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It's not easy breaking the notoriously homophobic hip-hop world as an openly gay musician, especially one whose lyrics flaunt said sexual preference, but up-and-coming artist Cazwell is slowly but surely carving out a place for himself by redefining what it means to be a rapper.
I met up with the Justin Timberlake look-alike at his manager's modest midtown office to talk music, men and the importance of moisturizer.
JULIE: Is it kind of annoying to be asked about gay culture instead of about you as a person?
Cazwell: I’ve sat down with some people who don’t know what else to ask so they go for that angle. What’s it like being a gay rapper? I don’t think of myself as hip hop because then I would have to follow the rules of hip-hop and one of the rules is you can’t be gay. You can’t be gay and out.
There’s so much speculation about who gets with guys. How do you feel about that?
The bottom line is being gay isn’t a bad thing. So when you out someone, it’s kind of like telling on them, and it’s as though they’re getting in trouble. If I was to say that so and so is gay -- and there are people that I know -- then I would be treating gay like a negative. For it to be treated as a positive, someone has to come out and say it for themselves. I’m just trying to prove with my music that you can be gay and out and make money. I don’t think the industry is homophobic as much as afraid of not making money.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on finishing up the album that’s slated to be called “Hard to Be Fresh.” I’m really hoping it’ll come out for summer time. I just finished my new video for my next single called "Rice and Beans" and I’m really excited about it. It’s about hot Latin guys.
How do you balance touring with being in a relationship?
We have a monogamous relationship, but he’s really good in bed and I’m not bored. When I met him he was a go-go boy slash barback (in his underwear) at Boys Room where I used to work. We’ve just been through a lot and I can’t get rid of him really. We’re really compatible. If I was bored on any level then I’m sure we wouldn’t be together. But I enjoy being in a relationship because I can get myself out of any situation by saying I have a boyfriend or a husband or whatever I want to call him.
Do you ever find that groupies try to get in the way or are people respectful?
Some people are respectful and some people aren’t. I’m really nice, but if someone crosses the line with me I’m really good at letting them know. I was telling my friend the other day, I think I kind of enjoy the sexual tension that happens when I can’t sleep with somebody. I have mixed feelings about marriage. I try to take it one day at a time. I think that’s why it lasts.
You and your man have tattoos for each other. That’s commitment right there.
Definitely, but then they represent that there’s a lot of love in my life and someone who cares about me. Mine is on my arm; his is on his chest. If he sleeps with somebody, I’m gonna know about it. They’re gonna tell somebody at brunch.
You're often shirtless in your videos. What do you do to stay in shape?
I’ll definitely fall off the wagon when I'm not working. I really like sugar and Thai food and shit. Now I’m finding that I don’t have time to be off the wagon.
What pills and vitamins do you take every day?
It’s really important to have a fat soluble vitamin C and a water soluble vitamin C so that your skin cells stay hydrated and protected. Take a really good multivitamin, vitamin E. I drink as much water as I can. I’m not as good as I should be about it. But before a video, like before "Rice and Beans," I looked better than I’ve ever looked and I think it’s because I stopped eating meat. I also think that coconut oil is really good in your diet and on your skin. I’m really big on body oil. Olive oil I’ve done for a while, and I just switched to coconut oil.
On Twitter you compared not moisturizing to an act of self hate. Can you elaborate?
I need something with sunblock. I like Shiseido. I can trust anything made in Japan. Shiseido eye cream. I do oil right when I get out of the shower. It’s really important to protect your hands. I would say coconut oil. My boyfriend is staying with the olive oil. You just need an oil.
Follow Cazwell on Twitter @CAZWELLnyc.