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American-born rapper set to make Melodifestivalen history

American-born rapper set to make Melodifestivalen history

Published: 11 Mar 2011 09:39 GMT+01:00
Updated: 11 Mar 2011 09:39 GMT+01:00

As Sweden gears up for the finals of the 2011 Melodifestivalen song contest on Saturday, The Local's David Landes catches up with Swingfly, a Brooklyn-born rapper who is in the process of rewriting the rules for the Super Bowl of Swedish pop music.

It was back in early February at the very first Melodifestivalen qualifying round in Luleå in northern Sweden when Swingfly, a burly yet bouncy Brooklyn-born black man who immigrated to Sweden in 1991, shocked the country's pop music establishment by cruising straight into the contest's final round, set to take place on Saturday, March 12th in Stockholm's Ericsson Globe arena.

Despite having made and performed music in Sweden for the past two decades, Swingfly, born Ricardo DaSilva, is hardly a household name in his adopted country, and especially not among aficionados of Melodifestivalen, which has traditionally featured more straightforward pop music acts.

"I want to help change the way people think about schlager," Swingfly tells The Local, referring to the Swedish colloquialism for a pop music hit and which is often associated with the Melodifestivalen.

While he's excited to be in the finals, Swingfly is quick to admit that for much of his career, the Melodifestivalen "really wasn't my thing".

"They asked me a couple of years ago, but I said no. It wasn't really my thing. It wasn't really the right time," he explains.

But with a strong song in hand this year, Swingfly decided to give the contest a go, and after a rousing performance in Luleå he found himself headed to the finals where he is set to square off against nine other acts in a bid to represent Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest in Düsseldorf, Germany.

The song, "Me And My Drum", was written by a team of American and Swedish songwriters, and features rapping by Swingfly laid over an upbeat drum track with splashes of electronica. The chorus is sung by Christoffer Hiding, a contestant on Swedish Idol in 2007.

Swingfly characterises the song's music style as "wonky-pop".

"It's playful pop music with some rap mixed in," he explains.

"It's the kind of music that says let's go out and party and have fun…that's really my style."

Swingfly's path to the pinnacle of Swedish pop music started with what looked to be an ill-fated journey to Sweden back in 1991.

"I had trouble with gangs and people in the neighbourhood back home and my mother told me I had to get out of the house," he recalls.

"My manager at the time said he knew people in Sweden and that I should check it out. I had a single to promote at the time so I got on a plane and came over."

As it turned out, however, Swingfly's manager wasn't as well-connected as he led on, leaving Swingfly stuck in Stockholm with no concrete prospects for advancing his career.

Luckily, however, Swingfly met Swedish music producer Christian Falk at a Stockholm club and "things went from there".

Nevertheless, the first few years were far from easy as he struggled to adjust to being a black immigrant in Sweden.

"At the beginning, I had a lot of problems with the racism in Sweden," he recalls.

And while things have improved in the two decades since he first made Sweden home, he still is confronted with racism from time to time.

During Swingfly's performance in Luleå, for example, the marketing director for a handball club in Lund in southern Sweden referred to the black American artist as "a bloated negro who can't speak Swedish".

While the man was fired a few days later, Swingfly has learned to take such incidents in his stride.

"I just try to let it fly over my head," he says.

While at first sticking to more traditional hip hop, Swingfly's style shifted after he began collaborating with the electro/dub/punk trio Teddybears, with whom he recorded "Hey Boy" in 2004 and which turned into the biggest hit of his career.

"I just want to have fun and move and scream and can't really do that in a traditional hip hop song. This is a better way for me to express myself," he says of his new musical style.

While he admits he has "nothing in common" with schlager stalwarts Carola and Charlotte Perrelli and laments that his Swedish language skills are "embarrassing", Swingfly nevertheless feels he is a worthy ambassador for Swedish music in Europe.

"I very much represent Sweden, music made in Sweden. The music I make now is something created in Sweden with Swedish influences," he says.

"There are a lot of great artists in Sweden and maybe, if I win, people will be able to hear a different side of the Swedish music scene."

Swingfly's adopted country also holds a special place in his heart.

"I really fell in love with Sweden – with the country and the people," he says.

"I'm a peaceful person and Sweden is a peaceful place. I like that it's low key and that I can go outside without worrying about getting shot."

And following the birth of his son two years ago, Swingfly began to see the chain of events that brought him to Sweden in a whole new light.

"When my son was born, everything changed," he explains

"I really feel now that he's the reason I ended up here in Sweden. It's like God brought me here or something. Every time I look at my son's face, I realise that it what it's all about."

