Swizz Beatz, Alicia Keys’s husband, says hip-hop industry lacks compassion


Produced by Gabriel Noble and Kate Murphy

“Dear Men” is a weekly show hosted by Jason Rosario, creator of media lifestyle company The Lives of Men. “Dear Men” explores how men are navigating the evolution of manhood. You can watch the current week’s full episode every Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on Roku.

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Iconic hip-hop producer and Alicia Keys’s husband, Swizz Beatz, isn’t afraid to tell his guy friends he loves them. “They might think we in love for real,” he joked. But it’s not something a lot of men necessarily feel comfortable doing because showing emotion and being vulnerable with our friends is seen as a sign of weakness.

Swizz’s friends include some of the biggest names in hip-hop, like DMX, Jay-Z and Nas, just to name a few. Swizz and I met up in our shared hometown of the Bronx for the Yahoo News show “Dear Men” to talk about those deep connections and the brotherhood he shares with them.

“It’s been a great journey to see how much people in the industry trust me and call on me. Even though they’re older than me, I’m still big brother,” he said. “It’s been an honor to actually help give more than receive in this industry.”

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One friendship that spans decades is with rapper DMX, who was released from prison in January after serving a year for tax evasion. The two recently picked up where they left off in the best way they know how — making music together in the studio.

“We started our career off and the world got to know us together,” Swizz said. “So for me to leave him out because of personal things he’s dealing with, that’s not even a part of my DNA.”

Brotherhood, love and raising a good man all hit close to home in the Beatz-Keys household. Swizz has five children, four of whom are boys. “For me in my household it’s actually very open,” he said. “I get strict when I need to. You’ve got to give kids space and time to navigate.”

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Keys also recently released a single called “Raise a Man.” “She brought up a very important point where it’s like, how can you raise a man in a time when it’s not OK to love a man?” he said. “There’s a few people doing a couple of things that are horrible — all men are kind of being put under that same thing, but there are a lot of great men out there, I know a bunch of them, I’m one myself.”

When it comes the great men he knows, especially in the hip-hop industry, Swizz says they need to celebrate each other more, even if it’s just with a birthday card. “Sometimes our culture is whack,” he said. “We’re always there for the negativity … but where’s the celebrating for the positive things? I think our industry is missing that compassion, that love for one another.”

“In hip-hop we talk about we billionaires and millionaires and all this stuff, and no one celebrates each other,” he said. “We made endless hits together, we made history together, why we not throwing ‘just because’ parties for each other?”

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So I just urge us to celebrate us a little bit more, because everybody else is celebrating each other. For me personally, having a group of guys I can lean on for support has been one of the most rewarding feelings in my life. These dudes are like brothers to me, and we’ve been there to support each other at some of our highest highs and lowest lows. But, like any relationship, it’s taken time, effort and the willingness to be vulnerable with each other as men to build those connections. You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends, and if nurtured correctly, those friends can become family.

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