Derek Andrews Safo (born 5 September 1982) known professionally as Sway (Dasafo) is a UK based Music Artist, Executive Producer and Entrepreneur. Sway was born and raised in North London (Hornsey) by Ghanaian parents Beatrice & Alhaji.
After spending a short time in Ghana during early childhood he returned to England where he developed a fascination for English literature. In later years this fascination combined with his love of music and knack for public speaking inspired the then budding music producer to vocal his own beats until ‘a better rapper’ appeared. That ‘better rapper’ was coaxed out of him by the encouragement of his peers and crowd reactions at rap battle competitions that he would later enter (and often win).
After being part of an array on secondary school groups including an 11-member North London collective known as ‘One’, Sway continued to enter open-mic competitions and later landed a solo record on the first ever BBC 1Xtra playlist upon its launch in 2002.
2006 – 2007 ‘This Is My Demo’
Not wanting to be recognized as a ‘the rapper’, Sway would cover his face in pictures with a Union Jack bandana, this later became an iconic image in the world of UK urban Music.
It was at this point that Sway decided to start his own record label. He wanted a name that sounded like his own (Dasafo) but meant something more over a period of time. It was with that in mind that Dcypha Productions was born.
Shortly after founding Dcypha , 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.
The ‘This Is My Promo’ mix-tape releases sold faster than any of the Dcypha Productions team could’ve predicted and the demand for more copies through stores and on the streets became overwhelming.
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.
He became the first unsigned rapper to win a MOBO Award 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 Lemar, Nas) produced UK top 40 ‘Little Derek’ 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 as well as landing a spot on the Mercury Music Prize Shortlist.
2008 – 2009 Konvict Music & ‘The Signature LP’
Amongst his supporters were international superstars, Akon, Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell Williams 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 along side 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’ 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. 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 3Beat Universal, ‘Still Speedin’ & ‘Level Up’
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/song writer 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.
After overcoming some health issues Sway decided it was time to release new music, he signed a singles deal with 3beat 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. 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.
Sway’s vast array of collaborations go from recording and writing with acts such as Mark Ronson and Childish Gambino to award winning verses for Ghanaian super stars Sarkodie & Edem.
He was also the only other rapper to be featured on Lupe Fiasco’s US billboard number 1 album ‘Lasers’ released in 2011.
Sway’s next single ‘Level Up’ written with Flux Pavilion (Kanye West, Jay Z, Example) became Sway’s highest charting single to date landing at number 8 in the Official UK National charts.
2013 – 2016 Dcypha Productions and Island Records
In 2013, Sway decided he wanted to return back 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 as well as signing YouTube star KSI.
He featured both new artists on the ‘Wake Up EP.’ his final release on 3beat records. 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/Universal. KSI became the first artist to be up-streamed.
In the same year Sway released a long awaited third album entitled ‘Deliverance’, which he 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”.
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.
As a writer and producer Sway amassed over a billion music streams world wide 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.
2017 – 2018 New Reign Productions
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 & 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 facilitating his most recent releases ‘Space’ EP and as the singles ‘Creature’, ‘Uncontrollable’ & ‘On Point’
New Reign Productions, houses a stable of music producers, graphic designers, directors, song writers 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’ & ‘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 23rd December 2018) Queen-Inaya & Queen-Imara entitled “Messages From The Mind”
2019 Sway Dasafo, ‘Next Chapter’ album & New Reign empire
Whilst working on a new album entitled ‘Next Chapter’ Sway decided to revert back to releasing under his full original artist name ‘Sway Dasafo’. Now armed with an arsenal of new music Sway walks into 2019 with a plethora of collaborative projects (Brillionaires, 5ive 9ine) and new music ventures to look forward to.
Sway’s ‘Next Chapter’ album will be accompanied with a book and short film and is his self-proclaimed his best music to date.
(©2019 – profile correct as of January 2019)