GIRL TALK: Shooting the Breeze with Gay Rapper Cazwell
Those crystal-clear blue eyes. That swagger. The impossibly catchy videos that make you want to dance (and maybe touch yourself) for days. How could you help but love Cazwell? Lucky for us, the gay rapper/songwriter/producer/sex pistol is back on the proverbial scene with a brand new single, “Guess What?,” and a video to match, starring electro princess Luciana. Even luckier for us, he’s coming to Philly this weekend to perform it at Tabu.
This will only be Cazwell’s second time doing a show in the 215, so I rang him up this week to get a feel for what he had in store for us. From there the conversation took an inevitable turn toward his collaborations with Amanda Lepore and Peaches, when his album, tentatively titled Hard 2 B Fresh, will be out, and I asked him about what he looks for in a man so all you Philly fellas can step up your game for a possible rendezvous. Apparently he’s single and “ready to spicket.”
(Gulp … )
I’m just fucking with you.
Bummer. So what will you be doing this weekend at Tabu?
Thanks for asking. I’m going to be unveiling a new outfit from designer John Renaud. It’s a skunk-themed black-and-white look … a little Pepé Le Pew action. It’s cute. [Renaud] works a lot with Peaches and makes a lot of stage clothes for me.
Sounds cute. Are you going to rap, too?
I’m going to perform my new song [“Guess What?“] and probably “All Over Your Face,” “I Seen Beyoncé at Burger King,” “Ice Cream Truck,” “Rice and Beans.” I’ll feel out [the crowd], you know.
When did you start rapping?
I started rapping when I was like 18 and started doing shows when I was 20. I didn’t start my solo career until I was in my late ’20s.
What were you doing between your late-teens and late-’20s?
I moved to Boston to start my career in the group MorPlay. Then I moved to New York in 2001 and got started with the electro-clash scene. I didn’t get solo until 2004 …
Who are some of your inspirations?
My earliest inspirations were the Beastie Boys … I definitely wanted to be the fourth member. You know, I fagged out, too. I’m still a big Madonna fan.
What do you consider your big break?
I think I’ve had a lot of little breaks that I wouldn’t overlook. Getting signed to Peace Bisquit was a big deal, because [there] I learned about song arrangement. Plus, Peace Bisquit is really big in the dance world, so I was able to start getting beats from them. And getting signed to West End gave me access to [the label’s] disco catalog, which gave me songs like “All Over Your Face,” “Watch My Mouth” and “Get Into It” with Amanda LePore. I think my first big solo leak, as far as social media is concerned, was “All Over Your Face” … It went viral at the time and … it was my first [Billboard] charter. It solidified me and got me a stronger fan base as a solo artist, a stronger touring base and helped me be able to raise my ticket prices [laughs]. After that I’ve tried to make sure to keep it going by dropping a video every six months if possible.
A lot of your videos are super provocative. Do you think that’s one of the keys to your success?
I don’t think all my videos are provocative. I try my hardest to make sure the video matches up with the song. If it’s a song called “All Over Your Face” and it’s about jizzing on somebody’s face, then the video’s going to be a little provocative. But it wasn’t that provocative. There were hot boys in there, but it was more about the dance beat and more of a documentary approach as far as where the club scene was at the time. But songs like “Tonight” and “I Seen Beyonce … ” are more related to what the songs is about. If the song is about hot Latino boys in New York City, then it’s going to look like “Ice Cream Truck,” but if it’s just me and Luciana then it’s just going to look like me and Luciana. I typically — like most human beings — do things about sex, food and money, so that’s typically what my videos seem to portray.
How did you meet and come to collaborate with Amand Lepore?
We had been in the same club scene for a long time, so knowing each other was inevitable. She saw me perform live once and called me a couple weeks later and asked me to perform for her birthday party. Since then … you know, I wrote “Champagne” for her … and then we started working together after that. She’s definitely one of my favorite people. I think she’s a songwriter’s dream come true, because she has a very interesting life and a very interesting point of view.
Are you guys good friends or is it more of a professional relationship?
We don’t like watch TV every other night and split each others’ split ends, but we’re really tight. We do a lot of our catching up when we do shows and tour together.
Who are some of your other favorite collaborators?
Working with Peaches was nothing less than an honor. I started doubting if I was cool enough to do a song with her, because she’s just so fucking cool. She’s one of those people that, even to this day, I’m like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I did a song with Peaches.” It doesn’t seem real. It was definitely a magical experience — the moment when she sent me her vocals and I listened to them a cappella. Just hearing her do a hook that I wrote … her voice is so bad-girl, you know. People can say whatever they want to me, but at the end of the day I can say I have a fucking song with Peaches and they don’t.
