SWISS ARMY RADIO (live link): https://s2.radio.co/sf4a463e22/listen
PHOTOS: KODAK K
First things first, who are you? Where are you from and where are your people from?
Promise: Promise, a producer based in Atlanta. I was born in the Bronx, New York, I was raised in Philadelphia and surrounding areas around Philadelphia… predominately this spot called, “North Town,” I guess that would be the Riverdale of Philadelphia in a sense. In about 2012, I moved to Atlanta, where I’m currently at, my senior year in high school.
That’s wild, but that actually makes a lot of sense now. But I was recognizing that you’re very connected with East Coast and Midwest rappers or even rappers who are along the South but push that East Coast barrier. I always wondered how you were so connected but it makes sense because you spent time in all these different areas.
Promise: Yeah and Philly it’s really knockin' on doors and standing on people’s porches type thing. So, moving down here everything is a drive. It’s not really transient like there’s not much trains and buses in the city. I just feel like that sense of pulling up, it was nothing especially once I learned how to drive. I think I got my license the day I turned 18, maybe. But I think everyone in Philly drives before they get their license, it’s like a right of passage. As soon as I got my license I was already a couple years into producing and that was really my way of building a rapport. Relationships are important, also the music is important. I always had that early on. Even when I was in Philadelphia any chance I wasn’t in school I was back in New York. It’s the same with Atlanta, anytime I wasn’t working or anytime I had a chance to take a vacay or wasn’t in school I’d go right back to Philly and New York. And I really just started putting on the shoes of like an A&R, sort of kind of due to a lot of pieces I was missing or I felt like was missing. But I’m not the type to be complacent or complain about it. I’m going to get active to it. So, that’s really how I made Swiss Army Records, in 2013/2014. Even beyond the name, the way the label functions was already preset to how I seen underground labels run whether in Philly or moving to Atlanta. But, Atlanta, this city… I wouldn’t say it’s the opposite to how the North is but it has a lot more to offer than what you see on the outside of it. I guess people see a system but deep within that system there’s a lot of different genres and communities when it comes to R&B or rap or punk, it’s a lot. There are a lot of different artists down here.
Yeah, when I lived in Atlanta a couple years before coming up here to Memphis and that’s what I noticed in Atlanta. Of course on the outside people see the Trap Music influence and what not, but as I went to smaller shows and shit it was real eccentric and punk type music I kept running into. It was really cool to see. A lot of house music. It’s cool to hear you say that as well.
Promise: Yeah, I’ve seen a lot here. I remember this venue called High Five which was inside a Thai restaurant with a venue in the back, it was real big. Around the middle of A$AP era. There was a lot of eclectic venues like that back in the day. I say back in the day but it was a couple years ago. It seems so long ago for Atlanta because Atlanta is really going through a big property shift. COVID really ramped that up. I just see a big opportunity for this generation to not just be consumers to what the culture is down here, but, more so to be active participants to what the culture is down here.
In the amount of venues you’ve seen been taken away from Atlanta - have you seen many more pop up?
Promise: Yeah, not to scale yet as the previous ones before. For obvious reasons, COVID just still is what it is and the city ain’t what it used to be but not in it’s own fault. A lot more gentrification, a lot more moving around, a lot more attacks on the homeless, the whole city is a mess in itself. But for the community, there’s definitely a lot more different scenes. Like we had a big thing down here called Controllerise, you know, weekly, lofi, anime, food, dance and music type of vibe and they’re thrown every Monday.
Oh, for real?
Promise: Yeah, that was pretty big down here for a couple years. I’ve been to them accidentally at an A3C afterparty. It was like an A3C pop-up, and they were like, “see y’all next week,” and I was like, “oh shit, it’s weekly.” Damn near every video game you can think of… it was a free to play.
With music and shit too?
Promise: With music in the background with lofi, they got like premier DJ sets, it was a real good setup. Then COVID kinda cramped things down.
Yeah, stole a lot of shit.
