Words By Dominick Brady
Danny Swain sidesteps and slashes, slicing through dense early afternoon crowds congregating inside Octane, a popular spot for quick caffeine fixes and late brunch conversations in Midtown, Atlanta’s Westside Arts District. Laptop in tow, the nattily dressed MC greets with a distracted cool, dressed in a red and black hairline striped hoodie sweater, a bone-white oxford ornamented by a narrow black knit tie, slim-cut blue jeans and muted sneakers. While seating himself the chair cushion slants sharply inward, mimicking the effect of having given way. Swain’s face sours into a plaintive grimace as he quickly balances an open laptop in one hand while bracing himself with the other.
The scene is a microcosm of Columbia, South Carolina raised, Atlanta-based MC Danny Swain aka Danny!’s career: survival in spite of. He survives in spite of losing what he feels was the support of his fellow crew members, survives doubts following missed opportunities and survived a severe self-examination from which the MC has emerged with a new major label deal, the re-release of his Where Is Danny? album, an alter ego, and a new source of inspiration. He’s got a chip on his shoulder. Danny Swain is frustrated.
So where is Danny!? The question confounds the MC, “It hurts me. It hurts my heart. I’m out there. I’m on Twitter everyday. I have a blog. People ask ‘where is Danny!?’ I’m right here.”
And he’s been busy. Swain produced two tracks on Danny Brown’s The Hybrid, one of 2010’s most buzzed about projects. He’s also been hard at work reformulating his previously leaked and Alex Goose-produced album Where Is Danny? Swain has had to recreate all the beats for Where Is Danny? for it’s re-release on Interscope after conflicts with Goose. Those conflicts have helped redefine Danny!’s perspective and loyalties.
In the late aughts a small group of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) students traveled three hours northbound on I-16 and I-75 to Atlanta in pursuit of their careers: (Brittany) BOSCO, multimedia artist and soul siren; Branden M. Collins, visual artist and graphic designer; Alex Goose, beats smith and graphic designer and, finally, Danny Swain, rapper/producer. The crew met at SCAD in Savannah, Georgia, a renowned arts school nestled against Swain’s old South Carolina stomping grounds to the east and a little over an hour’s drive north of Jacksonville, Florida. They called themselves “The Big Up!” Danny! explains, “I moved down here to, you know, further my career like everybody else did.” Together, The Big Up! looked to make an impact on the Atlanta scene.
Soon after arriving in Atlanta the group added producer Omar Ferrer and began to see small successes. Goose’s The Blueprint 3 Outtakes beat tape felt ubiquitous with it’s presence on Hip Hop blogs in 2009, BOSCO’s “Blues for Blue” video was in rotation on BET Jazz off her 2008 EP Spectrum and Swain’s 2007 album Charm landed him regional magazine covers like South East Performer and on the ballot list for Grammy considerations in several categories. The stage was set for The Big Up!’s break through.