The Greensboro, North Carolina native is bringing sexy back to hip-hop and in doing so bringing the realest parts of herself to light. The subversive nature of her work is powerful in how she empowers femme identity and sexuality, distancing it from the shame reinforced by society. "Hoeism is Feminism is Futurism," Buttah says. "HoFi is for femmes who have no problem using their sexuality to survive and achieve goals."
The lo-fi textures throughout HoFi recall late '90s and early 2000s music when femme emcees took the mic to talk candidly about their lived experiences and unabashedly about self-empowerment. Much like her predecessors, Buttuh is next level, singlehandedly shaping a new canon of hip-hop alongside powerhouses like Quay Dash, Rah Rah Gabor and London Jade.
OUT: You're in Miami, right now. What's going on there?
Chae Buttah: I'm in MIA working with Internet Friends, a trans collective based in Miami. The scene is wet as fuck and the girls are glowing in the femme spirit. I'm here for four days and it's going to be raining the entire time, but the positive energy here is making up for it.
What type of work does Internet Friends do?
They throw parties in the Miami queer scene. It's made up of graphic design artists and DJ's. They're entering the zine world and recently released the images for the first scene where I performed for the release party. It was cute as fuck. Picture me in Baby Phat, in a gold sequin skirt, performing in front of a TV installation including about 10 TVs stacked on top of each other surrounded by baby palm trees--so Miami. I also did a shoot for a later issue. I was introduced by a fan actually via the World Wide Web.
You in Baby Phat is a vision--so '90s and reminds me of a girlhood I never got to experience growing up. Does that inspire your style?
The art by trans and queer folk today is so next level. We are so creative and ahead of the time. Everyone's watching us. I love the '90s. Everything 1997-2000 is my favorite. Everyone was having fun and music videos were wet as fuck. My missed girlhood definitely inspires my style. In middle school and high school, my closet walls were covered in pictures ripped out from Vibe and Vogue. No OUT mags [Laughs] I was out, but not out at home. I lived with my grandparents. But yeah, lots of those pictures were Baby Phat, Roca Wear, Apple Bottom ads and high fashion ones like Chanel and Dior.
Talk more about 1997-2000. What was young Chae's life like?
1997-2000 was cute for me. I was in elementary school. I remember '97 vividly because that was the year I was introduced to cable and I was always watching BET. Cita's World, Word On The Streets and Rap City--it was lit. My mom was in her twenties, so I got to see her get ready for the club and I would try to go with her. In the early 2000s, I lived with my dad and he was a bouncer. I would go to the club with him and sit in the office while he worked if no one could watch me and my step sister. Sometimes my step sister and I would sneak to the front just to see what people were wearing.
Nightlife has always been a very subversive space, especially for the kids and the girls. Did this make you want to be an artist?
This didn't make me want to be an artist. I think it would have happened anyways because my family is full of artists and talented people. I watched a lot of biographies on artists growing up, it's almost like it was fed to me. Nightlife mostly made me want to indulge in the art of fashion more than the art of music. I used to help my mom get dressed for the club. She's gorgeous. I went to school for fashion merchandising, and everything I did revolved around hoe fashion or club fashion--It's kinda synonymous, I guess. Hype Williams music videos, Crime Mob and Lil' Kim made want to do music, though.
I got that name in high school. I was a MVP cheerleader and I was embracing my femininity as far as I could without getting in trouble. This is when I began buying girl clothes and mixing them in. I had a reddish-brown mohawk and kept designs on each side. The barber hooked my hair up so much that he put me in his hair show, but soon after being from a small town, a rumor started that we were fucking and he stopped cutting my hair. I started rapping at lunch and on the activity bus. That's when I added Chae Chae 3000, [and] then it went to Chae Nasty.
Chae is also a play off my birth name, Chuvalo. But Chae is me--I'm that fun, playful, sweet, sometimes innocent fly girl with a bitchy side. I think that shows in my lyrics. Chae is a lady, being raised in the South by women who were deaconess and church elders with southern class. I'm seduction. Even as a boy and flirting with male teachers, I knew I had the gift--the gift to make men drool, the gift of Sirens, Hathor and Cleopatra. I am love when it's warm and wrath when it's cold--a nice bitch.
Chae Buttuh is definitely true to this, not new to this. HoFi and its sexiness was inspired by a brief time in my life when I escorted. I don't escort now. I hate it. You have to take your emotion out it and just like any job forget your feelings--it's the customer that matters type shit. My main form of sex work was sugar babying. I've been a sugar baby for almost 10 years now. I've had multiple brief daddies, but I've always had a main. People may see it as a regular relationship but it's not. I met my main sugar daddy when I was 18, he was 42. He fed me, housed me, and really helped me a lot (He actually funds a lot of my touring).
It's a battle because from the outside it all seems good, but it's not always. I'm constantly worrying about when he may just stop and I'm left stranded. I think about that often, which is why I'm so driven. I want to be able to survive off my art and quit the sugar baby game. These men are so misogynistic. Me being trans means nothing. Men are men across ages, spectrums and they all treat femininity or feminine beings as pets or trophies. I've dated pastors to state legislators to retail managers and they are all the same. But I do what I got to do and music has been the best outlet for me to express my feelings about things in my life.
Misogyny is poisonous, but you resist this through Hoeism. "Niggas Be Hoes Too," in particular, is so timely.
[Men] treat trans women, cis women, and femme gay boys all the same in my eyes, which is why I hate when some cis girls say trans women have the upper hand because of what we once was. That shit means nothing. I've been femme and unknowingly trans all my life. I don't relate to boys [or] men. I don't know why they are how they are. Trans or cis, we all share similar, if not the same, experiences when it comes to men and their bullshit.
"Niggas Be Hoes Too" is a fan fave. I had to write a song that talked about how men do the same shit women get called hoes for doing and actually men hoeism is worse. Like I say, "He popular thug giving popular hugs/ You just had a baby with Briana got two kids with Deana." How many of us have been with men who have whole families? They be having like six kids and three baby mamas and messing with "the girls." I was talking to this one man and he had a newborn, showing me pics and all, like dude go home. Why you with me when your girl just had a fucking baby? "He be taking trips on the weekend/ Different hoe new season." This one guy would tell his girl that he was on a business trip when he was literally up the street with me. It just blows my mind. Men are the biggest of hoes.
What's something you want to express in the music that you haven't?
A track that addresses transphobia is definitely in the works for my next project. It's very necessary to call things out through music because that's the time most people listen. I've been wanting to express love more, though. As much as I hate the trade, I still love them. And I love black men. I feel like black men get the short end even from trans women. The community has painted black men as the number one predator against trans women, and yes I'm aware of trans killings, but let's not act like white men are innocent. It just reminds me of the classic "fear of the black man" tale and I'm not here for it. I hate men all day, but black men have been much more respectful to me than white men.
Our experiences as trans and femme people should not be conflated. Loving black men is a spiritual, political and erotic commitment for me, and I find ways to still do so even when they fail me. Is there anything else that you would like to add to the conversation?
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