Promise: Even outside of that there’s still a lot of things the music community to get together on. The pace didn’t stop. Knowing the city I kinda know that. Before the lockdown, I felt like we were going to go through a renaissance or a speakeasy phase of some sort. Knowing Atlanta, it’s not going to stop anything it’s just going to be more intimate.
Yeah, I can see more private events.
Promise: Which is really how it’s turning out too. It’s not bad, a lot of curators are collabing with food bars or video game bars which is dope in itself because it gives more grassroots and builds for later on.
That’s what I was gonna say, the collaborations create the community. I’m curious to know more about Swiss Army Radio, Swiss Army Records.
Promise: Swiss Army Records is what I would call my tree because I got a lot of programs that run under Swiss Army Records within itself. Then you got a branch which is Swiss Army Radio which gives more of a spinout put on premiering/debuting and breaking records for the underground and records in general that aren’t targeted for billboards. Still good music in the city. That’s pretty much what I’ve been gearing up to run towards with that. To lock in a 24/7 place for videos, skate premiers, a lot of ideas, there’s a lot of contemporary art that I want to tap into. A place for all mediums structured by the programming however it may be but that’s the biggest aspect for Swiss Army Radio. We’ve worked with many different mediums. We’ve done different collabs with Dash Radio, Dash XM, we’ve done collabs with this radio station down here, “Highly Unique Radio,” monetized, weekly, 24/7 live radio. We ran through a couple different partnerships to kind of figure out what format works best for us.
How do you run it now?
Promise: Right now, I got the hub now for Swiss Army Records with the new office space. I’m planning on locking in something that’s more global. A site, after you lock in it’s a 24/7 thing. You know, setting up the traffic on that to really give artists the premiere they deserve, that’s needed, that’s kinda missing from videos that could put batteries in different sectors. Or put batteries in the backs of other producers, you know, get creativity flowing. Especially the art scene down here because we have a lot more resources than artists back then did on our own tangent. It’s a lot of opportunities missing, like even looking at the videos of back then and seeing the videos now… there’s a reason for the video quality now but there’s no reason for us to follow that formula. Especially when we have the same gear that the industry is running with. The industry’s downfall has nothing to do with the independent in a lot of sense. Once we wake up more to that and gear more towards that then I’ll definitely be a couple feet ahead on that race but I’m taking a lot of people with me because it’s not a private race, it’s not a private thing to win. It’s like being a missionary in the sense of that word. Just letting everyone know what all they can do once they are in this ecosystem of music. That everybody got a role.
So true, so true, a unique roll too. What else do you have going on under Swiss Army Records?
Promise: We’re soon to have a skate division with a couple skaters from the Southside of Atlanta and give them the proper rollouts for the things they want to do. Photoshoots, getting amateur decks, you know, seeing if they can get some fashion designers some signature shoes for people.
Oh wow, that’s so cool.
Promise: For years, I was on a skate team damn near tangent to me being in the music scene for so many years. There’s a lot of fields in there I know that people are missing or people are still consumers and they can be active participants. I remember there were some years where I was like how cool would a sponsorship be. We are at the age where we can sponsor any little kid with a dream that you see real potential in, you know or know what he can be. Once he’s at the age you’re at it, it does a lot for a lot of people. Yeah, so that’s SAR-SB. We have more music geared up for the FREELUNCHPROGRAM. I can give you a run down of the artists that are in the label actually.
Yeah, that’s actually my next question. So, that would be great.
Promise: There’s me, I fill in a lot of hats, I’m not solely the producer. There’s different artists on SAR that fill in at different times whether it be managing, going out of state or locking in a venue somewhere. Sometimes I run as manager or the money guy to see what plays fit best. I have a lot of homies that do clothing design so I do advertisements and promo work for them. So, some of the artists are: Chebba, south of Atlanta he’s a Hip Hop artist and we have a group within the label called “T’ALIIA B.”
Ohhh, there was a recent project by them right?
