INTERVIEW: S.M. Luke on Being Pegged a Gay Rapper, New Music, and Nicki Minaj
Writers and singers morph: there’s no doubt. That’s why S. M. Luke (formerly known as Steve Cizzle) is hyped about the premiere of his new track that he’s launching at SugarHouse Casino’s The Candy Shoppe, an all-gay variety show that supports MANNA. I had the chance to chat with him about his new music, his inspirations, and his recent run-in with Nicki Minaj.
G Philly: I know people have classified you as a “gay rapper,” which is kind of unfortunate because you’re a performer first and foremost; your sexuality shouldn’t be a descriptive to your work. However, you’re not the only gay rapper out there—are there other gay artists who you admire?
S.M.: I almost don’t want to answer this question, but I might as well since I know I will likely be asked it again as more people discover my music. I’m a gay man and a rapper, but I don’t identify as a “gay rapper” because it’s not a necessary term. It’s limiting and marginalizing, and almost antiquated in 2014. I’m a rapper, period. I could ask you what it feels like to be a gay writer, but it would be a dumb question. I think people get hung up on the “gay rapper” thing because rap and homosexuality combined aren’t two things that the mainstream is completely used to yet, despite the fact that there are other non-heterosexual rappers out there. As for other rappers that happen to be gay, I absolutely respect them for putting themselves out there, because this isn’t an easy thing to do, but I really don’t identify with any of them artistically and sonically. I shouldn’t have to name other gay artists to establish who I am as an artist. Because I honestly can’t name anyone else that sounds like I do, rapping about what I rap about, gay, straight, or whatever.
G Philly: What is the biggest change to your music? I know you are dubbing your upcoming performance at SugarHouse as new material.
S.M.: The first track I’m performing at Candy Shoppe is new because no one has heard it yet, online or in person. It’s going to be my first official single that I’m putting out, beyond the freestyles that I’ve been sharing online over the past two years or so. It’s produced by Mitch Branson, and it’s a little different than what I’ve recorded before because it involves more of an electronic, dance beat. But it still also has a harder, urban feel that’s more of my usual preference. I like Mitch’s style because it’s a bit darker and sexual, which are usually how my lyrics turn out.
G Philly: What initially inspired you to perform and what role does performing play in your own life?
S.M.: I actually hadn’t even thought about performing when I started writing. I was happy with writing and recording music and just letting the material speak for itself. I decided eventually that this is something I should share with people, and performing is definitely a necessary part of getting my music heard. I’ve found that it gives me an opportunity to channel something that I usually can’t express in my daily life.
G Philly: If you could make an album with any five artists, who would they be and why?
S.M.: In terms of producers, I’d love to collaborate with Timbaland and Pharrell. I know that sounds like such a typical answer any rapper would say, but I pretty much grew up listening to songs that they’ve produced for other artists, so being able to work with either of them would probably make my life complete. I think it would be amazing to do something with Nicki Minaj. I met her four years ago backstage at one of her shows and I had a great moment with her where she looked me in my eyes and in all direct sincerity told me to keep up with rapping. It meant a lot to me, because she didn’t have to say that. She could’ve just signed her autograph for me and kept the line moving, or she could’ve just laughed it off like I was kidding about being a rapper. But the fact that she wanted to give me that encouragement, without even hearing my stuff, really resonated with me. If Nicki told me to do it, I had to obey her. No questions asked. So collaborating with her would be another incredible full-circle opportunity. I’d also love to collaborate with Nas and Jay Electronica. I pretty much worship them as lyricists.
G Philly: Picture this: you are able to make a living for the rest of your life by performing and creating your music. How does that change you?
S.M.: I have a non-music career that I’ve had for a while that I love and that I’ve worked extremely hard to achieve. I’m happy with my life. My music is just the icing on the cake. It’s my only true creative outlet. I’m not sure if I would want it to change my life because I’m almost hesitant to become any kind of public figure or celebrity. The loss of anonymity would scare me. Celebrities live crazy lives constantly being under the microscope of the public eye, and I would never want that. I think I’d be much more happy ghost-writing rhymes for other artists. But until that day comes, I’m gonna spit my own!