SWIM Latest Single “Big Steppa” Finds Him Having Fun Amidst The Progress

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Like the Converse Run Star Motions, the cover art for SWIM’s latest single, “Big Steppa,” is a distorted spectacle you can’t help but admire. Shrunken in posture, the aura surrounding him wants to acknowledge but is weary of the reaction that’ll come his way. It’s a bit of a contradiction. Meant to garner a response, the audacious design of the sneakers is not an argument with his pose. They’re the brokers who forge the long for acceptance with the disruption caused by his presence. “I think I have in the past shrunk myself and minimized myself in certain rooms or certain settings,” SWIM said. “you know, out of fear of judgment, or how to fear just, you know, being content.”

This isn’t a tale of an individual who lacks awareness of his upbringing. His father, Derek Stewart, was a former professional basketball player for ten years for the Betclic Élite in France, where SWIM, whose legal name is Coy Stewart, spent the first years of his life there. During the summer of 2008 in South Carolina, the film “Accidental Love” production crew offered Derek an invite to bring his family to the set to play as extras. During the hot, muggy day, SWIM left a lasting impression on the production crew with his infectious personality. Shortly after that, he told his parents that he wanted to try his hand at acting. A year later, he starred in the stage rendition of “Raising In The Sun.” From there, he’s gone on to appear on multiple shows on the TBS ‘Are We There Yet?’, Nickelodeon’s ‘Bella and the Bulldogs,’ and Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 

From extra to childhood star to Hip Hop Artist, his self-awareness keeps SWIM from being diluted by his success. “I just always operated from like a place of gratitude,” he stated. “Especially being young and black, when you get an opportunity to see those things come into fruition.” Beneath the blaze of South Carolina’s summer wrath, he found a sense of joy in his surrounding. Locating shelter wasn’t an option when he was ten years old due to the setting being made for him, whether he knew it or not. It drew confidence out of him long before Hollywood pushed it back. 

But his self-awareness is more than just his beginnings, but the situation company he keeps. Loved ones, and extended family, can’t begin to fathom the lifestyle he lives. No one does what he does, not due to a lack of talent, but due to the lack of access. Hard work and skill play a role in success, but luck is something that overlooks more often than not. It’s the Timmy Smith of traits. The omitted piece culminates in anyone’s success. Compared to his Hollywood peers and their warped sense of reality by the system that molded them. 

Is that why he shrunk himself after so many roles? So many auditions? Despite all the accolades, he still sees himself as a talented actor who got lucky in nailing a couple of roles. Acknowledging that “a million other young, talented black people” could have played in ‘Are We There Yet’ or ‘Bella and The Bulldogs.’ It’s one thing to avoid feeding the ego; it keeps you humble and hungry. But to starve it, don’t you lose sight of the hard work and skill it took to get there? 

He’s been a financial cog for both the entertainment industry and his loved ones since entering the industry. He was their source, the recipient, and the facilitator of everyone else dream and wealth—the holy trinity. It’s a business. Before he could understand anything about himself, he understood that money was the feudal lord everyone answered to. 

Underneath his conversational and sarcastic delivery, there’s a dire struggle for power that hides behind his smile. It’s littered across his discography, signs of an insatiable quest to change the system, even if it means playing by the rules he hates. What he wants to do with his power is take those who couldn’t chase their passions and allow them to. Take those who come after him to achieve what they want and not what they must to survive. “I’m too busy taking your place/Just let me,” he says on the grouptherapy. track ‘blackout.’ The film and music industries’ power structures are similar but significantly different. 

 
They both feast on capital, and no matter the challenges, capitalism will adapt to any changes to make its profit. In the film world, Disney controls a market with Superheros on every corner, which would make Vought International proud. If you want the most eyes and money, you have to partake in being a hero. As an actor, once the filming is over and the lights and the advertisements go away, you need to find another job. You constantly have to keep scanning for work, where ever you can provide for yourself. You get paid for your work, but it lights out if you can’t find your next role, especially with fierce competition.

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In the music industry, you have more control of creative direction, particularly if you’re independent. You decide the release date, the visuals, the rollout, where and who the money goes to, and more. There are artists with millions of streams, who still work day jobs to support themselves. Instead, their compensation comes from merch, booking fees, concert tickets, and brand deals. It’s volatile but a life-long passion project of self-expression and autobiography.

