Seattle-based rapper VELO gained attention on gay blogs after dropping music videos for his singles “Big D*ck Daddy” and “Oye Papi.” Like most of his work, the clips feature cameos from popular drag queens, from Aja to Phi Phi O’Hara, Yara Sofia, Chi Chi LaRue and James Majesty. Today, VELO premieres his latest video “Cruzin,” the title track of his album. The song features WeHo drag staple Rhea Litre.
VELO explained his love for drag queens to Billboard: “I think back to the Stonewall riots and how they were the first who stood up for my community and the rights we have today,” he said. “I always say drag queens are the backbone of the community. They are fearless, fabulous and strong.”
The rapper met Rhea Litre through Grindr — sort of. The two had chatted on the app, but their mutual friend Drag Race star Manila Luzon unknowingly introduced the pair. “I pulled up with Manila to pick him up not knowing. We were like ‘hey, we were just chatting.’ It was so fucking funny,” shared VELO.
“VELO and I are on the same page when it comes to producing a great product,” said Litre.
With RuPaul’s Drag Race’s move to VH1, the world of drag has been taking over pop culture. Litre believes this is a phenomenon that will continue: “Drag is an art form that has contributed to popular culture for decades or longer and it deserves the legitimacy it’s finally receiving.”
“I have auditioned [for RuPaul’s Drag Race]. I am a huge fan of the show and the artists involved, and I think we all owe the show some props for putting what we do on the map. But it is not the be all end all,” Litre said. Citing trailblazers like Heklina, Sherry Vine, BibleGirl and Vicky Vox, she added, “Frankly, I think that the next drag queen that takes over pop culture won’t come from Drag Race.”
“Today in mainstream media, drag artists are finally recognized as artists — period,” VELO said. “Musically, I love to collaborate with them because they are singers and rappers too, they just happen to be drag queens.”
VELO also hopes to give a voice to the Latin queer community. With the popularity of Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” and J. Balvin’s “Mi Gente,” the Mexican rapper believes we’re on a verge of a Latin renaissance, similar to the Y2K boom led by Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez and Enrique Iglesias. But he feels that the trend hasn’t reached gay culture yet.
“There needs to be a greater presence,” VELO said. “Maybe that will change with exposure. I would love to be a part of that movement. We have a growing presence that can’t be ignored or overlooked for long.”
VELO is hard at work on his followup to Cruzin, a Spanish-language album that will feature Jaremi Carey (Drag Race’s Phi Phi O’ Hara’s male moniker), Rhea Litre, Pablo Hernandez and adult film star Boomer Banks. It is slated for an April release.
Check out the video for “Cruzin” below.