Photograph by Felipe Abe
The world is a mighty complex place these days - as it ever was. At least as time passes, we're able to become more and more open and able to celebrate the banquet of diversity that we are as a society in 2009 than we were in 1959, or even ten years back in 1999. It's this very diversity that allows us to become ever richer - culturally, creatively and personally. Not to mention perhaps rich or famous or at the very least, bestow you a few freebies from fashion designers.
A perfect example of this is Luke Caswell - you can call him Cazwell. We first heard about him as the rapper who released hit single 'I Seen Beyonce at Burger King' when he made an appearance on the cult series RuPaul's Drag Race. There, he helped the final three queens lay a track on RuPaul's single 'Cover Girl'. To our delight, we heard that he was going to be playing one of Sao Paulo's parties du jour, VAI! to celebrate their first birthday (parabéns!). So of course we got dolled up and dropped by to have a - admittedly on our part, a wee drunky - chat with the straight talking and totally pin-up worthy Cazwell.
He was refreshingly candid, forthright, down to earth and the epitome of a professional - boy was there to WERK, and werk his modestly self proclaimed 'two left feet' he did. Acutely aware of his reality and unapologetically true to himself, Cazwell proved not only that he isn't simply another novelty on the scene but further more, that he's actually an ambassador for change in the most practical and unpretentious ways possible.
CAZWELL: Ohh you have a gap in your teeth too!
C: Yes! It means we're going to be as rich as Madonna.
R: And you'll start adopting black kids.
C: I already did! I adopted you, a child of the third world.
CAZWELL: My boyfriend's black, well he's like half. Half black and half white.
C: I read that you said the hip hop scene in Boston was really prejudiced against you and that they had all these preconceptions - can you explain that a little bit?
CAZWELL: It was definitely a different time when I started. It was ten years ago when I started my career, and I'm 32 - see how I just aged myself? - but whatever, I don't play by the rules, I'm gonna be doing music for the rest of my life so...
Anyways, it was right around a couple of years before Eminem came out and music in general speaks for it's environment. Boston is a very conservative environment, very old money, there are a lot of big fancy schools there. So people that rap there try to prove their knowledge, try to impress with 2 cent words and shit. I mean, one of my first songs was called 'Bong, Hits and Grits' and it was about eating munchies and smoking weed. I've always just came from the point of view of just trying to be funny. So.
C: Do you still find that's the same kind of environment now? It's 2009 now.
CAZWELL: Guys are guys, I think it's still the same thing as far as, well, straight people don't really roll with gay people - well, straight guys in hip hop. They don't admit to it, you know.
C: I really wish someone would come the fuck out. Can you drop any names?
CAZWELL: Um......I wouldn't..........
C: Of course...
CAZWELL: But I would say that I know of the biggest rappers -
IM//UR: WE KNOW WE KNOW!!
R: KANYE WEST!!
C: NO! We can't say that on record in the interview!!
CAZWELL: Okay, I'm not gonna say yes or no, but I am gonna say that one of the biggest rappers in the world right now, does trannies.
C: Check it, we're going off the record right now.
C: And back on the record, I'm saying to Cazwell, "Same shit, new stink."
CAZWELL: That's a great line. Like, we're getting support from gay people and gay bands, and all these people have come out like, Beth Ditto...It would be really powerful if there were people who could really influence people on the polls. Like that's my focus and division of the chore. That's what I'd really like to do. I mean, I love Cyndi Lauper and how uncontrived she is onstage and I think she's a great singer and I was honoured to be with her and to meet her, I really hope to work with her and stuff.
I just think that if you're really trying to change people's minds; these kinds of people have already made a change. They already have gay support and supporters. But for instance if Ozzie Osbourne, had like, said something about having a gay sister or something, that's how we really make a difference, when we really break the stereotype. It's not even that it's okay to be gay, but that it's okay to be cool with gay people. That's the real step.
C: When people think of change, they often think far too much of things in terms of black and white, or straight and gay -
CAZWELL: Yeah, like in the extremes.
CAZWELL: I'll tell you, like for instance, I've had to work on a song with all these other gay artists, and the whole reason why we're coming together is cause well he's gay and he's straight, and she's gay, she sings and you're gay. To work with someone solely because they're gay is just as bad as not working with someone cause they're gay. It's the same shit to me.
C: Same shit, new stink.
CAZWELL: Same shit,
C: Does it bother you that people focus so much on that side of things? Surely music should just be about music, whether its gay straight black white, whatever the fuck?
CAZWELL: When people are like, "So what's it like being a gay rapper? Is it hard?" and all that, I understand where they're coming from because it'll be their first time having the conversation, and maybe sometimes it's frustrating, y'know, answering the same questions, but imagine how frustrating it would be if they never talked about it. That would probably make me react in an opposite way. There are changes happening though, even Howard Stern talked recently about how gays should marry and stuff.
