The Return of ‘Lil Derek’ aka Sway

On Friday, Example released a rap album. It has been a while since Example released a rap album. Where he started his career as a rapper, his past few albums have leaned more towards EDM, but this album is him spitting. In the lead up to the album, Example was hyping up one of the verses, and it wasn’t his, it was that of Sway DaSafo, who is featured on ‘Eye to Eye,’ along with Doc Brown. People were excited when they saw his name, and even more so when they heard the verse, with many people happy to have him back in the scene. There isn’t many people who could take such a long hiatus and come back to applause, but Sway is one of those people.

Prior to Streaming, social media and YouTube and every song you want being available at a click of a button, the place you heard about new music was through friends, message boardsor magazines. And many times, when hearing about new music, you wouldn’t actually hear the music, instead you would hear descriptions laced with superlatives. One man who I heard a lot about before actually hearing him was Sway.

At a time when Grime was beginning to dominate, Sway emerged from the UK Hip Hop scene full of humor, energy, punchlines, artistry, and more. I managed to pick up a signed copy of ‘This Is My Promo Vol. 1’ from Dark N Cold on a trip to the West End. The success of his This is My Promo series gave Sway a Mobo Award for best Hip Hop act, the first unsigned act to do that.

This was just the beginning, Sway would go on to release a successful debut album (with the classic single Little Derek), be featured on songs with everyone from Ian Brown, Lupe Fiasco and Madness, and sign a label deal with Akon’s Konvict Music. But after the release of his third album Deliverance, Sway fell back from the spotlight, focusing on establishing his label New Reign Productions, being instrumental in the success of KSI and the birth of his children.

This was until April 24th when he took to social media to announce he was dropping a collaborative album with producer Jaguar Skills the next week! The response on social media was excitement, many comments saying “about time” or “good to have you back.”

There is a reason why people, including myself, are really excited to hear Sway rap again, it’s because he is an incredible MC. At a time when Grime was the dominant sound in the playground, coming out of mobile phone speakers and on Channel U, Sway was one of the few rappers from the UK Hip Hop scene who was able to cut through. His humor was infectious, his punchlines always hit, his songs told stories…

He was able to hold his own on tracks with some of the best US rappers before these type of collaborations became commonplace, and he repped his roots, This is My Promo Vol.1 and 2 featured him on the cover with the Union Jack and the Ghanaian flag wrapped around his face. I’m sure many feel that Sway should have been bigger than he was, but if you see his interviews, he seems content with his career, highlighting that being an artist was never his main intention, his focus was on production and behind the scenes work. That means his return now is on his own terms, nothing to do with label pressures or financial pressures, this is Sway doing what he wants to do. This is exemplified by reverting back to Sway DaSafo instead of Sway, to signify a new chapter in his musical career.

On May 1st Sway released ‘I Want To Be,’ promising this was just the start of the new music he was releasing. A few days later he released a song explaining the name change from Sway to Sway DaSafo. Then on June 1st, he released ‘The Hitman.’ On these projects, Sway sounds reinvigorated, focused, determined. The return of Sway DaSafo is a huge deal for a UK scene which looks a lot different from the one he came up in. And just like Sway was able to bridge gaps when he first came out, I am sure he can do the same in 2020.