UAE hip-hop star Swerte’s latest hit Esso sends creative SOS
New single a motivational call to combat negativity and injustice with innovation
‘CHALLENGING’: IT’S A description for 2020 we have heard bandied around in countless speeches, reports and discussions. Though for society’s independent artists whose livelihoods depend on live performances and the subsequent exposure to build a following, the global measures to counter this year’s blight have been nothing short of catastrophic both emotionally and financially. Those in the UAE certainly count themselves luckier than their European or US contemporaries, given we reemerged into the world far earlier as a result of the more decisive action, yet a return to a complete normal service around the world cannot come quick enough.
“It’s fair to say this time has conjured up a huge range of emotions,” Dubai-based hip-hop and drill star Swerte told us when we spoke about his latest single Esso.
The Swiss-Indonesian, real name Lucky Schild, like everyone was initially dismayed with having to stay at home, though quickly decided the unexpected hiatus should be put to good use. Always having had a keen interest in politics, he felt the time was right to inject more of a message into his output. Teaming up with Arabic drill artist Freek and Indonesian rapper Saykoji via Zoom, the lockdown anthem Esso was born: a fiery call to arms for the disaffected, the under-represented and to combat rising inequality.
“We wanted to express what was going on inside while we went through all these new experiences,” said Swerte. “Esso is so different to what I normally do. I guess, because of the lack of real human connection, I imagined all the negativity of the world as a ‘being’. There were two choices: either all of these experiences were going to crush me and I would call for help or I would turn this energy into motivation to create and come out on top; beating this negative ‘being’ that was trying to crush me.
“When you say ‘Esso’ over and over in the chorus it kind of sounds like SOS which refers to the state of the world at the time that needed help. You’re either calling SOS for yourself or this negativity that you’ve just beaten.”
It is impossible to ignore the piece’s intense tempo and cutting lyrics. Clearly emanating from a place of anger at the beginning, the memorable tune manages to mellow as the refrain hooks the listener. The SOS evolves from an ardent plea to a triumphant call.
The collaborative number was entirely made through video calling apps and WhatsApp, yet Swerte is already looking forward to the time when his career will resemble the levels he was approaching at the turn of the year.
“I flew out to Bali in February just before the lockdown to shoot a music video for one of my up and coming songs and did a show while I was there.
“I’m recording performances in my room and sharing them on my IGTV and Youtube. As soon as anyone offers me an exciting gig, I’d definitely jump on,” he said.