Most hip-hop artists didn’t grow up listening to Rachmaninov. Then again, there’s nothing typical about Swoope. The Ohio-born and Atlanta-based rapper, songwriter, and producer tempers piano-driven soundscapes with deft bars that deliver an equally uplifting and undeniable message on his second full-length album, Sinema [Collision Records]. Long before Sinema debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Gospel Albums chart, #3 on the US Christian Albums chart, and #4 on the Rap Albums chart and yielded an iTunes “Single of the Week” with “Beauty and the Beast,” Swoope found his calling in Akron, OH.
Growing up in a house filled with music, he learned how to play the piano as a kid with mom turning him on to jazz and classical music. His godfather served as the primary musician at the family’s church and introduced Swoope to everything from Jaco Pastorius and Chick Korea to Herbie Hancock, even taking him to the Carmina Burana opera.“They threw a lot of different styles at me, and I’m thankful they did,” he says. “I put all of these ingredients into the pot, and what I ended up making today is a product of that.”
By 18, he went from performing at his church to becoming an in-demand keyboard and piano player, performing at churches and other gigs across the world from The Cayman Islands to Sweden. Then, he discovered Kanye West’s The College Dropout. He connected to the entire vision from the production, content, and rapping to the soul samples and humor. With the encouragement of his pastor, he recorded his first independent album, The Zoo in 2007. It garnered a palpable regional buzz eventually landing in the hands of Collision Records co-founder Joseph Prielozny. Shortly after, Swoope’s 2012 full-length debut, Wake Up, would be the label’s flagship release, solidifying the company and introducing the world to his inimitable style.“It’s an aesthetic,” he declares. “You’ll get some jazz, you’ll get some gospel, and you’ll get some hip-hop. I want you to feel my music more than you hear it. A feeling, emotion, sentiment, or moment in life will last a whole lot longer than something that’s just pleasing sonically. If you react, it will last.”
Sinema summons that type of reaction. An expansive and enthralling epic, the album threads together a cinematic narrative with an inspiring core.“ I wanted to make an audio film,” Swoope goes on. “It’s a concept album that’s extremely visual so you can see it as you listen to it. The through-line stemmed from watching movies like Inception, The Matrix, A Beautiful Mind, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”
As he readies more music and tirelessly tours, Swoope offers up something much deeper in everything he does. “I want people to walk away thinking,” he leaves off. “When you see a marvelous art piece from Leonardo Da Vinci or you hear a Beethoven symphony, it pokes at your heart and your mind. I want to touch your heart, but I also want to encourage you to ask questions about life when you get done listening. I’d like to impact your world view.”