JONATHAN: Who is Leon Swanks? LEON: A teacher, a student and a speaker to those who speak to him. An artist in any format, in any media. But he also speaks to the businessman and the hustler. Both are embedded in his heritage - both embody work ethic on a couple of levels and that's what Swanks is about. We want Everything. Its about being willing to keep the faith and work for it. That's what Swanks be 'bout.
What is it that you do? Everything. But I enjoy wordplay most. Followed by design and helping with creative direction.
How long have you been perfecting your craft? Many years. At eight I went to Shaolin, training under an OG I won't name and now I spend every night in the (G)alaxy recording future projects.
Any influences? (G)od. Passion. Various teachers and poets. If we are talking music, let's start with Prince, Mos Def and Cam'ron.
How would you describe your music? It's a feel... Its own sound. It's a neverending story about Everything. Travels through life as a (G).
Can you name a few artists you grew up listening to? Throughout the years it was a lot of Nas, Wu-Tang, Prince, Sade, anything DJ Screw, Mystikal, Dipset, Wayne and Swishahouse.
What's the first thing you do in the morning? Her....or the music. Could be both.
What's your latest project? My latest project was "NotEnough2". But I released a Collection of sound in May under the name of Cold Cheeba. Released two songs a week until May 31st. We performed the final song at Delicious Vinyl on the 31st with KTtheTerrible, SRhomme, and Alexander Spit.
Favorite song at this very moment? "Theats" by ILLFIGHTYOU. But I also have a 'Chopped not Slopped (Swanked & Slumped)' version of Alexander O'Neal's "If You Were Here Tonight" in heavy rotation that I recently put together on my turntables. That has been a hobby of mine.
Favorite music video? It's actually a short and it's from SRhomme, called New Shorts (Directed by David Rivera). Real avant garde. Its (G)enius.
How would you describe your 'Cold Cheeba' collection? It's a Collection of sound that describes itself. Great pieces.
What inspired 'Cold Cheeba'? A (G)uardian by the name of GMK, a plant, and the group Camp Lo.
What is your favorite song that you've written or composed? It changes too often. Mood changes everything.
Word has it you create your own mixtape/album covers, is this true? Truth. I went to school for (G)raphic Design though so it's only right.
How long have you been designing? Graphic Design, for a good five years now but I've always had my hands in multiple arts. I'm a creative mind. So Ive always ended up around creative minds dealing with artwork and/or clothing most the time.
What can't you leave the house without? My laptop and a duffel bag of clothes... I stay on the move. A S/S 2013 Shirt by HouseofWIV if the season allows it.
What's next for Leon Swanks? Everything. If that is not understood now it will be soon.
You mention "Guardians" a lot in your music. Can you explain what that refers to? These are the people that stand on my shoulders and stay in my ear: SRhomme, MCScores (LilMike), TVespa, Liquid Galaxy, TDG, KT theTerrible, KhrisPKream, Zman, Blakksoul, Gmk, Devon Drakkar and Dame55.
Are you influenced in anyway by music you hear nowadays? From time to time. It's usually from one of the (G)uardians or VVS(Sandlot) members. But other than that, Beach Fossils and Alekesam have been doin' it for me lately.
What is the meaning behind the line, "The delivery was flavor, forbidden fruit from a neighbor," from your song 'Dominoes'? I spoke to a woman of beauty. She then gave me her peach.
Can you name a few producers you enjoy working with? KT The Terrible, KReamTeam, and GMK. They all (G)enius.
Who have you had the most fun collaborating with on a song? That would have to be SRhomme or UglyFrank. Hands down.
Interview and photography by Jonathan Tate
Follow Jonathan on Twitter at @Johnny13laze