Rapper Cazwell mixes disco and debauchery into late-night club sounds.
Cazwell has never seen the former lead singer of Destiny’s Child eat a Whopper. But he’s betting that a song called “I’ve Seen Beyoncé at Burger King” from his forthcoming album Get into It (a full-length version of the 2006 EP, due in stores October 29) will make him a household name among listeners both gay and straight. “I’m telling you it’s going to take over the straight world,” he says. “I know it’s going to do well ’cause I can feel it.”
His own hubris aside, anything is possible—especially when you consider how many straight people start forming letters with their arms every time they hear the gay anthem “YMCA.” But to assume that same audience will grab onto an out and outspoken rapper from Worcester, Massachusetts, who mixes disco-era beats with lyrically X-rated gay exploits, is a pretty mighty assumption.
Not that anyone on the Kinsey-six side of the spectrum doubts him. When Cazwell burst onto the scene last year with his breakthrough single “All Over Your Face” (sung in part by It trannie muse Amanda Lepore), queer clubgoers happily lapped up the disco-driven anthem with its ebullient references to Times Square hookers, cheap sex and all-night cocaine binges. They’ll have a chance to do so again Thursday 27 when Cazwell plays Berlin.
While he’s found a niche—at least among devotees of New York’s East Village nightlife scene, where he also deejays and hosts amateur go-go boy contests at the fun and sleazy Boysroom—he’s still got work to do if he’s going to take his act beyond Alphabet City. First, he’ll have to convince the struggling record biz that a white-boy rapper who also happens to be gay is its next Holy Grail. Second, he’ll have to prove that gay sex sells. He already has a few choice words about the latter: “I’m just like any other guy, gay or straight,” he says. “I think about sex 2,000 times a day and so that comes through in my work. If gay people can deal with straight people talking about pussy, shouldn’t we assume that straight people have the intelligence to do the opposite?”
However, while Cazwell may be all over our faces lyrically—“And if I want it I get it / I eat that ass like a cannibal,” he sings—in real life he downplays such frisky behavior.
“There is an alter ego that comes to play that I guess I never really thought of until kind of recently,” he says. “Magazines ask me what the best sex parties are to go to and I’m like, ‘I don’t do that.’ They’re like, ‘Really? But you’re Cazwell.’”
Granted, it’s no surprise that sex moves records. Audiences of mixed orientations and races, for example, jumped on board when a certain hip-hopper named Sir Mix-a-Lot rapped and raved about giant badunkadunks. But an East Village club kid who ryhmes is a different story, not that Cazwell considers himself a rapper.
“I don’t think of myself as hip-hop or rap,” he says. “And if I did, I would have a lot of limits to what I could do. I probably started rapping ultimately because I can’t sing, and maybe if I could sing, I would’ve gone down a different road.”
Maybe that’s a good thing. Cazwell’s success is due in part to his fusion of rhyme and remixed disco, a direction he started moving toward when his first label, West End Records (he recently signed to Avatar), gave him access to all its disco classics. Songs like “Watch My Mouth” and “All Over Your Face” (which is a reinterpretation of the 1980 Loose Joints song “Is It All Over My Face”), sample West End’s back catalog and have given Cazwell the opportunity to distinguish himself from his contemporaries.
We’ll find out soon enough whether he’s poised for global domination. In the meantime, anybody interested in switching out “YMCA” for Cazwell’s “Sex That I Need” at your next relative’s wedding?
Cazwell plays Berlin Thursday 27.