Sway (musician)

  (Redirected from Sway DaSafo)

Derek Andrew Safo (born 5 September 1982), better known by his stage name Sway or Sway DaSafo, is a British rapper of Ghanaian descent. He is also a producer, having established Dcypha Productions, signed to Island/Universal (label founder).[1] Safo's 2008 track "Black Stars"[2] gave kudos to popular Ghanaians across the diaspora. Sway's first big track, "On My Own" was released under the name Sway DaSafo.[3]

Birth nameDerek Andrew Safo
Also known as
  • Sway Dasafo
Born (1982-09-05) 5 September 1982 (age 39)
OriginHornsey, North London, England
GenresHip hop
Years active2004–present
Associated acts


Early lifeEdit

Derek Andrews Safo born September 5, 1982 known professionally as Sway (Dasafo) was born and raised in Hornsey,[4] North London by Ghanaian parents Beatrice & Alhaji. He attended Campsbourne Junior School and then Highgate Wood Secondary School,[5] where he would spend many of his lunchtime breaks learning how to produce music in the schools 'backroom' music facility.

His witty punch lines, storytelling ability and fast flow influenced by his favorite rap group Bone Thugs N Harmony[6] and local drum and bass MCs such as Skibadee and Shabba D had him constantly stand out as a unique hybrid.[citation needed]

2006–2007: This Is My DemoEdit

Not wanting to be recognized as 'the rapper', Sway would cover his face in pictures with a Union Jack bandana. Sway started his own record label. He wanted a name that sounded like his own (Dasafo) but meant something more over a period of time. Shortly after founding Dcypha Productions, Sway was joined by DJ Turkish and ‘Jr’ Appiah to run the company. He then began writing and producing his first official solo releases ‘This Is My Promo’ Volume 1 & Volume 2.

Despite being known as a UK hip hop artist, Sway's versatile flow allowed him to be embraced by both the Ghanaian hip-life scene and the then newly born London grime scene.[citation needed] He became the first unsigned rapper to win a MOBO Award[7] prior to the release of an official album. And decided he would prefer to release his first album ‘This Is My Demo’ independently, giving his demo directly to the people rather than the record companies. Tracks such as ‘Flo Fashion’, ‘Up Your Speed’ and the Al Shux (Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar, Nas) produced UK top 40 ‘Little Derek’[8] became genre-defining moments of this era. In 2006 ‘This Is My Demo’, became one of the most critically acclaimed UK Rap albums of all time, and Sway then went on to be the first British rapper to win an American BET Hip Hop Award[9] as well as landing a spot on the Mercury Music Prize Shortlist.[10]

"'This Is My Demo' is not just the best British rap album in years, but simply the best rap album in years, full stop." - 5 out of 5, The Independent[11]

"Sway is a satirist with soul and 'This Is My Demo' feels like springtime for British Rap" - The Guardian[12]

"Sway's acute lyrics are peppered with confident verbal flourishes and self-deprecating smirks." - Telegraph[13]

"'This Is My Demo' punctures the gangster image of rappers elevated by their own immoralities, but it accomplishes this with self-effacing cunning and dynamic technical dexterity." - Pitchfork[14]

"Having come this far under his own steam, there's no reason why This Is My Demo shouldn't take him all the way." - 4 out of 5, The Times[15]

"A tour de force of hip-hop, grime and modern day music-hall, it looks at urban life both humorously and unflinchingly." - The Sunday Times[16]

Despite a lack of mainstream radio support, This Is My Demo managed to sell over 50,000 copies within its first year of release and Sway went on to receive even more accolades including the Mercury Music Prize shortlist[17] and being the first UK rapper to win a BET hip hop award hosted in Atlanta, USA.[18]

2008–2009: Konvict Music and The Signature LPEdit

Amongst his supporters were international superstars Akon, Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell Williams[19] who had all displayed an interest in signing the UK rapper to their own label imprints.

After months of consideration Sway decided he would become part of Akon's international Konvict Music family alongside the likes of Lady Gaga and T-Pain. Akon also embodied the fusion of a West African meets Western approach to music whilst building an empire so he was the perfect case study for Sway. Sway was often invited to accompany Akon around the world where he networked and built strong relationships, most notably with Dutch super-producer Giorgio Tuinfort (Michael Jackson, David Guetta, Sia) who remains one of Sway's greatest influences and mentors to date.

