I got to chop it up with Toni Wells! Better known as SwagRight, Toni is an entrepreneur and creative from Ann Arbor Michigan. After starting the SwagRight clothing brand in 2013… By humbly selling clothes to her customers out of a duffle bag! Toni eventually transitioned into a role in styling. As well as marketing local music artists for shows and photoshoots. All this under the SwagRight brand name. Her love of music, passion for the new game of internet marketing as well as new access to a mentor within the music industry lead her to artist management in 2016.
After years of representing music artists less motivated than herself, SwagRight decided to use her talent for music marketing and industry connections to introduce Music to the world produced by her SwagRight Brand. As a Music artist SwagRight is as eccentric and genre-bending as her personality is. Taking you on a trip thru R&B, Soul, Hip Hop, on a vibe through the world of EDM and House music to create quality music that will make you want to smile and dance.
What led you to the fashion and entertainment industry?
Growing up in Southeastern Michigan and having the influence of Detroit so close it was inevitable that I fell in love with music. As well as fashion. From having the Motown sound be a fixture in my household growing up to seeing the very unique fashion trends such as Cartier sunglasses and top 10 Adidas that are so iconic in the city of Detroit I couldn’t not be influenced.
Tell me a bit about how you went from selling clothing out of a duffel bag to where you are now.
Starting from those humble beginnings led me to styling local music artists for photoshoots, music videos, and performances. Being so close to the local music scene I took advantage and decided to learn more about the business side. As well as behind the scenes of music which is something I’ve always been very curious and passionate about knowing. After connecting with the most amazing artist manager to ever work in the world of hip Hop Wendy Day and soaking up every bit of knowledge I could get from her and her rap coalition organization. I was asked to manage an artist. So, I continued in that role for about 4 years until the pandemic started. Then I realized that the artists that I was working with were not nearly as focused or motivated as I was.
I made the very hard decision to move forward without them and began to produce and market my own music project just as a promotional tool for the SwagRight brand. I really had no intention of starting a career in music but after sending beats off to artists and booking studio time for them I found myself the only one who showed up. Me being the businesswoman that I am and not wanting to waste my money. I took the chorus I had written to a beat and freestyled the rest of the song. The result was we came up with Cakes, my very first single available Thanksgiving Day.
Tell me a bit about your free android game “Draw & Ball”. Will you be developing more games and apps?
It’s a very simple yet addictive game available for free download on my website. Ever since the first time my niece asked me “do you got games on your phone?” I’ve wanted to have my own Android game app that was simple enough that elementary school-age children can play easily. This app is one of the goals I had for 2021 that I am most proud of accomplishing. This definitely won’t be the last app developed by SwagRight. We’re currently working on a few more ideas for new Android apps and I hope to also have some apps available for Apple iOS soon as well.
You are definitely a multifaceted being, much respect to you! Where do you draw this passion from?
That’s definitely a trait that I get for my grandfather. He never had many traditional jobs in his lifetime but when he did he always had a side hustle. He lived an amazing life from traveling all over the world to marching to Selma with Dr. King during the civil rights movement to help protect the rights and freedoms of others. He ended his life raising a beautiful family including and adopting my mother as a baby. I know it couldn’t have been easy being a white man raising a black child in South Lyon Michigan in the 60s. He was an intelligent, charismatic, and hard-working man. He lived his life with a never give up always find a way attitude. Spending so much time with him as a child definitely molded me to have a work ethic, a big heart, and a free spirit like him as an adult.
I notice you also sell candles, soaps, and sage. I see you’re really creating a vibe. As an independent artist, do you plan to cultivate your own collective or label, or do you plan on remaining solo?
SwagRight is definitely a team effort. My personal assistant and SwagRight sponsored influencer @OhSoFancy734 is an amazing music artist and creative in her own right. She’s been like a sponge since she came onto the team soaking up all of the knowledge she can about the music business. So you should definitely be on the lookout for her music coming soon.
Tell me a bit about “OhSoFancy734”, do you plan on sponsoring more influencers?
@OhSoFancy734 is the backbone of SwagRight music. She not only serves as my personal assistant. But she’s also a very amazing creative on multiple levels and in multiple mediums. She’s been matching my focus when it comes to developing herself as an artist and learning everything she can about the music business. I would love to bring on more influencers to the SwagRight brand. I see everybody that I work with on SwagRight music as part of the SwagRight family and who wouldn’t want to add to the love of their family and see it grow?
What are the hardest obstacles in your life you’ve overcome?
Honestly the trauma of being black in America. Being forced to find a way to make it in a system that’s not built for you to succeed. In 2021 America is a very toxic place to be young and black. At the same time, we’re seeing some of our peers garner the most success that has ever been had by black Americans. We are also witnessing so many of us are still not able to get ahead. Despite being told our whole childhood that things are different now and the things that happened to our parents and grandparents wouldn’t happen to us. Only to find out all that is a lie! Our life is still in danger every time we leave the house just because of the color of our skin.
Do you find it important to reflect this in your lyrics?
Eventually, I plan on doing some music featuring some deeper topics but right now the focus of Swag Right music is bringing the fun back to hip Hop. I want to make music that makes people want to get up, dance and smile. There are so many reasons in the world to be depressed right now. I want my music to be a light in this dark world that people look forward to.