Promise: Mhm, we’re doing a catalog like demo/premiere/launch, 3 volumes worth before we start rolling out albums. Right now, we’re premiering our second volume. We have RnB artist Destiny Greene also from south of Atlanta, Fayetteville. We also have a member that’s part of SAR-SB who is an artist on SAR - so he fills in as a skater and an artist in itself, Daiiily Asè. My homie, A. Young, my mans Ryan Milla.
Oh okay, I ain’t know Ryan was on it.
Promise: Yeah, he’s one of the newest. He really sees the vision with SAR and we’ve locked in many times just on a personal note and sessions. I feel like there’s a lot that I can help him with and build towards, fill in some spaces he feels like he is missing. He’s an artist that believes in himself heavy, he’s cool people, he’s real solid.
True, and I really like his project he just put out. His tone, he has a really cool tone.
Promise: We have a single that we’re about to roll out heavy, “King Mable.”
Mannn, that track go, for real. That production was so cool. It reminded me of early B.o.B. the bounce that it has to it is really cool.
Promise: Thank you, my main mission with production is just to stand out from the discography in time and that’s my long goal mission. 20 years in, any artist I work with play their records but play the track produced by Promise and the production as a whole they're gonna tell you that’s the one. There will be a lot more coming with me and Ryan because he knows exactly what to do with the production.
Promise: We have Divine Abstract who plays the trumpet for a lot of my production. We have a group called, “Riverdale Saints” within the group where we just do free form jazz mostly.
Promise: It’s thru live production and thru beat machines like I have an MPC 500 that I implement in a lot of our songs. We both use SP404s back and forth in the production. We also have Horus Ra Mindset on the label, we also have the group FREELUNCHPROGRAM and we’re working on the second volume of self titled. We have a subgroup within that that he produces called iLL Mindset with the homie Ill Khalil who is also an affiliate, not a member but an affiliate of SAR. But Horus is just heavy on production with him, they’re like a Biggie/Junior Mafia. He’s getting into projects and producing and getting an ear for other folks and having an era in SAR. When he ended up going his separate ways I scooped him up quickly as far as seeing his potential and knowing how far I could take him as far as managing and having him on the label. There’s a gang of us, there’s a lot of folks but those are the folks that have debuted. There’s still artists I’m working on and with as far as developing a sound and getting them comfortable for debuting records. You know, whether they see their music long term or if they see what their character is long term as far as music.
Yeah, and I know you work with Jah-Monte too.
Promise: Yeaaah, that’s the cuzzo. He just stayed over at my crib like a week and a half ago. He came to a concert and he comes by pretty much anytime he’s in Atlanta we link up in some way.
It may have been off of his projects but also I think I heard your production off of Mikem’s project. Did you do work with him?
Promise: I did, I worked with Mikem maybe around that same time. I had a lot of records out I was producing but I remember me and Nahmir were doing a lot of records. Yeah, that’s another talented artist.
Mannnn, tell me about it. Very talented.
Promise: “My Black Skin” from A Moment In Time.
Yeah, there we go but I think I was familiar with your work before then too. You must’ve been on that AMERIKKKA album.
Promise: Yeah, I produced a lot of that.
Okay, yeah. So, do you have a lot of artists outside of Atlanta that you’re working with?
Promise: Oh yeah, I don’t just stick to Atlanta at all. I have a lot of artists that I produce for or have done productions with pretty much everywhere. A lot of New York, a lot of folks in the Charlotte, Raleigh and North Carolina area in general. I have a lot of respect and a lot of love for North Carolina and a lot of their different pockets. My girlfriend has family in the Rocky Mountains in a real small part of North Carolina but there’s something about the state.
I hear a lot of good things about North Carolina.
Promise: Their music scene is not bad at all. Me and Koncept Jack$on had work, there’s a lot of RnB artists. I got production with homie Matt McGee out in Maryland. You know, Nahmir out on the West Coast. My homie Space out in Texas.
Promise: Pretty much everywhere. I got folks out in Russia I’m trying to work with. I joke with people all the time like, “ayy, who gon’ go to Russia with me?” You know, just showing them these beats and showing him what Atlanta’s on.
