Photo by Emily Tan for Prefix Mag
How to take a rapping Swizz Beatz seriously? One of the many questions lingering in the wake of last night’s Sounds Like Paper 2011 event, where the Monster shared the House of Vans stage with fellow Paper Magazine cover boy Joe Jonas (Santigold, the third cover, was M.I.A. – no pun intended).
As guests swigged from complementary Corona cans and gobbled free Ben & Jerry’s, the veteran producer took the stage around 9:30 p.m., swagged out in his finest skinny boy threads (Muhammadi Ali-adorned tee, white blazer, jeans so thin that they could have been wearing him). But for a producer/MC whose greatest on-record moments were slinging hooks for others, how to wow the crowd as the main attraction?
Simple: perform a half-hour medley of snippets, almost entirely consisting of tracks you produced. During his high voltage set, Swizzy crammed dozens of tracks (Jay-Z’s “On to the Next One,” T.I.’s “Bring ‘Em Out,” DMX’s “Ruff Ryders Anthem”) into what could be an iPod playlist of Swizz’s greatest hits (at one point, he even let his iPod do the talking, playing DJ Khaled’s “I’m on One” and LMFAO’s “Shots”).
So what about his solo tracks? Swizz is currently prepping the release of his third album Haute Living, yet only a few Swizz-only cuts made the set list. 2006’s “Money in the Bank” and “It’s Me Bitches” hyped the crowd, while a short snippet of “Everyday (Coolin)” and “Reebok Back” dotted the hit parade. Only near the end did he debut a Haute tune, a palpitating banger that wishes you a happy birthday – even if it isn’t.
Still, the set was exhilarating; the Brooklyn crowd ruthlessly had their drink ‘n their two-step. But whereas Swizz leaned on his production discography to justify his rapping prowess, the middle Jonas had more to prove with his opening set. No longer trying to preserve his innocence as a Jonas brother (there may or may not have been a purity ring on hand, hard to tell), Joe tried his best to appease the post-Disney crowd with his R&B-inflected tunes. Backup dancers in tow, Joe premiered tracks from his upcoming solo debut Fast Life, flexing his vocal chops (pretty great) while hitting his choreography cues (even better).
It was only at the end that he went full sexy, removing his white blazer to reveal a tank top and swoon-inducing, juiced-up arms. His single “See No More” closed the short performance – it sounded good, but the Corona was calling.