Gay hip-hop artist turns the tables on video sexism
by David Goldberg
On July 30, Vue Nightclub hosted rap’s gay pioneer, New York superstar Cazwell. The juicy artist and his male backup dancers have gained infamy for packing each music video with kitschy lyrics and tight bodies. The audacious and never-serious star talked to OutSmart before his show came to Houston.
David Goldberg: Courtney Love remarked that she was amazed by your show. How does that feel?
Cazwell: I love Courtney Love and I really admire her. She’s definitely entertaining. I thought that she was really genuinely passionate about how much she liked me. It always feels good when someone you admire gives you their approval. She wanted to talk to me after the show, which was cool. And she looks great!
It’s a good year for her.
She looks really good. She didn’t look all surged up or anything. She looked all natural.
Who are you collaborating with now? Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
I’m doing some collaborations with Peaches, which I’m really excited about. She’s like a hero to me. Besides that, I really hope I can collaborate with Das Racist. I really like their work. There’s a lot of producers, like Jesse Novak, and Diplo. Count De Money. There’s a lot of people I’m excited about. But Peaches is definitely number one on my excited-to-work-with list.
Rap and hip-hop videos have long been morals battlefields in terms of sexual exploitation. Your videos often feature men’s bodies in the same way that other videos feature women. Is this your revenge, or just an inversion of the norm?
Oh, they’re [definitely] exploited. [Laughs] It certainly wasn’t intentional. It wasn’t like, “If you can do that with women, I can do it with men! Take that!” I don’t think about things in terms of making a political statement, because that usually gets watered down. I just think of what kind of video I want to see, what kind of video I want to make, and I just make it. It wasn’t until after making them that I was like, “Oh, this is kind of like a gay version of a hip hop video in the way that there are guys shaking their asses.” This is a bubble that I’m in and the world that I’m in. I work in gay clubs. That’s what I know. And go-go boys are the oldest trick in the book. I didn’t have to think too deeply about it, you know?
But it was a fun video shoot, with all the cute boys.
Yeah. Not to mention they are all cool people. We are all buddies.
You are aiming for the music that you know. You are in the gay scene. Are you looking to expand, or to keep focusing on the gay world?
I want to expand. I know this sounds corny, but music really doesn’t have any boundaries. There’s no reason why straight people can’t love me, too. Gay people can identify with me—particularly gay men. But I have straight fans, too. A lot of straight people love “I Seen Beyoncé at Burger King” and other songs.
Has Beyoncé seen “I Seen Beyoncé at Burger King”?
She didn’t call me up or anything, but I know she’s seen the video and she thought it was funny. She said she liked the part where she’s looking at all the food that’s surrounding her.
There’s been controversy with your own videos. Is it hard breaking through?
Not really. Sometimes you just have to edit it or make a different version. Sometimes there will be a different version on iTunes and on YouTube than the one that’s accepted by Viacom. I think it’s always going to be that way.
You were a guest on the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Any plans for returning?
I would love to. I really like RuPaul. We follow each other on Twitter. She’s really cool. She’s been very good to me. So I hope I’ll return. I love that show! I’m a reality-TV junkie.
Dormer gymnast and now-DJ Brandon Triche hopes his new musical project has a special niche in Houston’s LGBT nightlife. It may even provide some necessary relief.
“I sometimes get a tad frustrated with the gay scene only playing music like Britney, or Madonna, or Rihanna,” Triche says. “Being gay, I [naturally] love all of these artists, but I would also love more variation. That’s the bridge Dirrty Max is aiming to fill. We don’t stray too far away from them, but [we try to] keep it more interesting.”
DirrtyMax is an all-original dance EP that’s set for release on August 25. It’s the first collaboration for DJ Metro, also known as Guy Sutton, and DJ Triche. For these two out gay DJs, it’s a project seven months in the making.
Though Triche has been spinning since 2009, his original notoriety comes from his time as an openly gay collegiate gymnast early in the last decade. He even published memoirs on the subject, titled Balance: The Life of a Gay Gymnast.
Both DJs guarantee that their music can appeal to all audiences, but will probably catch within the gay community. “It’s made for everyone,” Sutton says. “But there will be a definite recognizable gay edge to it.”
The EP should have a more contemporary sound that strays from the booming diva vocals that are now expected at many gay clubs. “It’s music for the young,” Sutton insists, “music to definitely shake your ass to.”
Sutton and Triche are both Houston natives and have had extensive experience performing and circulating through the Houston scene. Triche has performed for many community pool parties, parade after-parties, and at the Bunnies on the Bayou brunch. DJ Metro has spun at events for the Bayou City Boys Club, AIDS Foundation Houston, and the Montrose Softball League. He recently had a residency at Bronx Bar.
While DirrtyMax promises to be a powerful union, both artists are keeping busy with other projects. DJ Metro (djmetro.info) lives and performs in Houston. His podcast, Metrocast, was scheduled to launch in late July. Triche (djtriche.com), who has recently relocated to Fort Lauderdale, is pursuing other solo projects and collaborations.
Should DirrtyMax be considered gay? “The first track is currently called ‘Bottoms Up,’” Sutton says with a laugh.
No further argument necessary.
David Goldberg is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.