Swagger Rite is most definitely a morning person. We’ve deduced this from the fact that it’s before noon at Toronto’s 4Sound Media Studios and he is literally bouncing off the walls. The local rapper is playing us some unreleased tracks and turning the fuck up in the process. We’re told that's his natural state; dude is constantly cranked to 11. The Energizer Bunny cannot step to this.
“I’m overboard,” he says. “Whenever I go places, people look, you know?”
He’s not wrong. His hypnotic trap banger “In Love with the K” racked up more than 3.2 million views on its WorldStarHipHop premiere last June, attracting enough attention that Memphis rapper (and Drake collaborator) BlocBoy JB hopped on the track’s remix. His next single, “Drop Top,” featuring U.S. heavy-hitters Yella Beezy and Flipp Dinero, garnered him even more buzz after winding up on HBO’s Euphoria. Now, fresh off the release of his debut EP on Sony Music, The Swagged Out Pedestrian, Swagger Rite can’t stop turning industry heads.
The EP—like the young MC himself—operates best at maximum volume. Over swirling, distorted, bass-drenched beats, Swagger assumes an authoritative presence, belting braggadocio lines and spitting street realness reflecting his upbringing in the GTA’s Weston Road and Jane Street area. These are chest-thumping, turn-up anthems. So aggressive is the opening track, fittingly named “Mosh Pit,” that at a recent Toronto show it caused, well, an actual mosh pit. “We had people freakin' doing CPR on each other in the middle of the whole shit,” he says. “I got so hyped I fucking jumped offstage and ran right into that bitch!”
Peep Swagger Rite's new video for "Hottest Out" below. Then, read our chat with him, in which we talk about his come-up, Canadian hip-hop’s new wave, and partying with Drake.
Tell me about the name ‘Swagger Rite.’ Where did it come from?
It came from Gucci Mane. I'm from the Weston Road and Jane area—Humber Boulevard, to be exact. We listened to a lot of Gucci Mane back in the day. That's what I came up on—a lot of trap niggas. I was always young and fly, you know; I was always getting money. I was 13 but I was chilling with a lot of older cats. One day I came through and they were like, “Yo, we got your name: it’s Swagger Rite.” It’s from a Gucci song. In Atlanta it was a thing back then. If you had that drip, they'd be like, "Oh, swagger right, shawty!" So it stuck with me.
How did you start rapping?
I have a lot of affiliates in rap—the OVO camp and stuff like that. My cousin Sha Hustle, he's a producer and rapper. Back in the day, Sha was actually one of the top rappers around; he inspired a lot of artists here, like P Reign and Gillatein. I was just a little kid who was around, just watching them. Sha was always bringing me around, bringing me to Drake parties. I was partying with Drake, getting smashed as fuck. I was young. I wasn't even allowed to be in the clubs those times, you know? It was dope.
So over the years, just watching Sha, I always wanted to rap, but I wasn't really serious about it. And then there was this time I saw this garbage on WorldStarHipHop. I'm not calling no names, but it was a Toronto artist. The comments were horrible, bro. I just said, “Oh my God, I need to rap.” You know, I was a fly nigga. I was living the shit these rappers were talking about. I could rap myself.
Americans, they don't know about Canadians like me—black youth from at-risk areas. They don't even know that stuff exists.
What would you say the new wave of Canadian hip-hop—which you’re a part of—is bringing to the world?
We came up different, you know? Back in the day, you couldn't really be yourself. I don't feel that Kardinal [Offishal] was really able to express himself. Well, maybe through the dancehall vibe, but rappers didn’t really get to express themselves because the media back then wanted to see a certain character. You had to play a role to get into the industry. But now people are promoting you to be yourself, you know? I mean, I'm from the streets. They weren't signing street niggas back then. They were scared of niggas like me, to be real. They would say, “Oh, he's street. Stay away from this guy. We need to promote some Canadian happy shit."
So Americans, they don't know about Canadians like me—black youth from at-risk areas. They don't even know that stuff exists. I've been hearing so much crazy shit about Canada—we live in igloos; no crime happens here. But there is gun violence here, not that it's something to brag about. I wish it could be a little bit better, but it's really sticky out here. There's a lot of people dying every day. It's sad, but the reality is out here. That's what the world doesn't understand. They're starting to realize it now, because there are more artists out here expressing themselves. If you check all the artists that got signed in 2019 from Canada, from Toronto, it's a lot of street people. No cap.
What was it like growing up in the Weston and Jane area?
It was really hard. You know, I sold drugs because my mother had six kids. But I don’t want to say everything was bad because we made use of the bad and turned it into something good. There weren’t a lot of recreational programs, so we never really had anything to do. We made up a random dance group, because when you don't have anything, you gotta make something out of nothing. We actually won competitions and got signed by Director X. So we were in Rihanna’s “Pon Di Replay” video and Sean Paul’s “Temperature.” That just shows the hustle. And that's why I appreciate the neighborhood I came from. I know that's not the right thing to say—I don't appreciate people dying and stuff, but in a way it kind of helped me. You know, seeing my friends passing away—I'm going to funerals like two or three times a week. That's crazy. It really just made me want to be more.
So is it important for you to show kids growing up in circumstances like yours that there are bigger things to strive for?
Yeah, you just have to want more out of life. That's what I learned. You know, even now some of my shit's got a very violent sound—that's because I come from the streets. But on my social media I promote a lot of positivity because there's kids watching me. And usually I just tell them that at the end of the day, you see me rapping because I lived it and I could talk about it, but this ain't for you. I know it looks cool and shit, but find something else to do. That's why on my social media, you see me cooking. I'm trying to teach people things. I know that because I'm doing the rap shit, people want me to do certain stuff, but a lot of male kids don’t know how to damn cook. Get yourself in the kitchen! I have a life skills class on Instagram, no cap. One guy reached out to me because he wanted to cook oxtail. I was guiding him through it, like, “Yo! That shit needs some water! Your meat’s gonna be hard as hell!”
Toronto nowadays is bursting at the seams with amazing rap talent. Do you think artists here are working together enough?
No, they're not. They're absolutely not. I just posted something the other day telling everybody that we need to stick with each other and build with each other. Because at the end of the day, realistically, everybody's still on the same level. If you're not fucking Drake or Tory Lanez or The Weeknd, then you’re on the same level. I keep telling other artists: when we step across that border, we are outnumbered. And realistically, we're Canadian, bro. So Americans, they might like our stuff but c'mon—us going there to take over their shit? Low-key, they're not having it. But make a hundred of us right now to go over there and we're popping! So I'm telling people, "Bro, numbers are good.” If we go in together, we can't lose. There's no way we're going to get kicked out the door, because we'll be there to pick each other up when somebody falls.