All's well that's Cazwell
Before Thrift Shop by Macklemore ruled the airwaves, comedy hip hop, with its lighter and more humorous style, was carried by several significant acts. In the eighties, the Beastie Boys rhymed how we all gotta fight for our right to parrrrty. They were followed in the nineties by Eminem who carried the genre into the millennium alongside artists like Eamon and Nerdcore.
While few rappers make comedy hip hop their focus, the genre has a substantial loyal following and has been a money-earner for a select few. Out hip hopper Cazwell earned his hipster credibility and fattened his wallet with a steady flow of hilarious yet danceable hip hop tracks, including "Ice Cream Truck," “Rice & Beans” and "I Seen Beyoncé At Burger King". His hypomanic take on pop culture helped him to rack in over ten million views on YouTube and sell over one million downloads.
This summer, he returns with the first single from his soon-to-be-released album Hard 2 B Fresh. With its horn-ridden electro beats, “Guess What?” is a slightly more serious direction for the rapper. Cazwell sheds his “Weird Al” Yankovic skin for a more Missy Eliot vibe, proclaiming his greatness, or rather, his hawtness, through smart-ass rhymes and the help of vocalist Luciana.
Who is hawter than a chili pepper these days?
I was just saying the other day that I think Bruno Mars is totally hot. He's like the perfect pocket straight. I'd hit it.
Is it true you have a man crush on Kanye West?
Very true. I say that because of his talent. He’s one of my favorite rappers of all time. Love his new work.
What’s up with your Judge Judyobsession?
Judge Judy is the smartest person alive. I watch her everyday.
Have you always enjoyed showing off your body?
Yes definitely. It all started when I was working at an East Village dive where hosting in your underwear was mandatory. Of course, you have to monitor your body if your shirt is going to be off. I try to stay in shape now. For the most part, I enjoy being healthy. It's rewarding. If my body is in shape, I find I'm in a much better mood.
Would you ever pose full monty for pics?
No. I like to leave something to the imagination.
Madonna posed nude in photos… just saying.
Yeah, I know and everyone knows I love me some Madonna. She changed the game and I give her all my respect for that. OK, I suppose if I were offered an obscene amount of money to pose nude, I wouldn't say no.
Growing up, were you a cool kid?
I was bullied, especially by the jocks in the school. I was flamboyant and fashionable. I hung out a lot with high school dropouts in the goth and drama scenes. Out of all my close friends, I was the only one to graduate high school. It was too difficult for my gay friends to make it through, from all the abuse and crap that they got. I didn't start to like high school until my senior year.
How would your young self view the big gay rapping star you are today?
I would think that I'm fuckin' awesome. I always knew I wanted to be a stage performer. I was inspired by artists that put on great shows.
Any artist in particular?
I learned a lot from Peaches. I think she's the best live performer I've ever seen.
Do you have many young fans?
Yeah, younglings love my music! I have parents come up to me at shows all the time to tell me how their six-year old daughter loves "Ice Cream Truck" or "Beyonce at Burger King" and sings it all day.
How do you describe your sound?
Whether its Hip Hop or EDM, I like to make music that people can dance to. My goal is to create beats I would play as a DJ. The new album has a lot of sounds going on but ultimately you can play the whole thing through at a party.
What themes are you exploring in your music?
For the most part, the theme of my music is a gay guy living in New York City. I hope I make music that is relatable to most people. I find if people can identify with the music, it has more power.
What is it about expressing yourself through rhymes that appeals to you?
I've always been attracted to the power of rhyme. Even when I was a kid I would memorize Shel Silverstein poems and act them out for the old ladies in church. I don't think it's any coincidence that magic spells are in rhyme form. When you write a good set of bars, it's very empowering. I went through a serious break up this year and did a lot of rhyming lyrical therapy. It definitely helped.
Sadly, I am.
You sound like a lover scorned. Were you cheated on?
Damn. Have you been reading my journal?
Being cheated on is really bad on your self worth, especially when you love the person. I actually take monogamy seriously when I have a boyfriend. I enjoy being in a relationship. It's a job, but if I decide to take it on, I strive to be good at it. I'd rather have one person I can trust and be a freak with than dip in a bunch of dudes.
Wow, so Cazwell believes monogamy is the ideal?
Loving yourself is the ideal. But, yeah, everyone seeks a partner, I think.
Do you mind being viewed as a sex object?
No I love it. Might as well enjoy it while I can, right? I honestly don't see myself as all that sexy unless I'm on stage. When I'm on stage I'm everything that I want to be and my most confident. I think everyone is sexy when they are doing what they love and that's the truth.
Is it important to you that people recognize the brains behind the brawn?
Yes! I think that's gonna happen with this album particularly. The only thing that ever really offends me is when people say I'm not talented, or that all I do is get hot guys to put in videos and that's why I got popular. Writing simple songs actually takes talent. I haven’t always been good at it.
Let’s talk Gaga. How did you come to work with her?
I rapped on a remix package of "Just Dance".
Was that before she was famous?
Yes, we did of couple shows together when she was promoting the album. I think she's really cool. She's the real deal. I remember when I met her at sound check at like 5pm on Avenue C (a street in the East Village of New York). She took herself very seriously and was flawless head-to-toe. Even though the stage was like 3 feet by 5 feet, she thought about ever angle of the show. The way she focused on it, you would have thought she was performing Madison Square Garden.
Tell the truth, did you think she would make it as huge as she has?
Yes. I did. I immediately saw potential in her as a pop artist. "Just Dance" was a great pop song. That record got so much burn and everyone was requesting it. I did question if the public was ready for such a fashionable person but it happened at the right time, just as high fashion came in. Remember when Rihanna and Beyonce were wearing all those crazy abstract clothes too? Perfect timing.
What do you think Gaga had that propelled her to superstardom?
Great songs. She gets so much attention for her looks but, in all actuality, if her songs sucked, no one would care. She's very good at arrangement and hooks and she can sing. I miss her. I hope she comes out with some new music soon.
Do you believe Christina Aguilera tried to rip off Gaga’s look?
Yeah, but she didn't even know she was doing it. At that award show, I'm sure her stylist just said "here..wear this!" and she did. I don't think that much thought went into it.
Last question, Cazwell. If you could wake up with anyone naked under your sheets… who would you choose?
Kanye West. But I hope he calls me back.
Cazwell’s “Guess What?” is available on iTunes now. Visit Cazwell.com