple idea that champions the creative world. Its a respect towards historical and rising cultures what allows ‘No Commission’ to be so successful. Art and Music lay rusted upon the cogs of this machine. It’s pumping within its veins as it plays homage to inspirational artwork from across the world. The fifth in its series is about to pitch up in Berlin, a city that is one of the most influential hubs of culture in the world.

April 8, 2017 in Shanghai, China

I have so much respect for Berlin and its arts culture. I’ve embraced so many of its artists for so many years, and realised how powerful the artists were. Berlin has taken in those young, up-and-coming artists early and housed them. They made the rent cheap. I’m not sure if it’s now the same, but I give Berlin the credit for actually ever doing it. People can always say what someone hasn’t done. But it’s good to show some love for what people have done. I think the experience of art in Berlin is special, every time I go I always see an eclectic mix of people, different artists, interesting art, and technology. It’s always moving out there. Berlin is like okay, show number five, its show time.”

An incredibly talented mix of artists dazzle upon its line up, all from various walks of life, all coming together to showcase the art forms of today. But this isn’t just a celebration of art. ‘No Commission’ also prides itself on bringing music’s finest talent to the party. “Music and Art have been in existence together since day one,” Swizz says. “The only thing that has ever separated them is business. One went left and the other went right.

When ‘No Commission’ arrived in The Bronx, New York, Swizz’s hometown, one of Hip-Hop’s most recognisable names, ASAP Rocky, took to the stage:  “Oh man its all started from The Bronx. I used to have all this art and graffiti around me. Naturally it was everywhere. If I could have had an art programme like ‘No Commission’ that could have come to The Bronx when I was little, It would have changed not only my life, it would have also saved so many people that was lost and didn’t have no way out, or those that didn’t even think of a different life other than the streets. Art can be celebrated, art can be cool. It’s definitely better than being on the streets, selling drugs. I want people to think that one day they can be in ‘No Commission’.

I just think it would have given people a different outlook on things, that’s why I took it to The Bronx. It was one of our most successful shows. Nobody really believed in ‘No Commission’ going to The Bronx. Why not Brooklyn, why not Manhattan? People would ask. And I would tell them ‘I’m from The Bronx’. My Partner, Bacardi’s CEO, even came to The Bronx. Bacardi were in The Bronx, its wasn’t like they sent me out on a mission, by myself no. We were all in The Bronx together. Three days of amazing fun, no fighting. Mind you, people were drinking and not one incident happened. It was all love and inspiration. There were people from all over the world that came to The Bronx.  We had people that lived in those big tall buildings up there, we had people who were successful in music; art and billionaires were even there. We even had movie stars there. We even had just the regular people from The Bronx there. The mix was so amazing. It was like WOW! It was unimaginable how great the event was.

One thing that is certain about the whole project is that it’s definitely not slowing down anytime soon. With stints in Shanghai, Miami and London, ‘No Commission’ is on a path of world domination.

No Commission’ is going global. If you think of places that influence people globally, places like Shanghai and London are on that list for sure. We’re looking at places like Brazil and even Africa. We’re looking all over the world. As of now these places have come up by popular demand because it just feels right to take ‘No Commission’ there. The world is big. I plan on doing this for many, many years. We can’t not go to these kind of places.

The show’s line up is 90% of artists from that location, some up and coming and some known. I like to mix it up with artists from other places too. ‘No Commission’ is a global movement and people can come in, and maybe you have seen everything in Berlin. That’s why I’ll have artists from Africa, Japan, and so many other places. Because coming to the show everyone should be able to learn something new. We shouldn’t only be subjected to our surroundings only. Even though we are going to represent and pay respect to our surroundings we are also going to introduce some other places and different cultures too. I think that should then make it a great learning experience.”

‘No Commission’ isn’t just your typical exhibition. It’s an experience. One could say that it’s a project that stands up to post-modernistic opinions.

A lot of people would say that I’m shaking up the gallery tradition, but I would say that it’s just educational. The youth and today’s generation are going to do what they want to. They are not really the generation of falling in line with things because of tradition. The world is moving to fast for anyone to be stuck in old ways. What I’m trying to do is provoke the conversation of changing a couple of things in the art industry. I can’t tell galleries what to do, I can’t tell anyone what to do. But what I can do is lead by example. Because I’m not a gallery, I’m not an art dealer, I’m not a broker. I’m not any of those things. I’m just a patriot for the art.

I feel that artists do need galleries, just as much as they need art outside of the galleries. We all get to do things together to make it a better place for the artists, period. The galleries have got to pay their bills I get that. But I’m against any artists getting a 50% cut of the profits. I’m against anyone taking a cut of anyone’s creativity, but that’s just me. I’m an artist first. I know how its feels to work really hard and have nowhere to sleep, have nowhere to live and then you’re starting to make it but somebody takes 50% because they have a few more connections. It should be a totally different situation. Its up to the gallery and the artists to work it all out together. Its up to me to provide a platform, one where artists can believe in themselves and take on various different tasks.”

‘No Commission’ heads to Berlin this Thursday (June 29) – RSVP here.

Words by Lewis Smart

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