Let's play a game: Meditate on the word "hip-hop." Um ... Is "gay white rapper from Massachusetts" the first thing that comes to mind?
Probably not. In some ways, Cazwell, who performed at Lux over the weekend, is the complete opposite of what we typically see in the rap game. But he keeps it real by rapping about what's on his mind and never making apologies for offending someone along the way.
With his summer smash, "Ice Cream Truck," getting tons of buzz (and almost three million views on YouTube), Caz blew up in a big way. And so, Crossfade cornered him to talk about his origins, famed tranny Amanda Lepore, and advice for new artists.
New Times: I heard this is your first time to Miami. How are you liking it so far?
Cazwell: I love the architecture. Everyone has been so nice. I love the climate. It makes me jealous. I love the boys. I'm a city boy by heart. I'm used to a harder environment. But at the same time, I am like, I wish I could live here two weeks a year. I just don't drive!
From your video, I can tell you like the boys down here.
You're a gay white rapper. I have to know how you got started.
I'm originally from Massachusetts. I was in a rap group called Morplay and I used to rap with this butch dyke named Crasta. We met when we were 13 and we were rapping right away. But we didn't take it seriously. When we were 18, everyone we knew was in a band. It was really punk rock in Massachusetts and people would go to house parties with kegs in the woods and we would all just bob our heads to the music. We had to move to Boston because I knew I had to get out of there. I would go to New York every weekend with my CD and I met (producer) Larry Tee. It all kind of started from there.
I love everything you have ever done with Amanda Lepore. Can we expect anything from you guys soon?
We have an EP coming out this month. One right before Halloween, so look out for that.
How did you two get together?
We were in the same scene. We both worked at clubs. She saw me perform for her birthday. I remember at the end of the night, she was sitting on top of booth and holding a glass of champagne and I just remember thinking she looked so perfect. I had never seen anyone look so glamorous, so I went home and I wrote "Champagne." I told her, "I wrote this song for you." And then we got to together and wrote "My Hair Looks Fierce" and we started touring together. She is just a huge inspiration to me. She is the most beautiful and interesting person I have ever met. She is a really good person.
She really is a fascinating person in general.
She is really, really fascinating. When you're writing a song with a person with such a strong point of view who has something to say and stand up for, it is ten times more powerful than someone with a huge voice. That is what I like about her. The thing about her is that she doesn't think she has anything to complain about because all she ever wanted was a pussy and she got it. And then so many things started coming because she was happy with what she had. She didn't ask for David La Chapelle or anything. It goes to show that if you appreciate what you have, then good things will come to you. She has made me a better person and artist from just being her friend.
Your recent song "Ice Cream Truck" is a huge hit. Why do you think that is?
I think that people don't like to think so much, so I purposely wrote a song for retards. It was summer song. Visually for the video, I think it made a big difference that all the boys were smiling. Because sometimes when you see a guy that looks a little more thug or street, they try to keep it all down. But working at clubs with go-go boys, I knew the ones who smiled were more approachable and made more money. I knew I wanted them to smile. It made people smile and turned them on.
Your songs are original to say the least. What drives your music?
Some of my best work comes from a simple state of mind. Sometimes it takes more effort to make something simple than something much more complicated. Like with "I Seen Beyonce," I was just like in the zone. I couldn't have done that if I was sitting down, writing a song. Sometime it's hard not to take yourself so seriously, but you have to learn to do it.
What would you say is your inspiration?
Food and alcohol. I'm always a little lit when I write these songs. Sometimes it's random. Like again for "I Seen Beyonce," Jonny Makeup is naturally fucked-up. He doesn't drink or smoke. He went on with this 20-minute monologue how he met Beyonce at American Apparel and I didn't know if it was true. But I just thought it was funny that Beyonce was in public shopping for herself. This was when Britney Spears was in Taco Bell all the time and the paparazzi was chasing her everywhere and I thought it was funny to think of Beyonce there. Like if I said, "I saw Britney at Taco Bell," people would be like, "Yeah, me too." And also I love Beyonce and she does nothing wrong. She isn't a party girl. She thanks God after all her awards. She always looks great. She is the idea of perfection and beauty. You can't hate on her. To think of a situation where she would ask a stranger for $10 was funny. The song was about food, but really it was just funny.
To be honest, you seem really humble. Are you pretty psyched to be doing what your doing?
Totally. When I first started, my idea of a tour was that I would save up money for a plane ticket and go to San Diego and take a train to Seattle and hit up clubs and I would sleep on couches. No one knew me and I would make a little money for selling CDs. And now people are paying for my flight, putting me up in a hotel and giving me hot meals. You cant take those type of things for granted.
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What's your advice for new artists?
I have learned that if you keep doing it, you will get somewhere. You're not sure where, but you will get somewhere. Amanda will say that to me all the time, "God, I'm so glad we're not waiting tables. You're singing about ice cream and making money." Be humble. I have friends that don't think that way and have a much more diva attitude, which can be detrimental. If you don't appreciate what you have, you can get wrapped up in all of this.
-- Stacey Russell