 

But some sounds and styles draw the most engagement and streams that cause you to second guess yourself. Unlike the film world, where a good narrative story sells, not the name, fans will come to watch whoever is in front of the camera. They might not stay, but they will come. It’s why acts like Julia Fox can become stars overnight. In the music world, if the fans don’t like you or your music, your passion project falls on bleeding ears. It’s why it’s easier to fall for that little voice in your head that tells you to give the rage a try. Influential in the art of persuasion, that voice is always there to deviate from your path, to receive the gratification you seek. 

“Yeah, man, it’s hard. It’s hard as fuck.” SWIM exclaimed. “And it’s something that I think I’ve learned as I get older, honestly never goes away.”

Music is what shows you the real SWIM because, honestly, there isn’t any other way to succeed as an artist. And the best way to introduce yourself musically is to have a sound that identifies you. There’s no role to sink yourself into, no script written by someone else to immerse yourself in. Just having a sound isn’t the point for SWIM; the process of finding is exciting. Drake, JID, Earthgang, and Steve Lacy, are some artists he named who forged their signature sound(s). The pressure for him doesn’t exist; it’s the fear of losing himself when he does that drives him mad. “I think when you find that what’s even scarier is a departure from that [sound], or the idea that you may not be able to deliver that every single time.”

Which circles us back to ‘Big Steppa.’There’s no pressure to find himself because his transition from KOI to SWIM was his first big step. He has accepted himself so that he can showcase his true self to his audience, the world. He is fully delving himself into the idea of superhero SWIM because the aim is to achieve something never seen or heard before. The cover art may start as something to hide, but what if the meaning changed? Instead of being afraid of what a room of strangers will say about his art, what if it’s to protect something premature yet beautiful? What if the shades that cover his eyes are the same ones Cyclops puts on to save the world from the light that shines in them? Growth always starts as one step, but the ones after will eventually lead you to something you’ve never seen before. 

Who are some rappers that inspired you?

SWIM: Being from South Carolina, my number one guy is Cole. Something about The Warm Up and Friday Night Lights from that era really changed my life, bro. It changed my life and made me believe I could be wherever I wanted.

But beyond that, The creativity of Outkast left a considerable impression on me. I remember watching the “Hey Ya” video 10 million fucking times and being blown away. I had never seen something like that before; you know what I mean? And it just like opened my mind to what we do in this rap shit. Drake is as well. It’s hard not to be influenced by Drake because no one’s done it like him. But even more recently, I found myself tapping into the early works of Biggie and Jay-Z. Jay is a huge inspiration for me. Like I think he is the ideal rapper, I don’t think anybody is better than him.

One of your strengths is your delivery and the subtle emotions you convey in a conversational tone. Do you see delivery as something every rapper should have? 

SWIM: Dude, delivery is fucking everything. Let me tell you because that’s something I’ve learned over time. And it’s hard. I’m a big MF DOOM like I love the super deep, heavy lyrical, dense music. But the problem is that there is a cap to how far it can reach.

One of the best new artists I’ve ever seen is Baby Keem. I believe Keem is a fucking genius dude. Like a fucking. Genius. The way that he just says stuff sounds cool. I hear him, and I’m like, “dawg, I would never think to put this on wax.” But when you listen to it and feel it, it’s just something that connects. That’s something that we talk about constantly. How are we going to say it? How are we deliver that message?

Is it to teeter that line of being not hypocritical but being honest about the situation that you’re in?

SWIM: That’s literally like the life that we live. It’s interesting because, like, as an actor, there is this mist between the audience and the actors. After all, when you see someone on TV, I think you automatically assume they got bread, right? Yet actors are some of the hardest working people because they must stay acting. And unless you like the top 5% of the profession, You’re not getting crazy bread from that. Once that job is done, you have to find another job. 

Also, I do have all those accolades. But when I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t see any of that. I don’t feel any of that. I know that I’m talented, and I’m grateful for that talent, but I believe there is a lot of chance and luck in life. I don’t think I am the only person who could have been on Are We There Yet? Or Bella and the Bulldogs, you know. There are a million other young, talented black people that could have also been in that role. So I’m just always hungry for more. Having been in the industry for so long, especially in LA, you meet so many people who are content with where they are. And that has never been me. I don’t even subscribe to that theory. 

