Exception to the rule


POSTED: Friday, January 30, 2009

HE DOESN'T claim to be part of the hip-hop generation, but New York City's Cazwell can rhyme like a champ.





        On stage: 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Place: Hula's Bar and Lei Stand


Cover: $10


Call: 923-0669



He definitely has the swagger necessary to represent the Big Apple, often rocking thick gold chains and posing shirtless in pictures on his Web site. The video for his 2006 single, “;All Over Your Face,”; begins with Cazwell sporting a bandana and holding a can of spray paint.

The track also illustrates the fundamental difference between him and just about everyone else in hip-hop. An abundance of shirtless men, drag queens and thinly-veiled references to something very naughty in the video make it pretty clear that Cazwell is one of those guys who enjoys the company of other men.

“;I probably wouldn't fit most people's definition of being in the hip-hop culture anyway,”; he said last week. “;Straight people in hip-hop don't really roll with gay people.

“;I'm sure there are some exceptions to the rule, but it just doesn't happen.”;

  WHEN CAZWELL first started rapping, he thought hip-hop might accept someone like him if they just gave his music a chance.




MySpace: Cazwell

YouTube: Cazwell (Video)



“;No one ever said anything to my face about (my sexuality),”; he said. “;But at the time, it was my goal to gain acceptance.”;

Born Luke Caswell, he grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Boston in the '90s before heading to New York City.

He arrived prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a period when electroclash had emerged as a subculture. Cazwell said those first few years in the city changed his state of mind and instilled the belief that he could “;just do what you do and have people find you.”;

And even though he was only a few hundred miles away from his hometown, the move transported Cazwell to a different world.

“;Rather than try to fit into a crowd, I moved to New York and was surrounded by all these true artists,”; he said. “;It takes away some of the stigma of being weird.”;

In 2005, Cazwell signed with West End Records and started work on his debut EP. Despite the cult success of “;All Over Your Face”; within the East Coast gay community, the release sold a little more than 2,000 copies before the label decided to pull its support.

“;That CD never even got in stores,”; said Cazwell. “;But I always feel really good about what I have in the moment ... I still have my live shows, and I'm always working on other stuff.”;

  LAST YEAR, Cazwell hit the clubs with “;I Seen Beyonce at Burger King,”; a catchy pop tune that recounts a fictional series of events involving Jay-Z's wife.

As the title implies, he first sees Beyonce in line at Burger King, but Cazwell shines throughout the track as he describes an incident the next day at JC Penney's and yet another run-in at a record store. Like so many other songs on the radio, “;I Seen Beyonce ...”; is so silly you can't help but sing along during the chorus.

“;I heard she likes the video,”; said Cazwell. “;(Beyonce's) not an easy target, either ... she's like a living legend.

“;But to think you saw her at Burger King? That just sounds funny!”;

While some might consider the track as a blatant ploy to crossover with mainstream listeners, Cazwell sees nothing wrong with producing music that's easy to dance to. He was reminded of that after giving up alcohol a few months ago.

“;You can't be sober in a club with (junk) music,”; he laughed. “;Right now, people want to dance more than ever ... I could DJ and throw on some Lil' Wayne and people will feel it, but people really want to hear Lady Gaga now.

They want to get footloose.”;

Cazwell hopes to get people dancing this weekend at Hula's, with appearances planned at the club on Friday and Saturday. Friday will see him perform a full set, while on Saturday he's scheduled to do a few songs and then jump on the decks.

During recent trips to California and Texas, Cazwell claimed to see a growing number of straight fans at his shows. The diversity was nice, he said, but warned against thinking he'll tone things down in order to gain more fans.

“;Maybe it's part of being gay in New York, but sex is a regular thing that people make jokes about,”; he said. “;It doesn't seem like a big deal to me.”;

Still, the thought of breaking down barriers between the gay and straight communities and forcing people to reconsider what they consider to be hip-hop music appears to give Cazwell the motivation he needs to keep pressing on.

“;When straight guys go to a club to see you ... that's when I know I'm changing the world,”; he admitted. “;And it really is working.”;