Swizz Beatz isn’t here for calling all Black folks who are making bank “sellouts”
“Assets Over Liabilities” is back for a third season and its latest guest is a business, man. On Wednesday (Aug. 2), multihyphenate star Swizz Beatz sat down with hosts Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings for an enlightening conversation that spanned topics like investing in fine art and watches, the future of Verzuz, and his business dealings in Saudi Arabia.
The conversation started with a focus on art. Swizz and his wife, Alicia Keys, have amassed a renowned accrual of artwork, known as The Dean Collection, with a focus on African and African American artists. Swizz recalled purchasing his first piece in order to decorate his first apartment, and his interest only grew from there. The expense of thousands of dollars on artwork also made him wary since not all art necessarily appreciates in value. “I can’t say I ever looked at art as an investment,” admitted Swizz. “If it connected to me and if it spoke to me, that’s a piece that I got.”
As his collection grew, Swizz began making sure the artists will get to see some of the money their works are demanding if the prices do go up. “This is not the stock exchange,” he quipped. That push to support artists regardless of the market for their work is important to the renaissance man. The Dean Collection has plenty of artists in it whose work isn’t demanding millions of dollars, although a co-sign from Swizz surely helps boost their clout. And, for those like a Kerry James Marshall, whose work has sold for millions, Swizz is making sure they’re not left out of future transactions. He explained, “The Dean Choice is: If I’m the collector, when I bring Sotheby’s the work, [they] say, ‘Okay, you got this piece 10 years ago. You’re making 700 percent on your money or whatever the crazy a** number is. The artist is still living, how much do you want to give to the artist?’ And you make it your choice.”
The music industry titan added, “If it’s 5 percent, if it’s 10 percent, it’s 100 percent more than what they getting now. You’re either a patron of the arts, or you greedy as hell.” It works because no one is technically having money taken off their table. The collector is getting paid, the auction house is getting their fee for the sale, and the artist is still getting paid off their work despite having already sold the piece in a prior transaction. “If I get paid on royalties on my work as a musician, why can’t the visual artist get paid? I think that’s ridiculous,” said Swizz matter-of-factly.
This type of entrepreneurial insight, along with an emphasis on learning as much as possible, was a theme throughout the hourlong conversation. The topics included watches, traveling, education (he completed Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management executive program) and of course, Verzuz, which was sold to Triller. “Me going back to school showed me how to build up and not sell out, but sell in,” explained Swizz. “We can’t sit back and watch all the non-colored entrepreneurs cash out. That’s called good business, but when we cash out, it’s all called selling out. I don’t understand that part.”
Another interesting factoid — Swizz Beatz owns a Saudi Arabian camel racing team called Saudi Bronx. Seriously. “It’s the first time camel racing been a lifestyle,” added Swizz.
Doing business with Saudi Arabia can be controversial thanks to the country’s poor human rights record and more, but Swizz spelled out his dealings with the nation and insisted he’s there to help while noting it’s not a money grab. “I’m a student of cultures period,” he expressed. “My company there is called Good Intentions. Camel racing is probably 1 percent of what I’m really doing there. I opened up a skating rink in the middle of nowhere, in the villages, that’s free to the people every day. [We] have a school that we’re building there. We have a park that we’re building there. My thing is I want to bring things to Saudi. Everybody is coming to take from Saudi. I think the smallest thing you can get from Saudi is money.”
Watch this week’s episode of “Assets Over Liabilities” here to learn how Swizz Beatz handles business while moving around the world.