Despite knowing you have time artistically to create, does it concern you that the window you have to capture the masses is so much shorter? 

SWIM: This is a journey that I will be on for the rest of my life. That’s sort of how I play it; even with me knowing that I haven’t found my sound yet, I think that’s why that pressure isn’t there because I understand that’s a part of the journey. I am obsessed with all of my legends and their journeys. I have seen Jay Z say it a few different times. It’s like he’s talked to young rappers, and they’re like, ‘you know, I haven’t found my crowd yet.” and he’s like, “how could you? You’ve only made two albums. You’ve just started,” and because of the nature of the industry right now, it is so fast-paced that it is the way it is. However, good music lasts forever, and good music can span anywhere.

I feel blessed in the sense that I exist in multiple spaces. I always say this to TJ and everybody, but I would hate a musician solely. It honestly sucks right now. Because you have to give more to it than I think is humanly capable, given where we are at in life right now. But because we do so much, I think there’s always a way for me to stay on people’s minds. You know, for it’s with grouptherapy, I’m directing the music videos. I’m writing a short film right now that I’m going to shoot at the end of the year, that’s going to include music, and also it’s written, directed starring me. I’m hoping to get it into some film festivals.

But doesn’t that still keep you in the mind of consumers, even if it’s in a different field?

SWIM: And I think that’s all it is, staying on people’s minds. And so for me, if you can listen to my music, then watch something that I directed, and then watch something that I’m starring in. I’m in your head, but it might not just be the music. That’s what I love about Tyler, The Creator. You know, Tyler is just like one of the best artists of our generation. And he has been able to let the music live. I spoke with somebody on Tyler’s team who said this. And it was one of the most genius things I’ve ever heard, and I’ve used it since then. The music that Tyler makes is just the backdrop to his world. It’s just music that exists in his world because there’s clothes, there’s visuals, there are cars, there’s jewelry, there’s makeup, there’s all this stuff that he puts his creative energy into. And that tethers you in this storm right now because we’re in a Renaissance. This time will pass, and we will be in another phase. But it’s stuff like that, that I think tethers you and keeps you still throughout the chaos of storm so that you can still apply that creativity, but not lose it.

Isn’t that just one of the crutches of this industry where it builds and one of the main culprits of forming this hustle culture we have now when you constantly feel like you have to do shit?

SWIM: Yes. 100%. 110%. And I think like, you know, the dangers of it. It’s like, it’s something that I deal with right now. It’s one of the main reasons I go to therapy right now because I’m trying to reframe my entire perspective on work, mainly because I’ve been working since I was a kid. Work is everything to me. And so this idea that, especially here in America, and with capitalism, it’s like, sacrifice your life to make your work as successful as possible. That is 100% the sort of nature that we live in.

And so I’m 100% it’s daunting, it’s scary. And it’s difficult as fuck, it is. But also, I feel blessed to have other outlets. So it’s like when I’m in the music, and I feel like I can’t give any more to this, I can turn to another outlet that’s still creative and will still stick in people’s minds, but maybe it isn’t that specific thing, you know?

Do you ever feel like in your quest to accumulate that power, aren’t you just giving in to the system itself to try to change that?

SWIM: Well, it’s terrifying. That workaholic work culture, it’s like you’re running on that treadmill, bro. And it’s like, where are we going? Do we ever plan to get off of this? You know what I’m saying? What’s the end goal? What’s the end game? I don’t even really know if I have a complete answer for that. For me, I know I want to do something more than changing my family’s lives. That is always something that’s a goal, right? You want to buy your mom a house. You want to get your family out of the hood, that is all good and well, but I want whatever I make to exist beyond me. And that’s even something I said on my first mixtape that I had this line where I was like, “I hope when I die you remember me/ because you only matter if you live until infinity.” And I think being able to make shit that you can give to people that’s theirs, that they can take some ownership into and feel into and put their heart and life into. That is the key for me, man. And it’s like, again, trying to avoid that mindset of making it. I want to do shit that I love and be proud of the shit that is created from that. And really, that’s all I can. That’s all I can hope to do right now.

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