Sway (rapper)

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For other uses of "Sway", see Sway (disambiguation).
Birth name Derek Andrew Safo
Born (1982-09-05) 5 September 1982 (age 32)
Origin Hornsey, North London, England
Genres British hip hop, Grime
Years active 2004–present
Labels Konvict, Dcypha, All Around the World Productions
Associated acts Akon, Black the Ripper, Chamillionaire, Ti2bs, Ed Sheeran, Flux Pavilion, I Blame Coco, Lemar, Lupe Fiasco, Mr Hudson, N-Dubz, Jayso, Two Fingers, Ayigbe Edem Jay Sean, MC-VA, Sarkodie, KSI
Website sway.uk.com

Derek Andrew Safo (born 5 September 1982), better known by his stage names Sway DaSafo or Sway is an English artist of Akan descent. He is signed to Akon's Konvict Muzik record label and is also a producer, having established DCypha Productions.[1]



Sway was born in London to Ghanaian Akan parents.[2] Sway attended Campsbourne Primary School where he first began experimenting with music and rewriting the lyrics to tracks by his favourite artists. He attended Highgate Wood Secondary School in North London and spent his spare time using the school equipment for musical production. Producing tracks for local artists, he was told to use his personality to write songs by adding his humour with his lyrical talent.[3] Sway is a cousin of footballer Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, and grime MC Lethal Bizzle.

Early career[edit]

At the age of 16, Sway had a place in the grand final of an open mic session at Dingwalls in London. He lost to Chester P of Task Force. It was at this age that Sway was a member of Tottenham-based hip hop trio Phynix Crew. Following his defeat at Dingwalls, Sway got into the finals of Choice FM's Rapology '99 with his rap group where they lost. Phynix Crew merged with two other rap groups to form One. Sway was now studying at college, as well as having a part-time job and producing ringtones for a company. Sway began to create a studio in his bedroom with the money he earned so that he could start to produce his own songs.[3]

Sway produced many solo singles despite being in a rap group and his first break was under the name "Sway DaSafo" on the track "On My Own", which reached the A-list of BBC Radio 1Xtra when the station was launched. He continued to produce music. When One released their first album, called Onederful World, 50% of the 10-track CD was produced by Sway. A member of the "MOBO Unsung" committee enjoyed it and nominated it for the "MOBO Unsung" competition, which resulted in the group reaching the final five of the competition. They did not win, however, DJ Tim Westwood of BBC Radio 1 and DJ Semtex of BBC Radio 1Xtra began giving them airplay.[3]


In 2004 after finding himself in business and recording situations he describes as "bait" and foreseeing the attitude of labels towards rappers due to the actions of other acts such as So Solid Crew, he established Dcypha Productions along with DJ Turkish and Junior Dcypha to record, promote and release their own music, a move which they would make in order to steer Sway's career the way they had envisioned and give them full autonomy in decision making. As Sway describes in an interview: "...me and the team decide my singles, what sort of marketing tactics to use etc etc, it's all done in-house".

Since 2004, Dcypha Productions have been known to have either signed or been affiliated with underground acts such as Britizen Kane, Klayz, Bigz, Baby Blue, Chiefer and Raptor.


In 2003, Sway started to pursue a solo career in the British music scene. He was invited by his cousin, DJ Ink, to feature on some of his drum and bass tracks and he became a member of the group Fifth Element.[3] In 2004, Sway established DCypha Productions along with Junior Dcypha (brother of long-time friend Chiefer who also features on "one for the journey EP" on "move back" and is also an actor) and Dj Turkish to enable him to release his mixtapes and debut solo album, This Is My Demo. At DCypha, Sway produces his beats and songs alongside his long-time friend Bigz.

Sway launched his solo career upon the disbanding of his group One by releasing two independent mixtapes, called This Is My Promo Volumes 1 and 2. They were underground successes, and his debut album This Is My Demo was released on 6 February 2006. Its second single, "Little Derek", headed in at #38 on the UK national charts. Remixes are also available featuring Baby Blue. His song "Hype Boys" is used in the video game Need for Speed: Carbon, and the song "Flo Fashion" is used in the video game FIFA Street 2. To coincide with the release of his debut album, Sway released a collaboration mixtape with LoveDough to promote LoveDough's club event at the Ikon nightclub in Newcastle upon Tyne. The compilation mixtape, called This Is My Rave, featured Pyrelli and Bigz, amongst other UK hip hop and R&B artists.

His debut has become controversial amongst UK hip hop artists due to his criticism of many modern rap artists "overhyping" themselves and glorifying themselves using elements from gang culture and street violence to make themselves seem 'harder' than they are and thus sell records to people who are potentially ignorant of the true roots of hip hop. He also argued against the use of nigga in hip hop and R&B songs on an appearance on Sky News.

Sway was the main support act for The Streets' UK tour, which began in Manchester on 27 April 2006, and ended in Leeds on 12 May 2006. He has also been performing solo around Europe to promote This is My Demo. He created a song in 2005 dedicated to his profile on MySpace. He also appeared on The Mitchell Brothers' single "Harvey Nicks" alongside The Streets' Mike Skinner.

