Baton Rouge-based producer and audio engineer Joseph Swiger didn’t come from a place steeped in Hip-Hop tradition. He came from Gulf Shores, Alabama, a place that few people would describe as “gritty” or “hard” or any of the other qualities typically associated with the great Hip-Hop meccas like Atlanta or Compton.
But growing up in an easy-going vacation town didn’t stop him from developing a keen taste for Hip-Hop. Even as a kid, he inhaled the stuff, and he could listen to just about any rap song you threw at him and tell you who the artist was. Back then, he said, he thought everybody could do that.
Then, while attending Gulf Shores High School, his calling began to materialize. He DJed EDM and rap shows around town and began experimenting with beat production, but he says the “closed-off” nature of the Gulf Shores community put a hard ceiling over his development.
“I had a hard time finding my sound,” he said. Gulf Shores had its perks, but a diverse cultural landscape wasn’t quite one of them.
But then he came to Baton Rouge for his freshman year at LSU and was introduced to a world drenched in culture, tradition and—most importantly—Hip-Hop. He had known the music of nationally-acclaimed rappers like NBA Youngboy and Boosie Badazz (formerly Lil Boosie) but had no idea their hometown was so rife with Hip-Hop culture.
But, grinding to establish connections and build his brand throughout college and beyond, he quickly learned just how rich this city’s Hip-Hop community is. He racked up collaborations with the likes of Adam Dollar$, Caleb Brown, Jazz Bandito, _Thesmoothcat and countless more, and through it all he developed a religious appreciation for Baton Rouge’s place in the Hip-Hop landscape, which he feels is still criminally underrecognized.
“Baton Rouge is one of the hottest … fastest-growing hip hop communities,” he said, adding that the city “has one of the most influential sounds right now in the nation.”
Swiger, 24, now operates a studio on Convention Street, branded under the name “Swiger Studio,” which is a sort of familial collective comprising him and his two brothers, John David, 28, who works predominately in videography and multi-media production, and Michael, 26, a graphic designer and painter.
The Baton Rouge studio, which opened in March 2021, has given Swiger the platform he needs to actualize his ambitions. He works every day from noon to midnight producing beats, recording artists and engineering tracks. And he said the seemingly endless supply of new, hungry artists coming through his spot never ceases to astonish him.
And while he’s no stranger to working with big-name rappers, these are the collaborations he lives for—the young, the ambitious and the unrecognized. He holds a serious passion for scouting and developing untapped potential.
“Everybody’s hungry. I’m still hungry. These guys are hungry,” he said. “They might not have a bunch of groceries at home, but they’re coming to make this song because it might get them more groceries in the future.”
For Swiger, ravenous may be the better word. His top goal is getting a plaque under his belt with full creative responsibility. This means he wants to collaborate directly with an artist to make a song that reaches gold or platinum status, as opposed to shipping a beat off to someone who happens to send it to someone else who happens to use it in a song that goes gold or platinum.
And Swiger sees that goal close on the horizon. He already has designated wall space in his studio for hanging plaques, which he intends to begin filling out in the coming year. To him, it’s not a question of how, but when; as long as he continues pouring the same effort into his craft that he has ever since he made his first beat at the age of 14, the rewards are sure to come.
“In ten, fifteen years, I might be one of the best,” he said. “I might have a hundred plaques in here. I might be a household name. That’s really what I’m shooting for, and I don’t think I’ll really be that satisfied until I get there.”