Sway (musician)

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This article is about the British musician. For the American rapper and radio host, see Sway Calloway. For other uses, see Sway (disambiguation).
Birth name Derek Andrew Safo
Born (1982-09-05) 5 September 1982 (age 33)
Origin Hornsey, North London, England
Genres Hip hop, grime
Years active 2004–present
Labels Dcypha / Island, New Reign Productions, 3Beat / AATW
Website sway.uk.com

Derek Andrew Safo (born 5 September 1982), better known by his stage name Sway or Sway DaSafo or is a British artist of Akan descent. He is also a producer, having established Dcypha Productions, signed to Island/Universal (Label Founder).[1] Safo's 2008 record 'Black Stars'[2] gave kudos to popular Ghanaians across the Diaspora. Sway's first big track 'On My Own' was released under the name Sway DaSafo.[3]


The Beginning[edit]

Derek Andrews Safo born September 5, 1982 known professionally as Sway (Dasafo) was born and raised in Hornsey, North London by Ghanaian parents Beatrice & Adam. He attended Campsbourne Junior School and then Highgate Wood Secondary School, where he would sacrifice many of his lunchtime breaks learning how to produce music in the schools 'backroom' music facility. Having spent some of his earlier childhood in Ghana and being a slow starter when it came to speaking, Sway returned to England and developed a fascination of the English language. In later years his fascination of literature, combined with his knack for public speaking, inspired the then budding music producer to vocal his own productions until 'a better rapper appeared'. That 'better' rapper was coaxed out of him by the encouragement of peers and crowd reactions at rap battle competitions that he would later enter and often win. His witty punch lines, storytelling ability and fast flow influenced by his favorite rap group Bone Thugs N Harmony and local drum and Bass MC’s such as Skibadee and Shabba D had him constantly stand out as a unique hybrid.

2000 – “Phynix Crew”[edit]

At age 14 Sway joined up with two sixth form students Ace and Mirage GG (Now known as Archer) to form the Phynix Crew. The group would record countless demo’s and entered Choice FM’s Rapology competition in 1998.

2001 – “One”[edit]

A year later Sway played an instrumental role in the merging of rappers from three different schools to form the eleven member local super group called "One". Despite being one of the youngest members of the crew he was appointed as the Rza or Megaman of the collective with Wu-Tang & So Solid Crew being their key Influences. The collective who mainly resided in Tottenham, Wood Green & Hornsey would independently release a hand to hand sold album entitled “Onederful World” which landed them a finalist position in a MOBO unsung competition that would be televised and judged by the likes of former Radio 1 DJ Tim Westwood. During this period he also decided to return to his West African roots by producing an album entitled "Masem" for Ghanaian hip life star Tic Tac. Soon after Sway was recognized by UK Hip Hop pioneers Task Force during a rap battle in Dingwalls where he lost against reigning champ Chester P. Task Force offered Sway and his collective a place to record prior to them building their own recording studio in the basement of a furniture shop on North London's Holloway road. Despite producing close to half of the album Sway felt that being one of the youngest meant he wasn't being taken as seriously by other group members, so he left the group and began to embark on a solo career remaining close with the two other youngest members rapper Pyrelli and producer Al Shux.

2002 – On My Own[edit]

Sway continued to enter open mic competitions and landed a solo record on the first ever BBC 1Xtra playlist upon its launch in 2002. Sway moved out of his family home in Hornsey getting himself several part-time jobs to stay afloat. He worked as a ringtone maker where he was responsible for some of the more obscure hip hop ring tones that he would often here on his bus journeys to work and he also worked at the Gap clothing store in Marble Arch. He then attended Westminster College to study sound engineering and then City & Islington College to study Music technology. In this time he had also become an honorary member of 5th Element hip hop/drum & bass collective put together by his cousin DJ Ink. Sway would take payment for his verses in exchange for the group manufacturing his own vinyl which he would then sell and distribute. In order to gain more contacts in the world of music he was introduced to the Sony Street Team by former fellow One member turned actor Alex Lanipekun, where he had met DJ Semtex and Tumai "Turkish" Salih.

Sway would hand out flyers, hang up posters but was keen on personally delivering promotional CD's to record shops and DJ's, as this way he could build relationships with all the key DJ's with a view of knowing who to go to when he had completed his own music. Not wanting to be recognized as a 'the rapper' Sway would cover his face in pictures with a Union Jack bandana, this later became an iconic image in the world of UK urban Music. It was at this point that Sway decided that he wanted to start his own record label. He wanted a name that sounded like his own (Dasafo) but meant something more over a period of time. Dcypha Productions was born out of this thought.

2003/ 2004 – Dcypha Productions, This is My Promo Success[edit]

Sway partnered up with his older cousin Junior Appiah to create Dcypha Studio's based in Hornsey where Sway would begin making of his first official solo releases "This Is My Promo" Volume 1 & Volume 2. The "This Is My Promo" mix-tape releases sold faster than any of the Dcypha Productions team could've predicted and the demand for more copies through the stores and on the streets became overwhelming. Sway would often take to the streets with Pyrelli to sell the CD's with some people having no clue that they were buying from the artist himself. His previous road trips to UK cities such as Manchester, Newcastle & Bristol as a member of the Defjam street team would inspire him to write a track entitled "Up Your Speed". He would also give CD's to his younger siblings to sell in their schools which included a then unknown UK rapper Chipmunk who was a close friend to Sway's younger brother Bubz.