Second album[edit]

Following the release and critical acclaim of his debut album, Sway started recording his second album which he had been planning from the This Is My Promo mixtape series. In the run up to the album's release, Sway featured on numerous songs and signed to Akon's Konvict Muzik record label in 2007. Sway released the One for the Journey EP on 14 May 2007 on his DCypha Productions label which featured an appearance from Chamillionaire on a Part 2 version of "Up Your Speed". Following this, Sway released two mixtapes: The Dotted Lines and The Signature mixtape. The Dotted Lines mixtape was released in early 2008 and announced the recording of his second album. It was released to coincide with the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, which was hosted in Ghana and to which the song "Black Stars", a remix of "Black Boys" by Bashy, is dedicated. The mixtape featured an interview with Sway Calloway of Sway & King Tech where Calloway argues that Sway DaSafo should not use the name Sway as it affects his reputation. It was announced on the mixtape that his second album The Signature LP would be released on 5 May 2008, however it was pushed back to 6 October 2008. The album included the song "F UR X" featuring $tush which was included on The Dotted Lines mixtape. Due to its success, it was decided that a music video should be produced and that it should be included on the new album. To coincide with the release of the album, Sway put up The Signature mixtape for download on his website.

During the recording of his second album, Sway diversified into other musical genres by featuring on songs with other British artists. In 2007, Sway collaborated with Madness to produce the song "Sorry" which also featured Baby Blue. This collaboration with the ska band was sparked by lead singer Suggs who read an interview with Sway in which he credits Madness as being an influence in his music career. Sway also produced a remix to Ian Brown's "Illegal Attacks" in 2007 and the remix was released along with the song on 17 September 2007. Maintaining an influence in the UK rock and indie rock scene, Sway featured on the remix of Mr Hudson & The Library's "Ask The DJ", which was released in 2006. A more recent collaboration is that with Kaiser Chiefs on the song "Half the Truth" off their album Off with Their Heads, released on 20 October 2008. Sway also diversified into the dance music scene with his collaboration with Stanton Warriors on the track "Get 'Em High", which was featured on the One for the Journey EP. He also featured as the sole vocalist on "The Way We Go" which was produced by Jukey in May 2008. Nevertheless, Sway continued to work on hip hop collaborations such as his feature on "Chatterbox", produced by DJ Yoda and released on The Amazing Adventures of DJ Yoda in October 2006.

"F UR X" was included on the soundtrack to the UK film Adulthood prior to the release of The Signature LP. The first single to be released from the album was "Saturday Night Hustle" featuring Lemar, which was poorly accepted and peaked at number 67 in the UK charts. The next single to be released from the album is "Silver and Gold" featuring Akon. On the week beginning 2 February 2009, "Silver & Gold" peaked at number 75 without any promotion. In 2007, Sway offered his support to a development project in Sierra Leone, which he visited with Dawn Angeliqué Richard and Samata Angel.


In early 2009, it was announced that production of Sway's third studio album, The Signature LP 2, had started. He has revealed that he is working with acts such as Craig David, Neutrino, Jay Sean and former Liverpool football player Ryan Babel.

On television, he played himself in the episode "Video Killed the Radio Star" of the TV series FM during which he performed "Say It Twice" (produced by Dj Turkish), which was aired during March 2009. In May 2009, Sway performed "The Phatso Dance" with Soccer AM's Tubes, and a cameo from Chris Kamara - it is unclear whether this will be released as a single. The song involved "Kammy" rapping "unbelieveable" [sic] every couple of seconds late on.

On 26 March 2009, Sway collaborated with Two Fingers to release an album named Two Fingers. Sway was the main lyricist on the album featuring on 7 of the twelve tracks and helping out with production.

On 26 June 2009, the day after Michael Jackson's death, BBC Radio 1 in the UK played a Michael Jackson tribute song called "The King. Full Stop". The song featured a stripped down arrangement with only Sway's vocal and an acoustic guitar. No plans have been announced to release the song as a single or to include this song on his forthcoming album. BBC Radio 1Xtra premièred a new track by UK rap artist Britizen Kane entitled "Feel Like A King" which featured Sway on 24 July 2009.

Sway also worked on track for DJ Semtex entitled Nelson Lives to coincide with the anniversary of Mandela's release from prison. Other free internet songs by Sway that have been released during 2009 include a remix to Jay-Z's "Run This Town", "Jerusalem" which was unveiled under the name of MC Nobody as well as "Blackberry Man" which may be featured on the upcoming The Signature LP 2. The first single off the album, "Mercedes-Benz", was released on 19 October 2009.[4]

Sway announced on 2 August 2009 on Westwood Rap Show on BBC 1Xtra that after The Signature 2 he will be working on his first worldwide release, Signed Sealed Delivered on Akon's Konvict label. No other information is available at present.

In 2011 Sway worked with drum & bass\electronic producers the Wideboys, Sway provided vocals for the song Shopaholic along with rapper McLean.

