Gay rapper Cazwell knows his market — and he’s happy to serve it
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Executive Editor
If you’ve been in a gay club in the last five years or so, chances are you know who Cazwell is. Long before even Frank Ocean or Fly Young Red, Cazwell was the gay rapper — an urban party boy with killer tats and a muscular build whose catchy, goofy raps delight listeners and especially viewers with his cheeky sense of sex appeal.
“I like playing Texas in general but Dallas in particular — I always feel the love,” Cazwell says in a voice equally tinged by Noo Yawk and Worcester, Mass. — “the trashy area,” he says. He’s bringing his flirtatious musicality back to S4 on Feb. 14 for a concert. “S4 has been like family for me. I always get a lot of love from there and a receptive audience, and that’s all a performer really wants. I don’t know what it is. I think the people in Dallas really just like to party so if you bring a good energy, they are definitely [receptive].”
Anyone who gets as much attention for going shirtless as Cazwell does would naturally attract a particular fanbase, so it’s no surprise the rapper is now venturing into a new enterprise: Underwear designer.
“I’m working with Geoffrey Mac — they made a clothing line for Sharon Needles and Adore Delano — because an underwear line has been a dream of mine,” he says. “Gay men who buy underwear will love my designs — I think a lot of bottoms are gonna love it, especially those who like to show off their asses. The briefs are comfy and were inspired by my ‘Ice Cream Truck’ video.”“Ice Cream Truck” was Cazwell’s breakout video, a racy explosion of abs and asses in creamsicle pastels that blew up online in 2010.
“I think the video was so popular because it was the first of its kind — people had not really seen videos in which the men were objectified,” Cazwell says. “It was tongue in cheek. And it was a year before people started zeroing in on gay rap.” And it almost didn’t happen.
“‘Ice Cream Truck’ was the first time I didn’t even try,” he admits. “I always want [a single] to be a hit, but [in that case], I was asked to write a song for a friend who was making a movie. He wanted something super, super cute, but I was being really lazy about it. He said, ‘Make the beat really childlike, like an from an ice cream truck.’ I was in the studio and so resentful and only had 45 minutes left [of recording time]. I thought, ‘No one is going hear this or see it — let’s just do it.’ So I came up with something really stupid.”
That was in June, and he thought that would be the end of it. But then his management wanted him to drop a video in time for the July 4 holiday. “They said, ‘Just grab your friends and make a cute video.’” The only thing he had ready was “Ice Cream Truck.”
“We shot that entire thing in my apartment. Me and my boy Marco both throw gay parties in New York, so it was second nature to us that go-go boys would be a part of this. It wasn’t a particularly booty-shaking song. It was on the brink of corny, but so cute you forgot how corny it was.”
It became a huge hit. Since its release, the YouTube version of the video has received more than 4 million hits. It really helped put Cazwell on the map. And it also taught him a lesson.
“I had another video that I thought, this is relatable to mainstream and gaystream. It sounds like what people are playing and it runs really well on the dance floor. But it didn’t get the reaction I wanted from my demographic … though at least I have a demographic. So what I learned is, if you don’t care about what’s hot and what people are listening to, but just be yourself, you have success.”
Sometimes Cazwell admits, though, that he has been pigeonholed as the gay rapper who does sexy videos. He says that’s not really true.
“It may seem like whenever I do a sexy video I only have only boy dancers in them, but sometimes I go away from the boys,” he says. “The next three songs I’m dropping, though, are sexy themes in the realm of gay porn, which should make my demographic happy,” he laughs. “I want my videos to look like the song sounds — funny with a little bit of a story. For [the song] ‘The Biscuit,’ — which I will be performing at S4 — I went into the video with a different mentality. I’m not gonna worry about what people are wearing … I mean, I like nice asses bouncing around. But I also want guys that can really dance. Hopefully the video will be done by Valentine’s Day.”
That’s the day Cazwell will be performing in Dallas, which raises a question: How does his boyfriend feel about him being away on the quote/unquote “most romantic holiday of the year?”
“It’s complicated what I have right now,” he says. “I don’t think he’s gonna be jealous … which makes it more complicated.”
As much as he raps about love and relationship, Cazwell confesses to mixed feelings about the holiday in general.
“I don’t feel any more pressure on Valentine’s Day than I do on a regular date night,” he says. “I think it’s a lot of bullshit anyway. Most of these holidays where designed so we keep the economy going. I think it is nice and cute especially when a couple is celebrating their first Valentine’s Day together, but by the fourth it’s like, ‘Oh, god — can’t we just order take-out this year?’ Valentine’s is just a good reminder to buy something for the person in your life. I’ve always had a lot of breakups around Valentine’s. I usually hope it’s a couple of days before, so I don’t have to waste money on a present. Right after Thanksgiving [through Feb. 14] is the best time to break up to save on presents — unless we’re the same size, then I just keep it for myself.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 6, 2015.