Yeah, because it’s the international connects that often end up having a larger impact.
Promise: Facts, crazy enough I was gonna spend 2 months in Germany before I moved to Atlanta but I ended up moving to Atlanta so I didn’t get to do the foreign exchange program.
Promise: Yeah, I took German for like 3 years just to go to Germany.
Man, you gotta go for sure now if you ain’t been yet.
Promise: Listen, listen, this passport bout to be stamped heavy, everywhere.
I been out there one time and Germany is definitely a place I’d go back to.
Promise: What part you go to?
I was in Munich. You know, so we went to Czech Republic too because it’s like right there. But yeah, Germany is dope as fuck. If I knew German, man I wouldn’t have come back. So, as an artist I know you do more than just produce - what all exactly do you do?
Promise: As far as art mediums?
Yeah, all of it.
Promise: I like to wear many hats. I skateboard, I’ve been skating since I was about 10 which kinda played heavy on music because there’s a lot of different genres that you’ll just catch. I used to draw since I was a kid. I actually ended up winning a NAACP award.
Promise: Yeah, I did some art shows through the library and shit and they ended up having a banquet for me and like 5 folks.
That’s so crazy.
Promise: Yeah, I gotta pull it out one day on MTV Cribs.
For real tho.
Promise: I got a hand in a project here with art development or game development and trying to figure out what’s my niche as far as making games. I know as a whole I rather one day be a part of a team that could be able to do some. There’s been games I’ve played that I thought had like a million dollar budget and really it was like 12 folks and a dream. Video games are kind of like books to me like if you get a good one it kind of takes you out of wherever you’re at. That’s something I always even as a child held onto the idea of and I’ve got way closer nowadays than when I just got my hand into it. You gotta learn like different code languages, have an actual eye for design to scope what you see fit to having around you, this that and the third. Mid-twenties I’m way closer to being down that line of doing what I need to do with it. I talk to folks here and there and different mediums I do it thru that always catch peoples’ eye. I don’t like folks to catch my different mediums outside of music when it comes to social media because they either get this idea that I’m this video game guy. Well, with pressure washing, a lot of artists that I know I’ve pressure washed their cribs and they don’t know that I do music. It won’t click until we’ll both be at a mutual friend's house and they’ll be like, “what’s the pressure washing guy doing here? He does music too?”
That’s wild but that makes sense.
Promise: It’s like I said, just different hats that I wear. It’s not even on purpose, it’s just always having a drive and knowing where to take that drive.
Does that ever bother you to do other things for artists outside of music?
Promise: Honestly I just keep it fun first and do what makes sense to me. I think about what would be the most fun in terms of partnership or a music idea and just work around that so that it can stay interesting. None of my hats that I wear I don’t wear them at the same time because I know that would burn me out quick. But I know that certain things just call at certain times. I know if sometimes I experience a music drought I know I can put that down. Last year I didn’t really produce too much music in terms of staying in the lab and chopping up beats but I had enough work to move those around and still make albums and records that are cohesive and still notable. Even when they’re small spurts like FREELUNCHPROGRAM EP we did it all in one day. Every record was built right after the next in how it’s made even when it was recorded. That was just spur of the moment/in a session type thing. I wasn’t producing heavy before and I wasn’t really producing heavy after that.
It just hit.
Promise: Yeah, it was just that moment in time. I don’t really run into a drought so when it’s time for it I can put on that hat. I don’t like to overuse creative muscles in certain places.
Man, that’s smart.
Promise: Or I don’t want to get bored too quick. I advise everybody to experience different hats. You don’t know what you don’t like until you try it.
Yeah, and sometimes when you express in a different way that shit will launch different ideas for the things you’ve been working on or hit a block on or whatever.