Sway's second album The Signature LP[20] was released in 2008 through Dcypha Productions. The album included production from Emile Haynie (Eminem, Kid Kudi, Bruno Mars), The Nextmen (Plan B, Public Enemy) as well as Giorgio Tuinfort.[21] This album was recognized for tracks such as "F UR X" which was a smash UK club record and the international door breaker "Silver & Gold" featuring Akon.

2010–2012: 3 Beat Records, Still Speedin’ and Level UpEdit

Sway often utilized his ability to attract some of the world's greatest talents. He frequented talent competitions where he first came across a unique ginger haired singer/songwriter who he would then invite to his home and record songs with, they became friends and shortly after this period that person became known as the world renowned Ed Sheeran.[22] After overcoming some health issues [23] Sway decided it was time to release new music, he signed a singles deal with 3 Beat Records via Universal which saw Sway's first release on the label "Still Speedin'" climb up the National official UK charts a land Sway his first top 20 hit.[24] The song was well received and even received social media support from the likes of racing legends Nigel Mansell and Lewis Hamilton who were both mentioned in the song[25]  

Sway's vast array of collaborations go from recording and writing with acts such as Mark Ronson[26] and Childish Gambino to award-winning verses for Ghanaian super stars Sarkodie and Edem. He was also the only other rapper to be featured on Lupe Fiasco's US Billboard number 1 album "Lasers"[27] released in 2011. Sway's next single "Level Up", written with Flux Pavilion (Kanye West, Jay Z) during his University student days, became Sway's highest charting single to date landing at number 8 on the UK Singles Chart.[28]

2013–2016: Dcypha Productions and Island RecordsEdit

In 2013, Sway decided he wanted to return to his original plan of building a label and curating talent. Through his search he came across south London rapper/singer Tiggs Da Author, who he took under his wing and signed to his revived Dcypha Productions label[29] as well as signing YouTube star KSI.[30]

He featured both new artists on his EP Wake Up his final release on 3beat records.[31] The title track of the EP was produced by former Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe and the track ‘Back Someday’ featured vocals from Ed Sheeran.

In 2014 the Dcypha team oversaw the signing of Tiggs Da Author to Sony RCA and subsequently in July 2015, Dcypha Productions became an imprint of Island Records/Universal Music Group.[32] KSI became the first artist to be up-streamed.

In the same year Sway released a long-awaited third album entitled Deliverance, which describes as “an affirmation of my intentions”. The album was released with no lead singles or videos, as Sway wanted it to serve its true purpose as “a project to be discovered”.[33] The album would mark the first time that Sway would discuss his musical journey and previous health issues publicly, in hope that it will encourage and inspire people who face similar adversities. He also talks about becoming a father to his first child, Jalil.

The Dcypha roster continued to flourish and went on to sign acts such as singer/songwriter Sam Garrett, Battle rap champion Lunar C and British & Asian R&B star Arjun.[34] As a writer and producer Sway amassed over a billion music streams worldwide across platforms such as YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music and he continues to work with emerging talent as well as accomplished creatives to push musical boundaries forward.[citation needed]

2017–2018: New Reign ProductionsEdit

Dcypha Productions parted ways with Island Records in 2017 and Sway decided to focus on building New Reign Productions whilst maintaining his role as executive producer for KSI and Tiggs Da Author. He later oversaw the signing of Tiggs to the newly formed Alacran music label and established KSI as an independent music artist by releasing his Space EP independently.

New Reign Productions houses a stable of music producers, graphic designers, directors, songwriters and other creative minds. As a group they are set to release an array of singles in the near future.

2017 also saw the birth of Sway's second child Ammar-Joseph. The birth of his sons inspired him to put together two new albums Songs From The Stash and Stories From The Safe dedicated to them that will be released on both their birthdays in 2019. It has also been rumored that he is recording an album for his twin daughters (Born 23 December 2018) Queen-Inaya & Queen-Imara entitled Messages From The Mind[citation needed]

2018–present: Next Chapter and New Reign empireEdit

Whilst working on a new album entitled ‘Next Chapter’ Sway decided to revert to releasing under his full original artist name ‘Sway Dasafo’.


