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(EDITOR’S NOTE: outlook columnist D.A. Steward interviewed the famous and flashy hip-hop recording artist Cazwell last night on Queer Minded, an LGBT talk show he hosts with Deo Ramharrack on Talktainment Radio. Cazwell dishes on the truth behind his first major hit, “Ice Cream Truck,” reveals secrets about his upcoming album, “Hard 2B Fresh,” whose release date was recently pushed back to summer, and unveils plans for his appearance Saturday night at Axis Nightclub.)
D.A. Steward: How did Cazwell become Cazwell? When did you first know that making sexy gay-centric dance videos was what you wanted to do with your life?
CAZWELL: It certainly wasn’t a strategic plan. I used to be in a group called Moreplay and I started off my career in Boston, during the electro clash era. We called ourselves a fag-dyke rap duo. We were rapping and out and gay before YouTube. We broke up in 2002, and I went solo right away. Shortly after that I was signed to Peace Bisquit. They got me a record deal for an EP with West End Records, one of the most successful disco labels of all time. Because I was signed to them I got access to their catalogues and therefore could use their samples, which I used for “All Over Your Face” and other songs on the “Get Into It” album.
On the “All Over Your Face” video I was working and involved in the West Village scene. I did a regular party called GoGo Idol. So my whole life was centered around go-go boys and sleeping around, so that’s what my video ended up looking like. (Laughs)
When I did “Ice Cream Truck” for the movie “Spork” which was written and directed by my friend J.B. Ghuman Jr., he really wanted an original song that sounded really easy, light and ‘80s, so I did the song seriously in 45 minutes. My whole point of view was, no one’s going to listen to the song, it’s going to be in the movie for like 10 seconds, it’s not even going to be on iTunes, no one’s even going to know it’s me. (Laughs) So let me just give the client what he wants because he’s my friend. I did it real quick, it was catchy, it was cute, it was really different for me. I was working with mostly house music before that. Then my manager was like, “You haven’t dropped a video in a few months, just take over an ice cream truck and have fun with it.” And using go-go boys is the oldest trick in the book for any party, so I didn’t really find it any different for any video.
We shot the whole thing in my apartment. Every background is literally a piece of fabric and I painted my living room walls Mexicana Rose. The whole theme was, we’re just a bunch of boys hanging out in an apartment, kind of like in the movie “Kids.” There’s no air conditioning so we’re just home hanging out in our boxer shorts. But this was my life. I literally didn’t have air conditioning. I literally didn’t have enough power in my apartment to run the air conditioning and the refrigerator at the same time. (Laughs) … I found an ice cream truck by luck and we just hung around it and shot everything in one day. No one got paid. We were all just friends in the same scene and worked in the same clubs together.
DS: Have you ever been surprised by your success at all? Because there definitely was a time when what you do just couldn’t be done on the level that you’re doing it.
CAZWELL: There’s so many amazing kids coming up now, like Mykki Blanco and Le1f, that are really putting a stamp on gays that rap and are performing in hip-hop. Thank God for the Internet. I’ve personally always been a singles artist. I’m either getting gigs left and right or… It’s just up and down, you never know. I think every video I drop is going to change everyone’s life and everyone’s going to love me. (Laughs) But it doesn’t always happen that way. For me the point is to stay on the road and don’t stop putting out music.
Deo Ramharrack: What is your inspiration? How do you create such interesting lyrics for these songs? CAZWELL: My friends are really funny. A lot of times I’ll just write down things my friends say. Or I’m always around drag queens that are reading each other and queens that have some type of opinion. But nothing really inspires me like a deadline. (Laughs) Like my manager sending me a beat and saying we need this right now!” (Laughs) My main focus is always make sure I have a single or a video out that I can push.
I actually have a new song that I’m bringing to Columbus called “Guess What.” Luciana is featured on it. She’s got a song called “I’m Still Hot” and she’s had a lot of No. 1 Billboard hits. And she’s got a great voice. We hooked up and we did this track and we shot a video for it in [Los Angeles]. The whole video is just me and her. There’s not like seven go-go boys or anything. (Laughs) It’s action packed, it’s very different. It’s coming out this spring and will be the first official single off the “Hard 2B Fresh” LP, which I’m hoping will be out this summer.
DR: So how can people audition to be a go-go boy in one of your videos? Do they have to look a certain way, because Dwayne and I are really interested in auditioning. [Dwayne’s note: Dwayne was NOT interested in auditioning.]
CAZWELL: Thank you for asking! Actually, right now, I am looking for guys that look good shirtless, that will do guy-on-guy swing dance. (Laughs) This is seriously my search right now. They’ll be dancing probably in their underwear and swing dancing. … I am kind of obsessed with swing dancing and I’ve never seen guy-on-guy and I want to make that happen.
Whatever the video is, it has to do with the theme, for the most part. There are some videos where I need people who can dance professionally. Sometimes I just need hot guys that can move their ass. And other times I just need models. It just depends. But I’m always open to people who want to send me hot pictures and let me make a decision. (Laughs) … But if that’s your dream, to be in one of my videos, I’m open to making that dream come true. (Laughs)
DS: Tell us more about your latest project Hard 2B Fresh? Are fans going to get the quintessential Cazwell or will they hear something new?
CAZWELL: It’s definitely going to be a new Cazwell, where some people are concerned. … When people diss me on the internet, they typically say I’m untalented and I can just get hot guys together and maybe put together a catchy song, but I’m not a producer or lyrists. So I really wanted to prove to myself that I was. I didn’t really need to prove it to anybody else as much as I wanted to prove it to myself.
[The album is] called “Hard 2B Fresh” because it IS hard to be fresh. To have an album that you actually think every single one of your 13 songs is fresh and inventive and impressive, and a song that impresses me, is difficult. Everyone has fillers on their album but I didn’t want that. I wanted to love every song and be able to defend every song.
Queer Minded is a weekly LGBT talk-radio show airing live every Thursday at 8 p.m. on www.TalktainmentRadio.com. Join the conversation by calling 1-877-932-9766. (Listen to full archived episodes of Queer Minded here.)