Sweet Da Kid
Location: Camden, NJ
Label: Louder Than Life/Sony Music

Meet The Man Behind The Mask…

The loss of a friend gave Sweet Da Kid his identity. Growing up in Camden, New Jersey, Sweet Da Kid was friends with D, a tagger whose signature was a cartoon figure named Sweet who sported a black ski-mask. When D was killed in a drive-by shooting, Sweet Da Kid decided to adopt his friend’s tag and commit himself to music in order to keep his friend’s spirit alive.

“He had always been a role model, a father figure for a lot of kids growing up in our area,” Sweet Da Kid says today. “He taught me how to tag, showed me techniques. Tagging is still a big part of my life. I go out almost every night and tag ski-masks around LA.”

Currently splitting time between Los Angeles and New Jersey, Sweet Da Kid and his now signature ski-mask have become an Internet sensation thanks to the popularity of his “Don’t Forget The Name” song and its accompanying video. In the clip, Sweet Da Kid raps with undulating verve about his microphone prowess and his affinity for women and classic cars over a skeletal, hypnotic beat – all while sporting his black mask in a graffiti-filled room as a female companion fingers through magazines before twerking.

“I think the visual helps a lot, the whole idea of the mask and the mystery behind it,” Sweet Da Kid says. “It’s something that keeps people intrigued. Then, the music’s real raw and it has a different feel than a lot of the overproduced stuff that’s out right now. I think that definitely helps.”

It helped “Don’t Forget The Name” get to producer Salaam Remi, whose work with Nas, Amy Winehouse and Fergie, among others, has established him as one of music’s premier sonic architects. Impressed by Sweet Da Kid, Remi inked the rising rapper to his Sony Music-backed Louder Than Life Labs imprint.

Under Remi’s tutelage, Sweet Da Kid learned how to expand his songwriting by writing several different songs to the same beat. He’d vary his lyrics, flow and style on each of the different versions.
“That’s something that I wouldn’t really do before,” Sweet Da Kid says. “I’d be so stuck on writing something and then sitting with it because I thought my first instinct would be my best. Going back now, rewriting stuff and coming up with new ideas I realize is a good way to change up your writing style.”

Sweet Da Kid employed this new tactic on “Im Reloaded,” which features him flowing with controlled, rising rage over an eerie beat simmering with scintillating energy. The rapper is also working with Key Wane, the producer behind Drake’s “All Me,” which features Big Sean and 2 Chainz; Beyonce’s “Partition”; and Big Sean’s “Beware,” which features Jhene Aiko and Lil Wayne. The material is slated to appear on Sweet Da Kid’s debut release on Louder Than Life Labs.

The newfound stability in his recording career stands in marked contrast to Sweet Da Kid’s childhood. His grandmother played a major part in raising him, but she wasn’t always able to watch out for him and keep an eye on him. Fortunately, he found solace in art. “Music and writing have always been an escape for me,” he reveals, “to free my mind and focus on other stuff besides what’s going on in my life.”

Sweet Da Kid lived with one of his uncles in Florida after high school and had spent time in North Carolina during his pre-teen years. This influence manifests itself in the way he talks and rhymes and in the music he enjoys, UGK’s Pimp C in particular. “I loved his style,” Sweet Da Kid says. “He had a way of talking about some crazy stuff and delivering it in a cool way.”

Another, more enigmatic, rapper also made a profound impact on Sweet Da Kid: MF DOOM. “I actually liked a few of his songs before I realized what he was doing with the DOOM mask,” he says. “Once I got more interested in what he was doing, I went and checked him out with the mask. That intrigued me even more. That always stuck with me, that feeling that, ‘I really like this guy, but I can’t and never will really know too much about him.’ I think it’s part of his success, that he’s able to portray everything through his lyrics and his music so much that when it comes down to it, even though you don’t know what his nose looks like or what his facial structure is, you connect with this guy so much.”

By 2011, Sweet Da Kid wanted to make people connect with his music in the same way. He was able to get into a legitimate studio for the first time. While working on a mixtape, he started recording an early version of what would become “Don’t Forget The Name.”

Even in those early recording sessions, Sweet Da Kid had grand sonic ambitions, ones that have their roots in rock music. “I liked the raw feel that a Nirvana would have when they were recording some of their stuff,” he explains. “It sounded like they would record it in a big room and it sounded so real, like you were right there. That’s some of the stuff that I’m trying to channel with my music, making you feel like you’re almost there when it’s being recorded.”

Although Sweet Da Kid wants listeners to be in sync with his music, he wants to remain a mystery of sorts to his fans, with his identity hidden – at least for now.

“I like the idea of keeping the focus on the music,” he says, “and not who’s behind it.”