The Delivery Mixtape[edit]

In December 2009, Sway announced that he was working on a new mixtape, and unveiling two tracks in the process: "Payback" and "The Watcher". Sway then released a download-only single on iTunes named "Everyday Valentine" to coincide with Valentine's Day in 2010. He offered those who were able to provide evidence for purchasing the single the opportunity to receive his mixtape prior to its release for free. The mixtape was due to be released on 14 February 2010, however this was pushed back due to continued work by Akon on the final song. The mixtape was released on 26 February 2010 from his website, to the public for free. It features appearances from Akon, Styles P, Kardinal Offishall, Giggs, Bigz and Mr Hudson. The mixtape obtained over 10,000 downloads in 10 days[citation needed] and was reviewed by British newspaper Metro who picked up on Sway's "trademark sharp humour and quirky observations" going on to say that Sway "will reign over British rap sooner rather than later."[citation needed]

The Delivery 2[edit]

On 20 October 2010 Sway dropped his new Mixtape 'The Delivery 2' The sequel to the Delivery Mixtape and the prequel to his new Album 'The Deliverance' expected sometime in 2011. The first track to be dropped from the mixtape prior to its release was 'Bring Me' featuring young Dcypha member Klayz. It featured a competition to put a verse on the remix or meet Sway. It received airtime on both BBC Radio 1Xtra and BBC Radio 1. Then just a few days before release Sway leaked the track 'Whose Line is It Anyway?' It featured Sway spitting bars from other Hip Hop tracks leaving the last lines blank. It was regarded as very clever and Witty. The Mixtape features mostly other UK Artists with Sway saving his American contacts for his new album. Other people who feature on the mixtape are Monica, Leo LeVox, Raptor, Simon Webbe, Big Bad Benny-Demus, Rock City, Akon, & T-Pain. It also features one of Sway's spin off Characters Jason Waste who original featured in Sway's second album The Signature LP.

The Deliverance[edit]

On 4 December 2011, Sway released the single "Still Speedin'". It peaked at number 19 on the UK Singles Chart. On 8 April 2012, the next single "Level Up" featuring Kelsey was released. It was produced by Flux Pavilion and peaked at number 8 in the UK Singles Chart. The third single, "Charge" featuring Mr. Hudson, was released on 2 December 2012. Sway supported Example on his UK tour in February 2013. The video for Sway's next single "Still Sway and Kane" (featuring Kano and Tigger Da Author), a remix of "Still DRE" by Dr Dre, was released in late January 2013. Sway himself has since stated that the album will finally get its much anticipated release in September 2013. On 20 October, 2013, he released the Wake Up extended play which features four original tracks and two alternative mixes. On the same day, the music video for the EP's single "No Sleep", which features KSI (Olajide Olatunji), Tigger Da Author and Tubes, was released on KSI's YouTube channel.[5]

On January 2, 2015, Sway confirmed that The Deliverance will be released sometime June 2015.


Main article: Sway discography
Studio albums


Year Show Role Notes Film/Television
2011 Top Boy Ross Rosten 2 Episodes (Season 1, Episode 1 and 2) Television
2012 Illegal Activity Julian (short film) Film
2012 The Grind "Thug" Minor role Film


His reputation rose from underground to mainstream after coming into the public eye by winning a MOBO award in September 2005 for Best Hip Hop Act, defeating heavyweight hip hop artists 50 Cent and The Game to collect the award.[6] He was also nominated for the second year running in the Best Hip Hop category and Best UK Male for the MOBO awards held at the end of September 2006[7] and in September 2008 for Best UK Male.[8]

In July 2006, Sway's album This Is My Demo was nominated for the 2006 Mercury Music Prize but the award was won by the Arctic Monkeys at the ceremony on 6 September.[9]

In 2008, Sway was nominated for two awards at the Urban Music Awards.

In November 2006, Sway won a BET Hip-Hop Award for "Best UK Hip-Hop Act", beating Blak Twang, Plan B, Dizzee Rascal and Kano. By being nominated and winning the BET for "BEST UK Hip-Hop Act", Sway appeared in a video showing himself in a cipher with Saigon, Remy Ma, and Rhymefest freestyling on a rooftop in New York. The freestyle was featured on The Dotted Lines mixtape.


  1. ^ "Sway Biography". Sway Blog. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  2. ^ Video on YouTube
  3. ^ a b c d "Sway Biography". www.britishhiphop.co.uk. 16 April 2006. Retrieved 2007-12-30. 
  4. ^ "Sway ‘Mercedes-Benz’ OFFICIAL Video Out October 19th". Sway. 19 September 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2010. 
  5. ^ "Sway Ft KSI, Tigger Da Author & Tubes - No Sleep". Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  6. ^ "Ghana at Fifty: Leaders on the UK Arts scene", BBC Africa Beyond.
  7. ^ "Mobo Awards: Nominations in full". BBC News. 15 August 2006. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  8. ^ "2008 MOBO nominations announced!". Daily Melody. 11 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-08.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  9. ^ "Mercury shocks by honouring favourites". BBC News. 6 September 2006. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 

External links[edit]