Adrian “Shwaze” Collins only has four cares in the world: his unequivocally charismatic 3-year-old son, his current favorite strain of weed, his job at Brunch Gods and his music.

Shwaze, 29, was inspired to rap by Lil Wayne when he was in the seventh grade. By the 11th grade, he decided to fully pursue a career in music and has been a trusted voice in Baltimore’s underground scene since. Rocking stages and hitting the studio aren’t his only interests — he’s just as passionate about being in the city’s culinary scene.

In 2017, Shwaze and two fellow Baltimore artists and frequent collaborators, Mack Scott and Verze, formed the brotherhood known as New Wave Order. The collective works together on music, but most importantly, they support each other in times of need. This rang especially true when Shwaze lost his job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott is a founding member of Brunch Gods, a Black-owned Woodlawn eatery with unique dishes. The place was looking for help during a 2021 Juneteenth event, and Scott recommended Shwaze for the job to Kendall McKoy, the founder and original head chef of Brunch Gods. Now, a year later, Shwaze is Brunch Gods’ head chef.

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“I was constantly looking for something different prior to working here. Now that I’m here, it lets me know I’m on the right path, going in the right direction. It’s like, ‘OK, I’m where I’m supposed to be,’ because I’m really enjoying what I’m doing and I’m doing it well,” Shwaze said.

McKoy said he saw Shwaze’s dedication to the job right away.

“He’s a very hard worker. He put the work in. He was there every day those first couple of months, and it’s not like we had a B team or backups,” said McKoy, who has since retired from the kitchen and now tends to the business side of Brunch Gods. “Shwaze is the boy and Brunch Gods is his dojo.”

Kendall “Ched” McKoy, founder of Brunch Gods in Woodlawn, left, and Adrian “Shwaze” Collins, the restaurant’s head chef, pose for a portrait in front of their logo. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Shwaze remembers one of his proudest moments working at Brunch Gods. “We really had one lady come up here, like, ‘who made this?’ because I make the French toast so good. She’s like, ‘I should beat you up because this is so good.’ And she said she shouldn’t be eating it because the carbs and stuff, but she’s always in here.”

Adrian “Shwaze” Collins, Brunch God’s head chef, laughs during an interview with The Baltimore Banner. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Juggling his responsibilities as a head chef and rap artist is actually fairly simple for Shwaze. “I’ve had two jobs before. And even when I first started with McDonald’s, I was in school. I had high school, I had sports and I had the job, so that’s three different things that I’m balancing,” he said. “And I’ve always been able to make time and be there. That’s just all it is, just knowing how to make time. It’s small things like when I’m in the kitchen, I’m on the griddle rapping.”

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Ian “Rock”" Miles, vice president at Brunch Gods, poses for a portrait with head chef Adrian “Shwaze” Collins inside the Woodlawn restaurant on July 18. (Taji Burris/The Baltimore Banner)

When he’s not in the kitchen at Brunch Gods, Shwaze is in the studio cooking up his forthcoming “Braggadocious” project, getting back to his music after taking a hiatus when his son was born. “I’ve been working on that project for like, two years. And I kind of put it to the side just because the way Ryan was growing and everything, so I wanted to give him all of my attention,” he said. “That said, though, I got a single I’m dropping [in] August.”

Adrian “Shwaze” Collins, head chef at Brunch Gods, works on music in the studio. (Courtesy of Shwaze/Handout/The Baltimore Banner)

Ian Miles, Brunch Gods’ vice-president, believes Shwaze is an example of not settling for a conventional life.

“Instead of like, muddling through life just paying your bills and taking care of responsibilities and then trying to figure out how to jump back into your passions and dreams, you should be able to attack them at the same time,” he said. “I think that our generation is now finally figuring that out. Nowadays we got TikTok, YouTube, Spotify, Bandcamp — you got all this stuff that people can put their stuff on that actually work and feel like it’s working versus passing out mixtapes on the street, you know?”

Shwaze hopes his dedication to his music and his work at Brunch Gods will lead to a long music career and even more projects.

“When I first came here, it was just a job to get money, but, like, being around everybody, I love them to death. So I would put as much effort in here as I do with my music, and which I do. So we’re just all about to to elevate together, honestly. Both, my music and Brunch Gods, will be in different states soon enough.”

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Taji Burris has covered the Baltimore music scene since 2015 for outlets such as The Working Title and The 4th Quarter, and now at the Baltimore Banner.

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