Why MTV’s Sway Calloway Cut His Dreadlocks

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The G-List is TheUrbanDaily.com’s annual celebration of 40 influential men from various walks of life who define what it means to be a trendsetter with style in their field.

Sway

Name: Sway

From: Oakland, CA

Occupation: TV Host/Producer & Radio Personality

Affiliations: MTV & Sirius’ Shade 45

Sway uses one word to describe his experience working in this industry: humbling. Juggling a very successful career in radio, television, and the music industry over the last twenty years will do that to anyone. There are highs and there are lows, and Sway is thankful that he’s been able to reinvent himself more than once. What started out as a rap career segued into a legendary radio show with his partner King Tech, and eventually landed Sway an opportunity to diversify the look of MTV when he became one of their television personalities.

Comedian TMor: “Every Time I Get Dreadlocks, I Go Broke” [EXCLUSIVE]

Now, as he continues to rep MTV, executive produce television programs, and even host Shade 45’s “Sway in the Morning,” he is still evolving, especially his style. Read on to find out what inspired him to begin growing his dreadlocks almost twenty years ago, and the very personal reason he had for parting with them.

We’ve seen you go from wearing suits to wearing t-shirts and jeans. To having dreads and then not, your look changes often and has throughout your career.
If I was doing all these real organic, in the ‘hood trenches type of coverage, my attire reflected that. Most of the coverage I did; going to Compton with Game, Marcy with Jay-Z, it was important that I had gear that was fresh, whether it was Air Force 1s or a fly hoodie with some nice jeans, but I didn’t want to be too flamboyant. I never wore jewelry. I never wore the trendiest things. I didn’t want to stand out because of my clothes, but I didn’t want to be a bum. It was important that I wore tailor-made suits when I did the Red Carpets. When I interviewed Obama, I made sure I wore something that was politically correct. Paid attention to the color, because different political parties have different colors that reflected their party. I always wanted to stay neutral. I was conscious of that.

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How would you define your own personal style?
Now I find a happy medium. I step it up a lot more than I used to. I keep it right in the middle. You may notice the t-shirt, and that’s all I really want you to notice. Pay attention to the work I’m putting out. I think I’ve established a certain level of recognition. It’s more about the substance of what I’m doing. If I’m doing something like moderating a panel at a political convention, I’m having MTV get me the best suit possible.

Was your decision to grow dreadlocks a calculated move in terms of defining your own style?
When I first got my locks in the 90s, people didn’t understand it. I’m from Oakland. People used to laugh it. I have Rastas in my family. I was studying the principles and beliefs of Rastafarianism. It didn’t dawn on me that there wasn’t a lot of people with ‘locks who worked in the music business. I became easily identifiable. What I brought to the table had nothing to do with my hair; it had everything to do with us being innovative and creative with the radio show and the concert tour. We knew what we were doing. It just so happened that I had ‘locks. When I first got to MTV, it just seemed like the locks is all that people identified with. For me, it was fun. They’ll never see me coming. They’ll never know where it’s coming from. But the foundation was already laid before I came to MTV. The ‘locks became a part of the brand. And I let it. I rocked it. I made it work for me. Sometimes I wore them down, up, the scarf, the hat. People used to always ask ‘what’s under his hat?’ But it’s nothing really but nappy hair.

What type of maintenance did the dreadlocks involve?
When I had the locks, I had a cousin who helped me maintain them. The locks were so big, a lot of times my cousin would wash and shampoo and condition my hair for me, and maintain them from the root. If you don’t maintain [them] from the root, as they get longer and heavier, the roots gets thinner. I had someone else who did that also.

It was shocking when you cut them. Like, a whole new Sway. Let’s talk about that. What barber had the honor of cutting off Sway’s dreads?
I cut my locks two years ago. My older sister did it, the day we buried my father. My father was a homeless dude. I had only met him once in my adult life. In the final weeks, I had to groom his body to get him ready for the passage. Part of that was cutting his locks off, and his locks had gotten real nasty. Something moved me when I saw how much I resembled him. And I told my sister to cut them off. We laughed about it afterwards. Them shits filled up a shopping bag. It looked like a dead wolverine in a motherf**king shopping bag. The first time I washed my hair after that, that shit was heaven. I was scrubbing for like an hour.

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