How Sway?! Oakland Native Launches Inaugural Sway Fest Block Party In His Hometown
Sway Calloway has been one of the most revered journalists and tv/radio personalities in hip-hop for well over 2 decades. During his time hosting Sway in the Morning on Sirius XM Shade 45, as well as the revamped TRL on MTV, he has sat down with the erratic Kanye West, the stoic Tyler Perry, the refined Barack Obama, and so many in between.
As a pivotal spokesperson for hip-hop in the 90s on the world-renowned “The Wake Up Show” alongside his partner King Tech, he introduced many under the radar acts not only in the California rap scene but to the rest of the world as well. Legendary acts like the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, and The Fugees were all featured guests on the show. So it’s only fitting that someone of Sway’s caliber would launch his very own block party in his homeland of the Bay Area called “Sway Fest”. And what better place than right in front of the headquarters of Sirius XM/Pandora Media in downtown Oakland, a brand he helped put on the map.
As soon as I found out about Sway Fest via Sway’s Instagram (@realsway) I knew I had to check it out. An event like this happening in Oakland and put on by one of the town’s own is a big deal, not just for the city but for me personally. My roots in Oakland go back generations. My parents are from Oakland, their parents are from Oakland, my sister and I are from Oakland, and even my Aunts, Uncles, and cousins are all from Oakland. We may have all scattered out to different parts of the Bay Area and out of state, but it is engraved in our DNA. Having an opportunity to take part in Sway Fest shows everyone what all of us Oaklandians are capable of achieving.
When I arrived downtown shortly after 9 am on the chilly Bay Area morning last Friday, there was a sense of belonging that swept through the atmosphere. A sense that this is where I was meant to be, even if I was still half asleep. As I positioned myself closer to the stage, the crowd of Bay Area natives and newcomers started to grow, all attentively tuned in as the beginning of this 4-hour event was live-streamed on the Sway in the Morning show. The man of the hour stepped out on stage and introduced his co-hosts to the streets of Oakland, hip-hop royalty Heather B and the charming Tracy G.
As I walked around during stage set-ups and intermissions, I checked out the Oakland vendors who set up merch pop-ups for the event alongside local charities spreading awareness about the services they provide to the community. The whole event was infused with a positive vibe.
“An event like this happening in Oakland and put on by one of the town’s own is a big deal, not just for the city but for me personally. “
The master of ceremony kept these positive vibes flowing as the festival moved along. He introduced many of his family members, friends, mentors, and coaches, acknowledging their contributions to his life. There was a strong sentiment of community and reemphasizing the idea that “it takes a village to raise a child.” The message was clear, Oakland as a community and the world as a whole is stronger when we stand together. When we are divided apart by racism, classism, and the various forms of manipulation tactics used to keep us down by the powers that be we are held back from achieving true greatness.
Sway spoke to the atendees about how much his upbringing in the richly diverse city of Oakland enhanced his life and what the people of Oakland and the Bay Area need to do to take care of our own and make sure we do not continue to fall prey to the gentrification taking place in our backyards.
There was so much more to the event than just this, though. Sway Fest also provided a platform for underground artists such as the Town’s own JWalt and rising stars like Rexx Life Raj, Kamaiyah, and G-Eazy to showcase their skills on the SiriusXM stage. Bay Area legends Sheila E, Mistah Fab, and Clyde Carson also slid through to show their support to Sway and the people of Oakland for holding them up over the years.
Not only was Sway Fest a celebration of all of Sway’s achievements over the years, but it was also a platform for him to share his passion for his home turf with the very people who also call Oakland and The Bay Area home. Sway Fest put on full display the rare magic and culture that is Oakland, California for the whole world to see.
In many ways, Sway Fest was a homecoming and Sway himself was the homecoming king. From the people gathered together in a 2 block radius, to the array of performers on the stage, to guest speakers who shared their own personal stories of what Oakland means to them. This event showcased the melting pot that is Oakland.
Days like today make me take even more pride in being an Oakland / Bay Area native. Sway is a prime example that no matter where you’re from or how hard you have it in life, you can make your dreams a reality and leave a lasting mark on the world.