Swingfly also learned recently that one of his songs, "Something's Got Me Started", will be included in "Larry Crowne", an upcoming film starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts set for release in July 2011.

And while his popularity is soaring following his maiden Melodifestivalen appearance, Swingfly knows that not everyone in Sweden is thrilled about the prospect of their country being represented by a hip hop infused dance track performed by a black American rapper.

"I'm a bit worried that the really hard core schlager fans might take it the wrong way and be really upset if I win," he explains.

"I've received a lot of hate mail on my Facebook page from people saying I'm crap, using the N-word, stuff like that. But I don't let it get to me."

But Swingfly isn't letting his critics slow him down heading into the Melodifestivalen finals, where he expects the competition to be tough.

"Everyone in the final is a problem. I mean, they all made it this far so they must be doing something right," he says.

"I do really fear Danny though," he adds, referring to the 2006 Swedish Idol finalist who came in third place in the 2009 Melodifestivalen as part of the Swedish boy band E.M.D.

"He's got a pretty cool song. If anyone else were to win, I'd want it to be him."

Still, Swingfly hopes he is the Swedish act who gets to book a ticket to Düsseldorf after Saturday's final.

"I really want to win," he said.

"But there will be a lot of pressure on me if I do."

Check out Swingfly's performance in Luleå below:

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:24 March 11, 2011 by Roy E
There you have it, the worst America has to offer!

It's the price we pay for liberty.. the freedom for idiots to do their thing, too no matter how embarrassing it might be, no matter how much it makes one cringe.

It's an interesting study just how, in just a few short decades, American popular culture has devolved into the bankrupt cesspool that it is today.
14:10 March 11, 2011 by saraswed
ok check it out .this guy has been here since since 1991 and cannot speak Swedish yet .that shows is not the guy to represent Sweden .for 20 years years you can not lean a language .are you that dumb .he is a disgrace period
14:48 March 11, 2011 by just a thought
Wow these comments say volumes...
16:22 March 11, 2011 by stev
Ricardo has complied with the rules of the Melodifestivalen - let him perform.

Fortunately or unfortunately he has produced a double edge sword, success on one side and ridicule on the other.

Ricardo cannot return to America as a US citizen - dual citizenship is not recognized in the US. He is Swedish now.

So to avoid further embarrassment to himself and the Swedes who have excepted him!

Start singing in Swedish. It's a no brainer.
17:07 March 11, 2011 by buschmann
Is he related to Elin Krantz's killer.He came from NYC also. Before he could learn swedish he would propably need to learn english first.
17:41 March 11, 2011 by TheOriginalBlackMan
There is very little natural musical talent in Sweden, that is people who can sing, keep harmony with their voice, the oldest musical instrutment in the world....MelodifestivalenTM highlights the lack of talent in Sweden, and it is a prime example of the many out of tune attention seekers that fill Sweden and if it weren't for these so- called contestants location and willingness to be exploited by large Swedish entertainment companies, who produce carnival drivel, costing pennies to procure then I don't think many of the contestants could sing their way into a dirty white HillBilly bar on the other side of the Mississippi River.

Nonetheless,,,, natural citizen's of the U.S.A., need not relinquish their citizenship if they become a Swedish citizen.

Finally, the world is the same the world over, where ever you go.

Sweden is not heaven. Their are many young children in Sweden that go hungry in everyday.
00:03 March 12, 2011 by Njal
"I had trouble with gangs and people in the neighbourhood back home "

There you have it, undesirable immigration does not only come form the third world.

@ TheOriginalBlackMan

"Finally, the world is the same the world over, where ever you go."

- depends what you're talking about, this is a fairly broad/unspecific statement.

" Sweden is not heaven. Their are many young children in Sweden that go hungry in everyday. "

Not heaven perhaps, but you've been happy enough to be there gracing Swedes with your presence, so it can't be as bad as say,...your homeland.

(Ghana?). Hows the Ugandan wife? she still here too? Tolerating the nasty Swedes?

Send this Yank rapper (i.e. purveyor of 'gibberish'), back home. perhaps he thinks blonde haired blue-eyed white girls fancy a black guy rapper, why else would he go to Sweden. Does he really imagine the Swedes need to be enlightened to his form of street 'expression' via rap (i.e. debased attempt at artistic expression). Go back to NYC "swingfly', you flatter yourself believing you have anything of interest for Sweden.
00:30 March 12, 2011 by Swedesmith
How do you say mo'fo in Swedish?
09:13 March 12, 2011 by Bumblebeetuna
In stockholm it is Easy to meet english speaking people with intrests in rap and hip hop. On the other hand he has lots of negativity from swedes. It is easy to understand the language skills lacking. For me anyway.