C: Were you pro Hilary or pro Obama?
CAZWELL: I was pro Hilary. I really felt a personal connection with Hilary. I really honestly felt without any bullshit down the line that she is working for the people. I truly felt that. Okay, I do believe that the world would be a better place if women...let me just put it like this...
C: Don't censor yourself please!
CAZWELL: I'm not censoring myself, I just want to put it into the right words. I am truly a believer in the fact that the majority of the world's problems revolve around a universal lack of respect for women. Like that's the core of all of it. And that's not even me taking a hit of acid and coming to this epiphany or anything, I've always really thought that. If women made more decisions, they could be in charge of the consciousness of the planet. And you can always tell how a community or region is going to react to gay people by how they react to women. Like if they stone women for adultery, then for sure they're gonna hate fags.
R: Talking of women, how's your relationship with your mother?
CAZWELL: I haven't gone to visit her in a long time, but I finally finally finally went to her house in Dudley, Massachusetts last month. I had a really boring time, but I needed boring. Boring is good.
C: Boring can be totally good for you sometimes.
R: When she needs boring, she comes to Brazil! And during of these boring times, we discovered Ru Paul's Drag Race -
CAZWELL: You've seen me on it?
IM//UR: YES!! We've been trying to find and download Bebe's song!
CAZWELL: You know what, everyone's been asking me about that!
IM//UR: "FACE FACE FACE FACE!" Where is it?
CAZWELL: They actually came in to work with me in opposite order, Bebe was the first one to come in and I thought, this is gonna be a piece of cake. Because she was so prepared and stuff. I really liked her.
C: We love Bebe! Why didn't they release the song? We found RuPauls' album, we found the single with all the remixes, but we couldn't find the track with Bebe, or Nina, or Rebecca Glasscock -
R: I don't like Rebecca.
CAZWELL: You know what, Rebecca - oh...
CAZWELL: People have a preconceived notion of Amanda Lepore because she's glamorous and they think she's a snob or whatever...
R: I would say that.
C: Hmm I don't think I'd say that. Your preconceptions are different from mine, but I would say that she would be really cool just because she's been able to do what she's done so far. All of that takes guts.
CAZWELL: I'm a much better person from being friends with Amanda. I love her. Her album is so sick and that's why it was so easy to work with her - well, we're both water signs, she's a Scorpio, I'm a Cancer...And really, I'm telling you, the reason that Amanda Lepore is a star, is because she appreciates everything she has. And that is the truth.
She was unhappy all of her life - until she had a pussy. She was depressed, on drugs, tried to kill herself; then she got a pussy and now she feels like she has nothing to complain about. The thing with all the biological women, who take that for granted, that they're in the right body, dya know what I mean? And she's not one of those people who moved to New York, tryna be a star, tryna find whatever. Like all these things, literally came to her because she stayed in the moment. She's in that type of consciousness that welcomes good energy. And it's not like she's all bohemian and lights incense or anything like that, she's all about glamour and she's in her bubble, and focuses on what's important to her.
And while the rest of the world is focussed on swine flue or whatever, she's all worried about getting the last rhinestone on her dress before midnight.
C: If we're all being real though, that's the kind of thing that actually matters in lots of people's lives. For Amanda Lepore, it's the last rhinestone on her dress. Honestly for me today, it was getting my make-up done right before coming to this party.
CAZWELL: Oh I know. I sewed this myself.
IM//UR: Shut up!
CAZWELL: I bought this for ten dollars and I sewed this. And she was like "Oh you should just make some stuff." And I like sporty bling, like sportswear but a little more showy so...
R: Your trousers are great too.
CAZWELL: These are Patricia Field, and this is how blessed I am, I swear to god.
C: Are your sneaks Nike?
CAZWELL: These are Christian Dior.
R: Sorry Nike! Christian Dior in your face!
CAZWELL: I did not buy them, you know, $180 is a lot for a pair of sneakers for me. I was honoured by Christian Dior and Kris Van Asche. It was the Ritz Paris, where he asked me to do an afterparty for his show...and then he sent me a fucking tuxedo and these shoes. And I do not take that for granted, I remember what I paid for my train ticket to go up the country to do a gig to get paid $50, and even here, someone flew me to fucking Brazil. I am BLESSED. And that's why I'm happy and Amanda definitely taught me a lot about appreciating what we have.
C: You don't have a day job do you?
CAZWELL: No I just do parties and I DJ.
C: So whats the future for Cazwell?
CAZWELL: My near future plans are to scoop up enough money - did you hear my single tonight? My near future plans are trying to get that video done. And my far future plans like, are that I want to records three more albums. And basically, I just want to be a legend in five years.