Promise: Exactly, I tell people that all the time. Like when I’m not working on music that doesn’t mean that the music isn’t still being inspired or fueled. When I’m working on video games I’m inspired to score these things or animated movie ideas that I could score. The music is always there no matter what I’m doing. If I’m eating, the music is there. When I’m working, the music is there. If I’m reading, the music is there. Even when I get back to it, like a cousin you’ve missed no matter how many years you haven’t seen them, it’s back up, y’all linked forever. That’s how it is.
‘Cause you can’t stress it that’s for sure. The last few questions. Who have been your influences? Musically or whatever.
Promise: In life, my parents and even down to musically because we’re a big musical family. So, I grew up with a variety of any selection. We always had MTV Jams or 106 & Park on, there was always something musically.
Promise: Yes, like the whole family. We was the family to throw cookouts and block parties. It’s similar to how I move now. I throw block parties at the park or just block parties randomly in Atlanta. Umm, musically, Marley Marl, the source. The inventor of the essence of samplin’. Uhh, Kool Herc, MF Doom, Dilla, Q-Tip, Raphael Saddiq, Stevie Wonder, a lot of folks throughout the years that have given inspiration. I’ve picked up on small aspects of all the legends.
And it’s heard through your production for sure.
Promise: Thank you, I still like to feel like I’m growing. I started in like ‘08/’07.
Dang, that’s a long time.
Promise: Yeah, I used to have a desktop and it was like dial-up era. I used to go to this Mexican supermarket and pick up the dollar demo CDs for like 30 days and get another one in 30 days. We got this small ass laptop off this Comcast deal and through that small laptop I downloaded Mixcraft, Audacity and I got to cookin’. I’ve been teaching myself since.
You still have some of those tracks?
Promise: Oh no, no no no. I remember my first rap song it was called, “One With The Breeze.” Oh also, that last member of SAR is Winky Wright, self alias I go under sometimes.
Promise: Yeah, when I feel like I gotta get the rap bag off, Winky Wright.
Oh man, I’mma be looking out now.
Promise: I’mma send you a few things. But as far as inspirations skateboarding, Stevie Williams. I mean shoot, black people in general. My inspiration is through my people. It’s the fashion, it’s the comedy, it’s the cool beats.
The diversity of us.
Promise: My people keep me going and I’d like to add to that for folks in the future.
Inspired by all, that’s love. Who would you say are your Hip Hop legends?
Promise: There was a DJ way back when named DJ Butterfly. He was like late 60’s/early 70’s. I heard a few tapes of him but that was like untold Hip Hop. Even in the grand scheme of things Hip Hop had a pinpoint but it’s like slang and things… when people catch on then it’s been. As far as the early early DJs he’s one of them. Kool Herc of course. Prodigy, Hip Hop legend. Ice Cube, Hip Hop legend. Run DMC, Hip Hop legends. I feel like Beastie Boys are uncrowned kings when it comes to Hip Hop legends. UGK, legends. Also, another kind of uncrowned, Ludacris.
Man, I love Luda.
Promise: He had Neptune beats, the craziest, next-level shit bumpin’ thru the window. That’s also really inspiring, he’s also a legend. His run in the city.
Yeah, his creativity too.
Promise: Yeah, Kool Keith also I feel like is an uncrowned legend. Weird enough he’s like the pioneer of porno rap. He was raunchy but lyrical in his raps but very imaginatory.
Kool Keith, I’mma gonna check him out.
Promise: Another legend, Missy Elliot. Me and Horus are having a fan made versus between Missy and Busta.
See, I said that it should've been a Versuz a long time ago. That’s going to be the best one.
Promise: I was telling Horus and he wasn’t believing it. I had to play the records like verse to verse and he was like, “yeah, you right.”
Missy is fierce.
Promise: Yeah, she, listen, listen - not too many can keep up with her. He didn’t even know she was in a group before all that.
You know, I don’t think I knew that either.
Promise: Yeah, listen - roots go deep.
Who was the group?
Promise: Ahh shoot, what was the group's name? I’ll have to Google that.
Yeah, you can’t deny her.