I think swingfly represents Sweden /Stockholm quite well. It is just not the main stream stureplan schlagerstyle that has become tradition, though.

Another point is that music really is international. I was quite disapointed to find almost no difference in music when i came here.

You have My support swing.
11:11 March 12, 2011 by calebian22
Boom chicky boom is a complete tool but, the fact that Sweden voted him onward speaks volumes about Sweden. Living here since 1991 and his Swedish is embarrassing? Good grief!


I wish you were correct and he was not still an American, but loss of citizenship rarely happens. Sweden is welcome to have him though. I find him embarrassing.

15:03 March 12, 2011 by Celsius
so much anti-hip-hop sentiment.

I'm wondering if it's really anti-hip-hop or if that's synonymous with some form of anti-black sentiment.

anyways, I wonder what you all think of white Swedish acts, such as Mange Schmidt.
15:08 March 12, 2011 by Jes
Sometimes I wish it was about the song ( melody )
16:16 March 12, 2011 by ITkiwi
20 years and kan inte tala svenska? w.t.f? Way to integrate sweshy!
16:54 March 12, 2011 by Radical1
this guy should follow Abbas example and talk swedish in his songs
16:59 March 12, 2011 by Syftfel
While those of us who are frequently in Brooklyn are glad that this piece of useless trash has left, Sweden should rid itself of such non-talent. Rapper? I can spend the rest of my life without such low level dung. I also wouldn't be surprised if he's on the lam from the law in the US. But then again Sweden, of late, appears to be in the habit of accepting all kinds of destructive riff-raff, and societal misfits. You can keep him and his "art". Ha!
19:09 March 12, 2011 by Seamus Guevara
@stev what you talking about, boy. US does allow dual citizenship i got dual ahhh yeah baby, they don't like it but it don't matter.

" all you men gonna be pregnant with babies so you know the pain the woman goes through when you burp your first baby."
03:21 March 13, 2011 by Smiling Canuk
Rap sucks.

All those great Afro-American R&B, Soul and Mo'town performers of the past must be rolling over in their graves listening to what black American music has degenerated to. There was a time when black America was known for great musicians and HW boxers. Now they have neither.:-)
04:28 March 13, 2011 by wenddiver
Maybe we could work out a deal here. If your short rappers we could give Sweden all of ours and in exchange we could take all your Islamists off your hands and re-settle them at Gitmo. Duh, Winning.
19:38 March 13, 2011 by Alex71
So this site now turned into a racist forum. Does pink skin and a small brain give you a better judgment when it comes to deciding what song is the best to represent Sweden in the Eurovision song contest. Looking forward to hearing a lot more from Swingfly in the future because his song was the absolute best in the Swedish final and I hope the moderator on this site removes all the racist comments immediately.
23:31 March 13, 2011 by pcs
I agree with you about the ‘C’Rap thing. However, the new and ever changing sounds modern R&B / Soul & much more, is not as bad as you think.

Check out Soulunderground4swe on You tube. This is just one of many sites dedicated to keeping it real and fresh.

08:33 March 14, 2011 by Dom har glömt
If you listen to the lyrics of most rap music it degrades women and has bad influence on child. There has been over 6 million lyrics so dumb it should be punishable as crimes against humanity.
13:32 March 14, 2011 by canam
Can't make it in the States send it abroad. I'm sure the wanna be thugs here (who are laughable) will enjoy the new US street cred though.
13:23 March 15, 2011 by Kaethar
A lot of haters here I see. Well, at least we Swedes appreciate Swingfly. He got 10.4% of the televotes in Melodifestivalen which is really quite an achievement. Rap isn't really that big in Sweden to start with and Swedes are even less likely to vote for rap to represent us at Eurovision. But Me and my drum was simply such a fun act and happy song that people couldn't help but vote for it. :)

As for the Swedish - well, he's hardly alone. Anglophones are well known for not learning Swedish here. Part of the reason is that they of course can get by in English. And if people aren't good with languages to start with I'm sure they find it hard to find an incentive to learn the language. It's easy to say "respect the culture of the country you're living in" but it's very hard to learn a language you have no need for if you're not good with languages. I spent 3 years learning Spanish in schools and learnt nothing. :P