2005 – This Is My Promo Success[edit]

Sway was now gaining attention from many major record companies, but having worked so closely with one as a street team member he felt deterred to lose the freedom he was experiencing as an independent artist. He became the first unsigned rapper to win a MOBO Award prior to the release of an official album and due to selling close to 20,000 copes of the "This Is My Promo" series collectively. Sway decided he would prefer to release his first album "This Is My Demo" independently, giving his demo not to the record companies but directly to the people. Tracks such as "Flo Fashion", "Up Your Speed" and the Al Shux produced UK top 40 "Little Derek" became genre-defining moments of this era. Despite being known as a UK Hip Hop artist Sway's versatile flow allowed him to be embraced by the newly born Grime scene collaborating with producers such as Terror Danjah and DJ Wonder.

2006 – This Is My Demo[edit]

Turkish would leave his job as a head of promotions manager at Def Jam UK to assist Sway in the making of his debut album “This Is My Demo”. Dcypha teamed up with local entrepreneurs Tayo aka "Puffy", Olu and Former XFM Radio DJ Dan Greenpeace to form Dcypha Alliance. 2006 saw the release of Sway's highly anticipated album "This Is My Demo" via Dcypha Alliance/ All City Records, One of the most critically acclaimed UK Rap albums of all time.

"This Is My Demo is not just the best British rap album in years, but simply the best rap album in years, full stop." 5 out of 5 THE INDEPENDENT

"Overloaded with laugh-out-loud lyrical gobbets, intelligent production and tunes that straddle commerciality and the street. It's as much a musical representation of a young Briton's life as the hip-hop loving Arctic Monkey's have made." NME

"Sway ahead" 5 out of 5 THE SUN

"Having come this far under his own steam, there's no reason why This Is My Demo shouldn't take him all the way." 4 out of 5 THE TIMES


"A tour de force of hip-hop, grime and modern day music-hall, it looks at urban life both humorously and unflinchingly" THE SUNDAY TIMES

"His reputation is set to go overgrown with this impressive debut." DAILY MIRROR

Despite a lack of mainstream radio support, "This Is My Demo" managed to sell over 50,000 copies within its first year of release and Sway went on to receive even more accolades including the Mercury Music Prize Shortlist and being the first UK rapper to win a BET Hip hop award hosted in Atlanta, USA.

2007 – Konvict Music[edit]

Amongst his supporters were international superstars, Akon, Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell Williams who had all displayed an interest in signing the UK rapper to their own label imprints. After introducing the acts such as Mr Hudson to DJ Semtex, which resulted in Hudson's major record deal at Mercury Records. Sway was often reminded of his initial passion to become a producer and curator of talent but felt the need to gain more experience as an artist, particularly on an international scale, before pursuing his ambition. After months of consideration Sway decided that he would take Akon up on his offer and become part of the Konvict Music family. Also embodying the fusion of a West African meets Western approach to music whilst building an empire, Akon was a perfect example for Sway to study. Although Sway never officially signed to Konvict Muzik he was often invited to accompany Akon around the world where he networked and built strong relationships with people such as Dutch producer Giorgio Tuinfort who went on to become an international hit machine and remains one of Sway's greatest influences and mentors to date.

2008 – The Signature LP[edit]

Sway faced many traumatic events during this period in his life which he would write about in songs such as "Letters To Heaven", "End Of The Road" and "Pray For Kaya", he had witnessed the untimely deaths of his business partners Tayo and Olu, cousin Derek Dodoo and close friend Kaya, all of whom died in close proximity to each other. He then decided to release another independent album while awaiting his moment with Konvict Music which unfortunately never came to pass. The Signature LP was released in 2008 through Dcypha Productions and though it had well recognized features a higher production value as well club anthems such as "F UR X" and "Silver & Gold" it always represented a darker chapter in Sway's life. On the upside being so closely affiliated to one of Africa's biggest musical exports meant Sway would frequently visit his homeland of Ghana, and embark on collaborations with then relatively unknown local artists such as Sarkodie who Sway quickly endorsed and introduced the Konvict Music Movement.

2009/2010 – The Delivery Mixtapes[edit]

In 2009 Sway released another two critically acclaimed mixtapes "The Delivery 1" & "The Delivery 2" with a view to releasing his third studio album entitled "Signed, Sealed & Delivered" but during the making of this album Sway's then minor health issues took a turn for the worst when he was diagnosed with the early stages of a treatable cancer known as Hodgkin's lymphoma. Sway then took some time away from the music scene to privately heal and recover from prompt treatment of the condition. After 6 months of treatment he came into remission and decided to continue on with his music career.

