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Shea Couleé Releases ‘Crème Brûlée,’ Talks Azealia Banks and The Vixen

Chances are you’re still gagging over the looks Shea Couleé served in Drag Race’s ninth season. From his construction worker look to his iconic club kid look, he served it every week on the runway.

Now, Shea serves great music too. Last year, Shea released the dance hit “Cocky,” and now he’s back with “Crème Brûlée” a dance-rap bop that slapshard. Shea spoke to INTO about his musical influences, a potential Azealia collaboration and what he thinks of fellow Chicago queen The Vixen.

When you first came out with “Cocky,” the video was completely in black and white. This video, by contrast, is extremely colorful and bright. What made color the right look for “Crème Brûlée?”

I never really thought about it in those terms! I had originally planned on doing “Cocky” in color, it just so happens that the video looked sicker in black and white. Besides, my video to my song “Feeling So” off the EP, which was also directed by Vincent, had a very colorful neon and day glow color palette. Our biggest goal was to play with monochrome visuals.

Your director, Vincent Martell, has worked with a lot of queer artists and you’ve worked with him before. Can you talk about why you two collaborate so well and why you brought him on?

Vince is fam, so it’s a no-brainer. I have known him since before the inception of Shea Couleé, and I have always admired his creative vision. We have similar personalities, and we just get each other. Him being a black queer man operating as a creative in this world gives him similar experiences to create a safe space for me. And he loves Popeye’s so I really do trust his taste level.

You use several famous Azealia Banks lines in the song like “Make hits motherfucker/never do it for free” and “suck a d-i dick.” Can you talk about how Azealia Banks influences your musical taste?

Totally!

This was the first full-length song that I’ve ever written, and five years ago when I wrote this song, I was just so inspired by her. We actually were in the talks to collaborate this summer, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out. I thought about removing those lines when it came time to remaster. But looking back on it, I felt sentimental and decided to leave it as an ode to her. I hope she likes it.

There were once rumors that you’d be on a track together. Are those still happening?

We shall see!

Who are some of the other major influences besides Banks on “Crème Brûlée?”

Def Lil’ Kim, Nicki, and Foxy Brown.

Can we expect a full album from you any time soon?

To be honest, I’m not sure. I’m still really trying to discover my sound. And for the time being, I’m enjoying working with producers, and feeling out what vibes feel right to me. I honestly could release an album with the collection of songs I have, but nothing feels special enough. Not yet, anyway.

What are some other directions you’d love to see your music go in after “Cocky” and “Crème Brûlée?”

I’m releasing another single this summer that I think will really let people see another side of me. I’m nervous, because it’s not a dance track. But I have a few up-tempo features coming out soon as well, so I thought it would be cool to switch up the pace a little.

Are you watching Drag Race Season 10? At INTO we‘ve been talking a lot about the Black queens on this season and how The Vixen has spoken about the racism in the fandom. Have you been able to see any of this season?

RuPaul’s Drag Race is my favorite show, so you know I’m watching. I love the representation of black girls on this season, it’s really moving.

Do you agree with The Vixen’s read on Drag Race’s fandom?

Well, I can’t comment on Vixen’s experience because she and I have had very different journeys. On the topic of racism in the fandom, though I have had a remarkable encounter with them, I have also been the target of race-based hatred from said “fans.” That being said, I won’t make generalizations about them as a whole, because I know how that can negatively affect me, so I choose to try and not do that with others.

What I think is important to remember however is that racism isn’t something that is always active. It can be very passive and it’s stitched into the fabric of society. Vixen is exposing those threads, not as some fine tailor methodically removing each top stitch, but she’s tearing at the seams like a punk anarchist with wild abandon.

She’s polarizing. But that’s a good thing, because it starts dialogue about important things.

You and The Vixen are both from Chicago. Did you know her prior to the show? Do you think she’s repping Chicago well on the show?

I have known Vixen for years, and have watched her grow into the militant figure she is today. She is a great representation for Chicago because she’s real. Love her or hate her, you at least know that she’s no snake in the grass. She’s a bear. So don’t poke her.


Mathew Rodriguez

Mathew is a staff writer at INTO. His work has appeared in Mic, Slate and Complex. He loves "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Flannery O'Connor and female rappers and is working on a memoir.

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