@Alex71: Yeah, it's a pity. There are lots of racist and xenophobic commentators on the local. Why? Because apparently Sweden is a "bastion of the white race" and so on and so forth and everyone non-Swedish who has an opinion on Sweden and her "immenent destruction" comes to this site to rant and rave. :/
14:50 March 15, 2011 by Syftfel
In the string of comments above I do not see a single one that's "racist". I'm talking to you Kaethar and Alex71. Are you just one of those MP-ers or social dems who default to the R-word whenever you do not agree with someone? It's the easy out when you try to squelch a discussion. Where is the "racism"?
15:07 March 15, 2011 by djmarko
I thought the local was a place for ex-pats and native Swedes to have positive discussions about living in Sweden, also where ex-pats can seek advice and help in settling into a new life here, sadly thats no longer the case, this site seems to have been overrun by extremists, using foul racial language and what not, its one thing not to like hip-hop, but one cant help but think some have a personal hatred toward the rapper due to his race, i mean its so pretty obvious!! this site is just getting pathetic by the hour, why dont the right wingers go start another forum and take their racist garb with them!!!
18:05 March 15, 2011 by djmarko
basically one might not mention his race overtly, but one cant help think that race has played a part in some comments here, thats my guess, i might be wrong, these days rap music is so commercial, melodifestivalen is dominated with pop music anyway, i dont think he will win the finals anyway but people must have voted if they thought he was any good, the fact he is competing should be light hearted fun, i dont think there was any need to bring up his background, as far as he is not hurting anyone!
18:12 March 15, 2011 by Jannik
All the PC leftists ranting on about all the "racists" on the local, just cant accept the fact, that most swedes dont like the fact that a talentless american rapper, who doesnt speak swedish, is representing their country in a song contest.

The guy is a joke, and his election is a mockery of the spirit of the contest.
19:30 March 15, 2011 by Syftfel
Djmarko makes himself guilty of the same Pavlovian reaction that all volvo driving, wine sipping, liberals do. The instant you utter something critical about someone of another culture or faith you are immediately an unforgiving "racist", or worse. The fact remains that this talentless, undesirable, street thug from Brooklyn ought to be a despicable embarrassment to Sweden, and is but another piece of irrefutable evidence of how far down into the sewer this once great Nordic nation has sunk. Replace him with something more civilized, and save us from this horrendous gutter level, criminal, "rap". I can't even get myself to use the term "music". It is not! Is there no class anymore? Does every aspect of Swedish life have to be dragged down to the lowest common denomitator? Get rid of him and send him back to Flatbush.
20:41 March 15, 2011 by djmarko
well not really getting into an argument with anyone, i only use this website to get views from other expats living and working in Sweden, it is a useful source for information as far as people leave politics out of this forum!
00:22 March 16, 2011 by Njal
@djmarko & @Alex71

You guys are beginning to sound like a broken record, every response said against someone of a different racial background is interpreted as 'racist'.

It is entirely possible to dislike an aspect of one's culture without having to be a racist. There are many who believe 'rap' is really an american (african american) product, and can't relate because it has nothing to do with their people or their culture. It is quite unimaginative to brand someone a racist for this.

Also, at the end of the day, how does 'rap', which seems to be a glorification of thuggery (i.e. cool to sell drugs, slap bitches and shoot and rob people), have anything to do with Swedish culture, (Malmo not included)? Nobody needs to hear a naive young black guy say (sing?) these things.
01:44 March 16, 2011 by technoviking
I'm not exactly Mr. PC, but I can't really see any reason this guy is getting bagged on other then being black and rapping which is not really grounds for being a torn a new one.

You may not like rap but that's a taste thing. Doesn't mean he's a bad guy or a "thug". The thugs only rapping went out in the 90's. There are a lot of legitimately creative talented musicians doing hip hop these days. May not be your cup of tea, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have a place.

And it's a lot better to have an American come over and do it than Swedes who have no connection to hip hop culture and are literally apeing the clothes and mannerisms based on nothing other than what they've seen on MTV which is kind of pathetic. Swedish rap is sad.
05:58 March 16, 2011 by silly t
hahahaha...so so hard for swedes to accept that this is happening.

if the guy as u all say is crap, then there's no adjective to describe swedes.(may be ass holes?
09:02 March 16, 2011 by rise
So this guy has been in Sweden since 1991? Funny since before reading this article I had never heard of him. But on the other hand I never watch Melodifestivalen any more since its content/music is dead since many years back;. the program doesn't contain artists any more but only pathetic attention seekers.
09:09 March 16, 2011 by Rick Methven

"Melodifestivalen any more since its content/music is dead since many years back;. the program doesn't contain artists any more but only pathetic attention seekers. "

Agree 100%

Bring back ABBA
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