How long can someone sit on your face before the novelty wears off? With no fewer than 17 trashy club-kid tracks, hipster homocore rapper Cazwell’s latest album, Hard 2 B Fresh, offers one hell of a smegmatic opportunity to field-test that question. His first album since 2009’s do-over debut, Watch My Mouth, is indeed a lot to get your mouth around, a suitably engorged pu-pu platter from an artist who wrings every drop of maximalism he can putting the “broke” in “Brokeback.” Cazwell has often been tagged a gay Eminem, but while his aggressively nasal delivery, perma-pubescent sexuality, and willingness to make himself the butt of the joke would all seem like clear analogues, the Worcester, Massachusetts rapper is selling an entirely different set of goods.
Whereas Eminem’s humor was merely one of the many ways he would articulate his bottomless reserve of violent rage, Cazwell’s aggression represents nothing more (and nothing less) than the most overt contemplations possible from a man who really, really enjoys the taste and smell of sex with other men. Specifically men from the 718. It isn’t plain explicitness that distinguishes Cazwell. It’s the unabashed gratification he gets from inviting listeners inside his head as he’s getting head. When I reviewed Watch My Mouth, I wondered, “Should I be concerned that the only thing Cazwell won’t admit to being, as far as I can tell, is a bottom?” I now realize that I was undervaluing the transgressive rhetorical value of a 24/7 top.
The major sea change here is that Cazwell long ago dropped the retro West End Records samples that helped put him on the map in favor of faster, trendier, EDM-ier beats (or, in the case of “No Selfie Control,” a thinly veiled interpolation of a much newer disco vamp: Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”). So at least in terms of the musical context, there’s less incongruity now within his odes to peen. There is, however, a new measure of dissonance between the “I Buy My Socks on 14th Street” cheap-jackin’ street cred Cazwell once flexed and the comparative glossiness of his productions.
Rather than deny the contradictions, he frontloads them. “Dance Like You’ve Got Good Credit” is, in a nutshell, the booty-bass corrective to Dolly Parton’s immortal aphorism, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.” “Use that phone like it ain’t prepaid, wear those clothes like they ain’t eBay, watch that flat screen like it ain’t on layaway,” Cazwell exhorts in defense of everyone who puts red tape on the soles of their Payless pumps and dines regularly on grilled cheese and tomato soup. He fetishizes thrift, and on a related note, it’s a goddamned breath of fresh air that his arsenal for equality includes only sex positivity and nothing so insipid as Macklemore’s presumptuous “Same Love.” Nope, Cazwell’s strictly a “Got my balls slapping on your chin again, for longer than Gone with the Wind again” man. If that doesn’t put a pin in the state of hip-hop parity circa 2014, I don’t know what does.