Sat down with legendary Radio/TV personality Sway Calloway at the Viacom building in Times Square on Thursday (September 8th) to talk about his new BET talent series One Shot and how important it is to show support to those working their way up.
Longtime MTV News reporter, host of Sirius XM show Sway in the Morning, co-host for Sway & Tech- The Wake Up Show, and Hip Hop ambassador, Sway and crew focus in the Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami and Chicago markets this season in search of America’s next undiscovered Hip Hop artist. Sway, along with One Shot creator Kxng Crooked, and half of Sway & Tech – The Wake Up Show King Tech travel from city-to-city as contestants compete week-to-week for the take-home prize of $100,000 and a record deal.
Because everyone has their own story, Sway was generous when chatting it up about his experiences coming up as a rapper to TV/radio host/reporter/executive producer, how difficult the roads were for him when trying to pursue his dreams; and what it would have been like if the map was laid out.
With the season already in full swing, starting in Atlanta (premiered Aug 23rd), Sway hits home when explaining the overall concept of the show.
The concept for One Shot is to give people who have that aspiration to become a star, or not even a star, just to be able to launch a career. People measure success in different ways, you don’t have to have multi-platinum albums or singles to have a career, to sustain a life, and a livelihood. I have plenty of friends, from a Pharoahe Monch on down to Jeru the Damaja, or Talib Kweli who all may not sell millions of songs, but have been able to sustain a career. So with One Shot, that’s what it’s all about. It’s okay to strive to be greater, through your art you can create a life around it.
Serving as both Executive Producer and Host, Sway relates to each contestant in some way.
When I first started off, my partner King Tech and I were like many of these artists, trying to find a way ‘damn, how can I get heard; man, why won’t ya’ll listen to my music? Was it as easy as me handing you the song and you playing it (at that time vinyl)? Asking, can you play my record? And people telling us no; calling up record companies trying to set up listening’s ‘can you play my demo?’. Record companies giving you the run around. All I was asking for at that time was for them to give us a shot.
Sway spoke on the rise of now-legendary greats like Kanye West, Eminem, Drake, and others who’s experiences and positions all have ultimately lead to the successful rise of the emerging new. At one point in time, they were beginners looking for their shot too.
I remember when Kanye West used to come to LA before he was ‘Kanye West’. We use to do a lot of concert tours and put new artists on the tour, but established artists; that particular tour I think it was Gang Starr, DJ Premier, and (rest in peace) Guru who were headlining. We had a packed house, so we were like ‘hey everybody, we want to introduce you to this kid,’ and he did his thing. Same thing for Eminem, we were like, ‘damn who’s this kid? We ignored that he was white, we didn’t care that he was white, there were plenty of dudes who were white that knew how to spit, but damn, this dude needs to be heard, somebody gotta give him a shot. Drake was been rapping for years before Wayne came on board to really help catapult his career to where it is today. So that’s what this show is about. Giving to potential artists that opportunity that a lot of us were all denied.
Even T.I. in his early days came up independently; DJ Khaled didn’t always have Major Key, he wasn’t saying that years ago, but whatever he was saying, he was always selling and marketing himself. Initially, people weren’t always gravitating; he wasn’t always getting the attention he has today, but he started taking these shots. He started creating these compilation projects, and from those projects you start seeing all these hit records, and you’ll see a guy like a Ace Hood come out and become who he became, or a Rick Ross to become who he became.
With a list of feature celebrity judges like T.I., DJ Khaled, RZA, Twista on the show week by week and an assorted selection of MC’s going for the crown, One Shot is for Hip Hop what American Idol and The Voice have been for Pop and other genres.
It isn’t really a competition thing for us, it’s us trying to create a platform for people to achieve their dreams. This can’t happen without the support of each other. If this show isn’t successful then other shows like it won’t be successful. If Jay Z wasn’t successful as an executive when he took over Def Jam, then other potential executives that come from his culture – those doors may have been closed. Because Ice Cube was successful when he crossed over into Hollywood and started doing movies like Boys N the Hood, Friday, Are We There Yet, and all those different things; if LL Kool J wasn’t able to transition from being our first Rap-Pop teen idol into doing In The House, his own TV sitcom, and all the movies he’s done since, hosting the Grammy’s now, all those wonderful things, then a lot of doors may not have been open for a lot of us to do the same thing. That’s what this show is. We just want to give back, give an opportunity to people that we can relate to. One shot.
Catch another all new episode of One Shot this Tuesday at 10P. With Atlanta, Charlotte and Miami out of the way, Sway and the other judges venture to round up the Chicago auditions as they gear up for the crowning of America’s next number one rap star.