2011 –Still Speedin’[edit]

After seeing his early production partner Al Shux win a Grammy for co – producing Jay-Z's epic anthem "Empire State Of Mind", Sway was reminded of his ability to attract some of the worlds greatest talents. He went out to talent competitions where he first came across a unique ginger haired singer songwriter who he would then invite to his home and record songs with, they became friends and shortly after this period that person became known as the world-renowned Ed Sheeran. He also reached out to producers online, one being a University student in his final year. Sway visited his student accommodation and worked on a few songs with him, he went on to become the incredibly respected Flux Pavilion. After is experience with Lymphoma Sway decided to change the title of his next album to “Deliverance” and began to pick up where he had left off. Now seeing the album as part of his therapy as opposed to another product he often changed his approach as he matured. In this time he read and studied not only the business but also himself as a spiritual person. He had always been reluctant to sign to a record label but while rebuilding his own Dcypha Productions label he realized he had never experienced what it was like to be a signed artist. He signed a publishing deal with Bucks Music/ co-signed by his mentor Giorgio Tuinfort via Piano Music/ Talpa. He also discovered and joined forces with a new production partner Andrew Mutambira. His then manager Dan Greenpeace brokered a singles deal with 3beat records via AATW/Universal which saw Sway's first release "Still Speedin'" on the label climb up the National UK charts a land Sway his first top 20 hit. Many people where unaware of the reason Sway had taken his previous hiatus from the music scene and didn't realize that "Still Speedin'" was actually a song about regaining momentum after his previous traumatic events. The song was well received and even received social media support from the likes of racing Legends Nigel Mansell and Lewis Hamilton.

Sway also starred in a guest role in the Channel 4 drama Top Boy, alongside fellow rappers Asher D and Kano.

2012 - Level Up[edit]

Sway's next single "Level Up" written with Flux Pavilion during his Uni student days became Sway's highest charting single to date landing at number 8 in the UK National charts.

2013 – Wake Up EP[edit]

With this new found momentum Sway decided he wanted to return to his original plan of building a label and curating new talent. Through his search he came across south London rapper/ singer Tigger Da Author, who he took under his wing and signed to his revived Dcypha Productions label. With the assistance of his original team, he also signed YouTube star KSI. He featured both new artists as well as production by Dcypha’s They Call Me Raptor on what was to be his final release on 3beat records. The title track of the EP was produced by former Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe and the track “Back Someday” featured vocals from Ed Sheeran. After releasing the EP Sway decided to focus on expanding and rebuilding Dcypha Productions.

2014 – Dcypha Productions 10 year Anniversary[edit]

Sway, Turkish, Junior & Muriel spent over a year and a half developing both acts and in late 2014 the team oversaw the signing of Tigger now Tiggs Da Author to Sony RCA, a deal in which Dcypha is represented and Sway remains Executive Producer of his album due 2016. Subsequently in July 2015 Dcypha Productions became an imprint of Island/ Universal. Throughout the years Sway has continued to perform across Europe, North & South America, the Middle East and Africa alongside the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Example, Mark Ronson, The Streets & the legendary Hip Hop group Public Enemy. Sway was also the first UK rap act to perform at Austin Texas's world-famous SXSW festival in 2005. His vast array of collaborations go from acts such as Kaiser Chiefs, Nicky Romero and Madness, to award winning verses with Ghanaian super star Edem as well as being the only other rap feature on Lupe Fiasco's US billboard number 1 album "Lasers". Sway remains a constant inspiration to both the expanding UK and African urban music scenes with acts such as Professor Green, Tinie Tempah and Fuse ODG all sighting him as one of their key influences.

2015 – Deliverance[edit]

Sway decided himself to remain independent for the release of his long-awaited "Deliverance" album. He wanted to keep the album away from "the machine" so it could serve its true purpose as a platform for a new chapter in Sway's career. "For me this album is about telling a story, about introducing new people, going from tragedies' to triumphs and allowing myself to learn from mistakes and utilize my experiences to empower others, it's a project I hope will connect with the right people over a long period of time..." - Sway.

The album will mark the first time that Sway discusses his musical journey and previous health issues publicly in hope that it will encourage and inspire people who face similar adversities. He also talks about becoming a father to his newly born first child Jalil.

He is currently working on a new album entitled "Next Chapter" that will be released in 2016.


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
2013 The Chase Himself Cameo appearance 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.[4] 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[5] and in September 2008 for Best UK Male.[6]

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.[7]

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. ^ "Throwback Music: Sway – Black Stars Our next... | Afrobeats City". www.afrobeatsindacity.com. Retrieved 2015-11-26. 
  3. ^ "3) Sway's first big track 'On My Own' was released under the name Sway DaSafo.". Capital XTRA. Retrieved 2015-11-26. 
  4. ^ "Ghana at Fifty: Leaders on the UK Arts scene", BBC Africa Beyond.
  5. ^ "Mobo Awards: Nominations in full". BBC News. 15 August 2006. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  6. ^ "2008 MOBO nominations announced!". Daily Melody. 11 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-08.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  7. ^ "Mercury shocks by honouring favourites". BBC News. 6 September 2006. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 

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