You just released a song with Luciana. What was it like working with her?
Luciana is a big energetic ball of positive energy. We never even met until the day before we shot the video [for “Guess What”], we just went back and forth through email … when we were making the song. Then we met in L.A. when we had a show together. We got along really well, we’re both cancers, both creative water signs and we just clicked right away — a very natural chemistry. I think that shows in the video. We got along really well. Her voice is just sick’ning. She definitely has one of my favorite voices to hear on the dance floor.
I know how you and Amanda Lepore met, but what’s she like in a working environment?
Amanda’s … definitely one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. She has a really amazing life. I love working with her because … well first, she’s a really hard worker, she perfects everything. She’s the kind of person that if you get to know her, you’ll learn to have more respect for things, you’ll learn to take things for granted less often. Amanda’s story to me is that …. all she ever wanted in life was a [va-jay-jay] and she got it, and ever since then she’s been the happiest person in the world. Nothing can bring her down. She just always wanted to be a girl and now that she is, she has nothing to complain about.
Who are some of your dream collaborators?
Kanye West is probably on the top of my list. I just think he’s the epitome of the ultimate artist. I’m always impressed by him and I love his new album, [Yeezus.] I’ll also say Missy Elliot is at the top of my list. She actually follows me back on Twitter, I have bragging rights on that. She’s rad and a huge inspiration for me. I have nothing but respect for her.
You have a new album coming out soon, right?
God knows when the release date is, but there will be a new album out. But right now my focus is on the main single, “Guess What,” which just came out last week.
What’s taking so long for the album to come out?
That’s a good question … We’re trying to get the perfect mix of songs. There’s a lot of back and forth going on … I’m working on like five different tracks with five different people. It’s just about done, but once [that happens] it takes preparation before you start pushing it publicly. The other thing is that I’ve been a singles artist for so long that I’m so used to [focusing on one single.] I’ve always been the kind of artist who focuses on a song rather than pushing a whole album. So I’ve just had to change my state of mind .. to take a break from whatever single I’m pushing to focus on this album. That’s hard for me to do, because I never want to fall off people’s radar.
So what is it you look for in a song that you know is going to make it a hit?
I think all my songs are going to be good. I always think they’re going to change the world and everyone’s going to love me and my show’s going to sell out. … But ultimately a good song is a song that people remember. That’s the goal I go for — a song that people dance to even if they don’t know it. I try to test it out when I DJ. When I played “Guess What?” people were dancing with it before then even heard it, so I knew it was time [to release it].
How involved are you in a song’s video-making process?
I’m 100 percent — 110 percent of that process. I micromanage everything. I let go a little bit for the “Guess What?” video and just let [director J.B. Ghuman Jr.] go where he wanted to go with it. But for the most part I’m micromanaging the whole thing.
What’s your ultimate goal? To make it more into the mainstream?
Making money. [laughs]. I definitely want to be in the mainstream as far as people knowing about me and buying my music and selling a lot of units on iTunes. But ultimately my goal is to have shows that people show up for and for people to continue to be interested in me and to keep getting people’s attention as an artist and as a visual artist. I just want to be able to do this for the rest of my life — working with music in some capacity. The fact that I do music now and make a living off of it is nothing less than a miracle.
What’s life like when your’e not performing?
Watch TV. Go to the gym. Watch Judge Judy. Walking my dog. Sleeping.
Do you have a boyfriend?
Nope. I am single, honey — ready to spicket.
Think you’ll pick up a man while you’re in Philly?
I’m not against it. I had a really cute hook up when I was in Cali last week, so anything can happen. I don’t go looking for it, but if it happens …
What kind of man do you like?
I like guys with a sense of style in some shape or form — even if it’s not my own style. People with their own confidence. That’s a turn on for me. And I like guys who are whores in bed. I like brown eyes.
I’ll be sure to give Philly’s brown-eyed boys a heads up. Oh, one more question … did you really see Beyoncé at Burger King?
No, honey. She don’t go there. The whole thing happened at the time that Britney Spears was at her craziest, when she was at Taco Bell every day and all the paparazzi was following her. No one could really tell if they were stalking her or if she wanted to be stalked. Beyoncé is the epitome of beauty and perfection in society, so the image of her even being at such a lowbrow place is just kind of funny. I just think the song’s funny. Just to put her in that place … I just think it’s hysterical, because, you know … she’s fucking Beyoncé.
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