Your style is very versatile, where does your inspiration come from and who would you say inspires you the most?
I have so many musical influences. I’m truly a child of the game, especially hip-hop music. I could go off on a tangent naming probably 50 artists that I really love and admire both lyrically and on the business side of music but I would have to say my favorite artist of all time is the late great DMX. Our childhoods, although different in many ways also had many similarities in the way we were raised and the feelings that we felt. His music was very prolific in my life. Discovering him in 1998 really changed the way I looked at a lot of things including music.
What type of content is discussed on the SwagRight Show Podcast?
Originally I started the SwagRight Show podcast as a way to feature local artists. As well as help them market their music and brands. As I transition into being an artist myself I am also transitioning the podcast into more of a journal of my journey from the beginning of me being an artist. I sat down at the beginning of 2021 and wrote down the rules that I live by in life and the podcast will pick up from there explaining who swag right is in 2021 and moving forward.
Do you currently have a big hip-hop scene in Michigan, if so when did it begin and who are the key players in the Michigan hip-hop scene?
Music in Michigan is huge. Ann Arbor is specifically known for its live music venues. In the past few years, we’ve been represented very well by Ann Arbor’s own rapper PL and producer Sneak Beats who have licensed for not only nationwide NFL but also NBA programming. Motown has paved the way for so many music artists to be inspired by this area. The first hip-hop success from Detroit that I was made aware of in the 1990s was MC breed (RIP).
But Detroit has had a lot of success in mainstream rap even more so recently. Of course, everybody is aware of Eminem and his rise to fame from here in Detroit. He is another artist that my mentor Wendy Day had a hand in supporting early in his career. The street lords movement was huge here. We were also represented by artists like Tone Tone KDezzy Team Eastside and Doughboyz Cashout in the early 2000s. More recently artists like Dej Loaf Big Sean Tee Grizzley Kash Doll Sada Baby and 42 Dugg have had mainstream success being an inspiration to the city and showing us that the Motown sound ain’t dead in rap music
How has the recent pandemic impacted you as an artist?
The pandemic is 100% responsible for me taking my music career into my own hands and deciding to go hard for myself rather than other people. When the pandemic started I had just moved to California and with the shutdown of the state looming, I was forced to come back here to Michigan and just figure out my next move. Turns out music was my best move.
What strengths do you have that you believe make you a great artist?
I’m not only an artist but a businesswoman. A lot of my business strengths are in marketing and I feel like my out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to marketing and business is an advantage I have over my peers.
Do you have any weaknesses that you’re actively working to improve on?
Trusting my gut is my weakness. growing up I had a lot of self-doubts that I had to get rid of and I’m still working on some of it to this day.
When you are not focused on hustling and artistry, what do you do that inspires your artistic endeavors?
Spend time with my family. My nieces and nephew are my heart. I don’t know what I would do in this world without them. There is nobody in this world who loves SwagRight more than those kids and I love them 100 times more. They’re the reason why I go so hard for everything I want in life.
Do you feel the impact of social media has helped the independent musician more so now than in the past?
I definitely feel like it’s an invaluable tool for the people who use it correctly. Unfortunately, the way this generation is set up… It’s just a distraction to a lot of artists who are not focused.
We can officially add music to the list of industries where the LGBT community, and women, are grossly underrepresented. How does this affect you in the entertainment scene?
Honestly, I feel like the fact that there is no one else like me represented in the music industry is an advantage. People love seeing something or someone they’ve never seen before. As much as people ridicule and make fun of things that are different, that’s what they want to see. That’s the beauty of marketing in my eyes. It’s all about how you package and present something to the world. To a lot of people, I’ll just be that black lesbian rapper from Ann Arbor Michigan. However, to my people, I’m going to be a music icon.
Do you compose your own instrumentals?
I actually made my very first beat in 2019 right before the pandemic started but I don’t really consider myself a producer as of yet. You can stream that first beat on my SoundCloud page if you’re interested in hearing my style of instrumentals. Pharaoh Caesar is the official producer for SwagRight music. Cakes is our first official release together but I have so many more beats from him that I’ve been creating to we definitely have more singles into the way.
What future projects are you currently working on?
I’m really focused on just creating quality music and releasing singles right now. In this era of Music until you garnered a large fan base there is really no reason to put together a full project. My focus right now is spreading the SwagRight sound worldwide. As long as my LGBT community is tapped in with me and I accomplish my artist goal of becoming a member of the recording academy I’ll be happy with my growth as an artist.
Is there anything you would like to add on?
First of all, I’d like to thank you for the interview. This is by far one of my best experiences being interviewed. Second, I’d like to invite the world to indulge in my new music. Thanksgiving Day Cakes will be available on all streaming platforms. I hope you all turn up, shake your ass, and love it as much as I do. Last I’d like to leave the world with my motto “Be You Do You For You and Spread Love”
Find SwagRight, keep an eye on the movement!
You can find SwagRight Toni in all the usual locations. Such as Instagram – Facebook – Twitter – Youtube and Soundcloud. If that is not enough, you can find everything SwagRight here! Keep your eyes and ears on the SWAGRIGHT WEBSITE!
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