Post Rap/Hip-hop Futurist
Interview. Nivardo Valenzuela
Cover Photo. Diamond Dixon
VAFFANCULO MAG (VM): What have been your musical influences?
CHAE BUTTUH (CB): I'm influenced by so many greats. Missy Elliot, Andre 3000, Lil’ Kim, and Prince stand out most to me, but there's so many more.
VM: TRUST ISSUES: SO EYE-C VOL. 1. Favorite tracks from the mixtape: “F.N.G.M.” and “Shady Fhat”. You write about what you know. It’s about relationships, both personal and professional?
CB: All of the songs of TRUST ISSUES: SO EYE-C VOL. 1 are personal. Business and art can be messy, so I choose not to let professional relationships influence my art. And I can only write about what I know, if I wanted to rap about things I've never had or never experienced then I'd be an actor.
VM: Was the mixtape born out of what happened with the unfinished project LILAC?
CB: No, LILAC and TRUST ISSUES are separate. LILAC was to be an ode to my femininity. TRUST ISSUES is a fuck you to my ex at the time.
VM: You were formerly know as Chuvalo. In an interview, Zygmunt Bauman, a Polish sociologist, said about identity:
"You have to create your own identity, you don’t inherit it. Not only you need to make it from scratch, but you have to spend your life in fact redefining your identity.”
You have said that you don’t identify with neither female/male pronouns, that it’s not about her/him, but just Chea. There was a tweet a while back about you going into a recording studio and then other rappers/musicians just looking at you. What are the origins of (the name) Chae Buttuh? What do you identify with?
CB: Well first, CHAE BUTTUH, CHUVALO, CHAE… same person. CHAE is a nickname that I dubbed myself while in high school. Then I began using it as my name that I rapped under. It was Chae Nasty then lol. I used my government name, Chuvalo, when I wanted to start taking my art more serious, but people either can't pronounce it or can't spell it. So I decided to go back to what I know: CHAE. I really do love shea butter, like I can bathe in it if I could, so why not go by something I know and love.
VM: "Neo-trans", similarly "meta-trans" or "meta-gender." Where the tracks “Doin’ My Thang” and “Estrogen” part of defining who you are?
CB: It’s so funny that you pick those two songs, because I was actually thinking about how “Doin' My Thang” and “Estrogen” are like the blueprints to my style. I wouldn't say they define who I am; definitions can be so boring. The two songs more like tell who I am, it’s a story.
VM: In the Hot 97 interview with Azealia Banks, talking about Iggy Azealia, she brings up the notion of cultural appropriation and smudging. Then house producer Derrick Carter found himself thinking how often he draws similar “conclusions to the commodification of house music,” which also happened with dance music, “a genre born out of a largely [black/latino], largely gay club scene and ruthlessly expunged any lasting sonic evidence of its birthplace.” Can you still be white and be a very good rapper without having to appropriate and giving a minstrel performance of blackness?
CB: Eminem capitalized off being white trailer trash, so yes you can be a good white rapper without black appropriation.
VM: Within a more global context, for example, Yung Lean, a Swedish rapper, his image is a mixture of different styles/cultures, without necessarily the blackface. Just like there are African-American internet musicians based in the United States who are visually influenced, have an an affinity with Japanese anime, incorporating such aesthetics into their brand. Seems as though taking elements from other cultures and remixing are part of our globalized experience enhanced by social media platforms and content readily available for consumption from any part of the world.
You’ve also pointed out that gay rappers need to be heard more than are being heard at the moment. And definitely, more need to be heard. There’s a growing number of queer rappers, for example, Mykki Blanco and Le1f. The sonic experimentation being produced by this wave are audibly refreshing. The producers who you collaborate with, are they also gender-non conforming?
CB: I work with a perfect mix of queer and straight producers, but I don't know if any are gender-non conforming. I do believe that queer music in general needs to be heard more, but I don't work with producers based on their gender/sexuality. I just want to make art, and if I feel like that producer has what I'm looking for then I'm down. Never limit yourself when it comes to art.
VM: The sounds of this “queer rap” movement could eventually be commodified in the same manner as house and dance music. You comment on the “artistically privileged stealing from the artistically gifted.” You also mention that if these mainstream artists need help creatively, why not hire artists like you? When you say mainstream, who are you referring to?
CB: And that's what I hate. Labeling all music by gay artists as “house/dance” is the same as labeling it as "gay rap". Why can't it just be rap, or even better post-rap/hip-hop. I'm referring to mainstream teams, the everyday people behind the scenes surfing, not any mainstream artists in particular because 8 times out of 10 they don't know any better.
VM: You’ve commented: “We are so in the dawn of the technology age… I wish I could be here to see its height.” You follow up with: “Technology has already changed us in so many ways as humans… creatively… socially… and sexually... evolution is too real.”
There has been a growing consciousness of the dynamics of our biological (evolutionary) development and technology. Recently, As Jason Silva put it in his essay "On Transhumanism and Why Technology Is Our Silicon Nervous System":
"Technology is how we impregnate the world with mind, it is how we extend the reach of our consciousness…”
“To be human is to be transhuman. We subvert our limitations with our engineering prowess. We literally think up new possibilities into existence."
For you, what have been some of the most impressive changes?
CB: It would have to be how we communicate. Carrying a conversation is like a lost art. Before we had text and social media people had to talk on the phone and if someone wanted to know how you were doing they had to reach out to you. Now all we have to do is go to your social url and see whats up. It’s creating a more visually expressive society. Everything does a full circle, I believe centuries from now with technologies on high we will no longer need words―just noise and pictures. This will somewhat take us back to the use of symbols/codes/emojis/hieroglyphics.
VM: Recently, Kurzgesagt (In a Nutshell) released “What Is Life? Is Death Real?”, a short animation video that at one point describes biological cells as protein-based robots, drawing a closer parallel between evolution and technology. How do you see evolution and technology developing in the future? Do you think we could become a biotechnological species? With extended life?
CB: Like I said previously, definitely the more use of symbols which is how computers process. We are basically teaching ourselves to think like computers. I do think we will eventually find ways to extend life through technology because immortality is something humans have always wanted, and as we evolve we get what we want.
VM: Could you explain further the thought process behind: “Discover your inner-net to perfect your IRL” “Who’s your inner-net provider… I hope it’s self and no one else.” (Can totally see these words turning into the lyrics for a song by the way).
CB: I watched this futuristic animation movie called Strange Frame and it really had me thinking about how eventually, through evolution or government regulation, we will all be connected to the internet biologically or through a chip implanted at birth. That's very scary to think about because this could create one way of thinking (which is already happening through social media) and everyone will be the same (which can also be seen through social media). We need to connect to our own "inner-nets" and find our own voice in the world through our own views on life.
VM: Lastly, as a hip-hop artist, what do you envision for the future?
CB: I envision a hip-hop artist to be more than just music. There are so many more aspects of hip-hop, like poetry, painting, fashion, and dancing, that get overlooked and that hip-hop isn't credited for. I'm a hip-hop artist like you would classify Andy Warhol as a pop artist. I do way more than rap; I draw, digital, design, and style, I plan to begin painting too.