Not many people can encapsulate the feeling of a season as well as hip-hop artist Shwayze. No matter what time of year it is, listening to a song by the “King Of The Summer” inevitably comes with the sensation of drinking tequila on a sunny hawaiian beach. As I discovered by joining Shwayze (and his DJ, Branville) on the “King Of The Summer Tour” from California to Texas, his live performances just about perfectly capture the summer feeling.
As I walked into the green room in Carson, California to meet Shwayze for the first time, he was stretched out on a couch with a bottle of tequila, bobbing his head with the occasional “oooh”, entranced by G-Eazy’s verse in “Champion”. He was to go on stage in less than a half hour but looked as though he had nothing planned for the rest of the week. Minutes before his set, he made his way towards the stage to catch the last song of the opening act and his band, “Carlton”. However, a Shwayze show wouldn’t be right without a booming introduction from neon green-haired DJ, Branville, whose unyielding yelling and “shredding” force even the most reluctant date to the show to get hyped. Once the Shwayze show has begun, there is no telling what will happen—over the six shows I photographed, there were no shortages of bras, drunk girls, awkwardly old guys, and obviously weed and tequila that appeared on stage, much to the amusement of the crowd. With Shwayze’s easy-going personality, song order switches were frequent, sometimes based off of the crowd’s preferences, and fellow artist friends such as Bllaine and Paul Couture often jumped on stage to hype the crowd up or spit a verse, only to vanish as quickly as they appeared. After a fantastic set, featuring old classics like “Buzzin” and “Corona And Lime”, as well as new hits such as “King Of The Summer” and “Tequila”, Shwayze would sometimes cap off shows with a trademark jump (shown in photo), somehow managing to get higher than most in attendance already were. His spontaneous personality fluidly translated off-stage as well; while driving from San Antonio to Dallas, we were in the far left lane of a four lane highway, about to turn left when Shwayze bolted out of the car, ran across four lanes of moving traffic into the gas station we had just left, and made it back just as the light turned green. “My credit card” he mentioned casually, as though he had just picked it up from under his seat.
The backdrops for the shows ranged from an intimate night club (Carson) to a cool half-outdoor setting (Austin) to a sold out 1500+ capacity venue (Santa Ana), but the energy and vibe that Shwayze brought never waivered, which resulted in exciting and unpredictable shows every night. It was incredible being able to join him on tour and photograph the shows but it was even cooler getting to know Shwayze as a person and becoming friends with one of my favorite artists— I now completely understand why he is titled the “King Of The Summer”.