Studio albums
  • This Is My Demo (2006)
  • The Signature LP (2008)
  • Deliverance (2015)
  • Verses from the Vault (2018)
  • Verses from the Vault 2 (2018)
  • Songs from the Stash EP (2019)
  • Stories from the Safe EP (2021)


Year Show Role Notes Film/Television
2011 Top Boy Ross Rosten 2 Episodes (Season 1, Episode 1 and 2) Television
2012 Illegal Activity Julian (short film) Film
2012 The Grind "Thug" Minor role Film
2013 The Chase Himself Cameo appearance Film

Awards and nominationsEdit

Award Prize Result
MOBO Awards 2005 Best Hip Hop Won
Urban Music Awards Best Rap Won
Urban Music Awards Best Rap Won
Ghana Music Awards Best UK Act Won
Blackstars Award Best UK Act Won
Screen Nation Award Best Music Act Won
Official Mixtape Awards Mixtape Of The Decade Won
BET Hip Hop Awards Best UK Hip Hop Act Won
Mercury Music Prize Album Of The Year Shortlisted
MOBO Award Best Hip Hop Nominated
BET Awards Best International Artist Nominated


  1. ^ "Sway Biography". Sway Blog. Archived from the original on 20 May 2010. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  2. ^ "Throwback Music: Sway – Black Stars Our next... | Afrobeats City". www.afrobeatsindacity.com. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  3. ^ "3) Sway's first big track 'On My Own' was released under the name Sway DaSafo". Capital XTRA. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  4. ^ Elena, Malkov. "Hornsey rapper Sway at celebration for online youth programme". Tottenham Journal. Archived from the original on 5 October 2016. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  5. ^ "Things You Need To Know About Sway". Capital Xtra. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  6. ^ Gladwin, Alex. "Interview: Sway". Planet Notion. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  7. ^ "Mobo awards 2005: The winners". BBC News. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  8. ^ "SWAY full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Sway voted 'Best UK Act' for first BET Hip Hop Awards". BritishHipHop. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  10. ^ "Previous Shortlists". Mercury Prize. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  11. ^ Gill, Andy. "New Releases". The Independent. p. 19. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  12. ^ Yates, Steve. "Sway This Is My Demo". The Guardian. Guardian. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  13. ^ Pettie, Andrew. "Pop CDs of the week Sparks, Arielle Dombasle, Sway and more". Telegraph. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  14. ^ Dombal, Ryan. "UK MC proves pragmatism and wit can co-mingle on his sadly underrated debut LP". Pitchfork. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  15. ^ Paphides, Pete. "Sway: This is my Demo". The Times. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  16. ^ Cairns, Dan. "Pop: New Kids in Town: Sway". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  17. ^ "Mercury Music Prize: The nominees". BBC. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  18. ^ "Sway". BET. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  19. ^ Youngs, Ian. "US rap star Akon signs UK's Sway". BBC. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  20. ^ Young, Tom. "Sway The Signature LP Review". BBC. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  21. ^ "Sway UK – Still Speedin' (Kano Remix) Lyrics". Genius. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  22. ^ Yanney, Henry. "Ed Sheeran – No. 5 Collaborations Project". Soul Culture.
  23. ^ "Sway". Lymphoma association. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  24. ^ "Sway: Official Charts". Official Charts. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  25. ^ "Still Speedin' Lyrics by Sway Dasafo". Lyrics On Demand. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  26. ^ Bychawski, Adam. "Kaiser Chiefs: 'Mark Ronson made Sway rap happen". NME. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  27. ^ Caulfield, Keith. "Lupe Fiasco's 'Lasers' Lands at No. 1 on Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  28. ^ "Sway: Official Chart Position". Official Charts. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  29. ^ "Tiggs Da Author". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  30. ^ "GYO Gyimah shoots music for Sway's signed artiste - KSI". Ghana Music. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  31. ^ "Sway Official Chart Positions". Official Charts. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  32. ^ "Island Records UK signs Arjun via Dcypha Productions Imprint". Music Business Worldwide. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  33. ^ Nelson, Trevor. "Trevor Nelson". BBC 1xtra. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  34. ^ "British Tamil Artist Arjun Signs Record Deal With The Same Label That Represents Drake". Tamil Culture. Retrieved 8 January 2019.

External linksEdit