Grammy-winning superproducer/entrepreneur Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean has been making quite a few stops to Atlanta. This past July, the husband of superstar Alicia Keys worked the console in J.Cole’s Dreamville residency at Tree Sound Studios. He engaged in a live conversation on production with Timbaland at Diddy’s REVOLT Summit in September.
But when the producer famous for crafting hits for DMX, Jay Z, T.I., Beyoncè, Kanye West, Drake, Rick Ross, Eve, Busta Rhymes, Lil Wayne, and Whitney Houston came to 200 Peachtree on October 24, Dean was completely in his element.
The cofounder of an art collection/curation platform, The Dean Collection; a touring art fair, No Commission; and now a mobile app, The Sm[ART] Collection, gave Oriel Ceballos—a visual artist who was pepper-sprayed and tackled by New York’s Washington Square park officers in October allegedly for selling his work on the ground at the park instead of on a table—his very first installation while he hosted Bacardi Rum Room’s inaugural stop in the ATL.
Dean, 41, chatted with Atlanta magazine over a neat glass of golden Gran Reserve Diez; the art enthusiast and Harvard grad revisits attending three high schools in DeKalb County and shares some of his plans for creatives in Atlanta.
What is your connection to Atlanta?
Actually, Atlanta saved my life coming from New York [when I was 15], running from the wild, and coming into a little bit of sanity within the wild. I went to three high schools here: Redan, Stone Mountain, and Open Campus. I was able to open up my creative resources here; the Eastside is stomping grounds.
What is it about our city that allowed you to give Oriel Ceballos his very first show?
Stuff like that is what I like to do. Unfortunately, the situation made me go into his world of creativity. He’s a great artist, but it wasn’t about the art. It was about creating a safe space for him to be able to do something positive, which he was doing. No cops are going to drag him up out of here. There are so many artists around the world that are trying to do the right things, but society gets in their way. That situation could’ve really been bad. We’ve seen a lot of those situations that were worse. For him to still be here and celebrating with us is a plus. Giving him a platform to put him on and let him shine in his true light is a plus. That’s bigger than everything.
Now that you have the largest, privately owned collection of Gordon Parks photographs, does the Dean Collection or No Commission have any plans to bring any of its collections to Atlanta?
We didn’t add the [Gordon Parks] collection to the Dean Collection to just hang on our walls. We added it so that the culture could have access to it. We look forward to bringing it to Atlanta where the people that Gordon Parks shot can actually see the photos of them reflected in the earlier years. It’s deep.