Promise: Then Dilla, of course. Amp Fiddler, a lot of people don’t know about Ant Fiddler. Blue Scholars, Hip Hop legends.
Yeahhh, The Blue Scholars, I’m so surprised you mentioned them. Most people be forgetting about us up in the Pacific North West.
Promise: You can’t forget. I feel like I more so listen to a lot of jazz or funk, I tap into a lot more of that for the things I like to sprinkle into my music. Sly The Family Stone, there’s a lot of people. Have you seen the Summer of Soul?
Nah, not yet. It’s on my list to watch.
Promise: Well, you gotta watch it. I kinda envy that you haven’t seen it yet so that I could watch it again for the first time.
I’ll do that. I’mma do that for sure then. What did you enjoy about it?
Promise: The untold history of our people. Like, a festival in Harlem, in the 60’s where everybody was either at their genesis or peak of their game - like B.B. King or they had a whole Gospel section. You just gotta watch it, it’s real good.
I will, I will then. That’s definitely the type of stuff I like to watch.
Promise: You should definitely watch it then.
Music documentaries, oh yeah.
Promise: What’s your favorite music doc? I’m about to interview you.
Man, my favorite one… man, I don’t even remember the name of it but it’s telling the story of back in the 60’s with Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, you know like right before they all passed. It wasn’t telling the story of Woodstock but it was kinda telling their battle with addiction, fame and shit like that. But I also like Tupac, “Resurrection,” that one’s one of my favorites.
Promise: That’s a good one, yeah. Have you seen Biggie, “I Got A Story To Tell”?
Yeah, I have seen it but I need to rewatch it.
Promise: I really like how they did that doc.
I’mma rewatch that one too. You’re just giving me a list. There’s this new one about Women In Hip Hop but there’s only been like 1 episode so far but it’s cool because they’re digging deeper.
Promise: What’s that on?
I believe it’s on HBO or Hulu, let me see.
Promise: I definitely want to see that. I got this huge ass book. The book of Hip Hop.
What? Where’d you find that?
Promise: No cap, it’s probably like 10 pounds. You can probably find it at Barnes & Noble. Do they still have a Barnes & Noble?
Yeah, they do, I think. Wait, I’ve found it online. It has a guy with a grill on the front?
Promise: No, it’s like a huge ass leather front. It’s real deep, it’s really documented. It goes through like all fields and people, b-boying and…
Wait… is it KRSONE’s book?
Promise: I believe so.
Yeah, yeah, I got that shit. The Gospel of Hip Hop, yeah. That shit is real cool. To be honest, when I started reading that - you know, I’ve always kind of wrote about artists and shit like that and been part of music companies when I lived out in California. I started applying to writing positions at different magazines and Hip Hop sites and shit and they were basically telling me I needed a bigger portfolio. So, that’s why I started CROWNTHEM because I was reading The Gospel of Hip Hop and it just really inspired me and was just like, “fuck it, I gotta get this shit going.”
Promise: Right, right, even as a producer - there’s nothing stopping you from being an archivist or being there to play that role from a literary standpoint.
Yeah, we need to. Everybody gotta archive because everybody sees the story differently anyways.
Promise: Exactly, and everybody can gain something through someone who was there through the experience. Like someone who is there, an archivist, like we need a Hip Hop book. I was reading a Run DMC book the other day. It was written by someone who was off tangent but being there and that close to Russ and being there through the tours. He had stories of Biz Markie and Big Daddy Kane and those are important or just important stories to just be able to tell through the years. That’s lost information, what have we done if it’s not passed on?
And now we can see being part of the couple generations after how important it is to archive and keep our history because there’s so much that people don’t have access to anymore.
Promise: Exactly, it’s important for us to keep up with.
Well, Promise, do you have anything else to add?
Promise: The interview has been a pleasure.
Awesome, I’m so glad you agreed to this.
Promise: I’m glad you hit me up. I’m a fan of CROWNTHEM ENT., heavy fan that’s why I genuinely support, I see what you’re doing.
I appreciate that, for real. I really do.