February saw the release of a confident, formative project with Chicago-based rapper/producer Swade’s EP “Have a Nice Day.” There isn’t a single weak moment over the course of the project’s eight tracks, as Swade displays strongly developed vocal chops over a diverse array of beats.
On the bombastic opening track featuring an energetic horn sample, Swade raps, “I won’t ever feel like I’ve done enough/I been on the low but I’m coming up.” That sentiment almost serves as a thesis for the project, as Swade endows “Have a Nice Day” with the eager-to-please energy of an underrated artist finding his stride. Later on the same track, the instrumental drops out as he raps, “If pressure makes a diamond then I’m Roc-a-fella/I could put the Andes in the Ganges with my a capella.” It’s clever wordplay that rings true—Swade’s compelling delivery is perhaps his greatest strength. He raps through a variety of flows over the EP’s eight tracks with the confidence of an artist much further in their career.
The production, handled by Swade himself, Cardec Drums, and Sango, is diverse and engaging. Boom-bap drums anchor “City of Wind,” while “All That I Need” is a more conventional banger with a very catchy hook. Many beats on the project feature compelling soul-samples in the vein of Chicago predecessors Kanye West and No I.D. Swade sings with a gospel choir to humorous effect on the short interlude “Quit Rap” that sees the rapper imagining quitting rap to sell drugs. The penultimate song “Post Mortem” utilizes a distorted vocal sample engagingly while Swade takes an introspective turn. The track’s second verse, an album highlight, begins “Can I be honest?/I’m tired of people confusing weakness and kindness.” Swade then returns to discussion of his come-up, rapping, “Now this a revelation/Gotta make sure that I’m grounded ‘fore I look for elevation/…I’m moving through the madness, this is greatness in the making,” and the listener believes it by the time Swade returns to the memorable hook and concludes: “Everything I have I gotta give/ Don’t wanna die before I live.”
The project will especially appeal to fans of last year’s soulful southern rap outing “4eva is a Mighty Long Time” by Big K.R.I.T, although “Have a Nice Day” has a creative energy that is distinctly Chicago. With this EP, Swade places himself among the ranks of Chance the Rapper, Noname, Saba, Smino, Towkio, Jamila Woods and other artists who’ve made Chicago the most exciting and creative city in contemporary hip hop.
Swade has found some moderate success on Soundcloud, but certain songs from “Have a Nice Day” sat at less than 1000 plays on Spotify a week after being released. While the internet has certainly provided an accessible platform for upcoming artists to distribute and promote their music, there are still a variety of barriers to reaching listeners. If there is justice in this world, Swade will find that audience, because he is more than ready.
This article originally appeared, titled “Chicago-Based Rapper Swade’s Dynamic New EP Deserves Your Attention,” in the print edition of our March 2018, issue.