Picture it, 2017, the middle of November around 9pm, an up and coming rapper steps onto set with a beaming smile and lots of laughter. He apologizes for being late and is ready to get to work.
The Chicago born Charlie Xile is making moves in Atlanta, Ga. A transplant by way of Morehouse University, Charlie is pouring his all into the music. With gritty lyrics and feel good beats, the music of Mr. Xile speaks to the LGBTQIA community in a different and more tantalizing way.
When you first hear his deep voice on the record, your mind is transported and next thing you know your foot is tapping and your spine is gyrating. His latest single “Better Work” speaks directly to “The Kids”—imparting an attitude and confidence that seems to be lost in music, giving queer identity a shining beacon in hip-hop.
So why did you choose Xile?
Xile means to murder, to “murk”, to kill and I'm here to kill the game. I'm not coming friendly, I'm not trying to be friendly or trying to blend in with everybody—I'm trying to kill originality and be my own creative outlet.
So why rap? Why the music industry? The industry is so cut-throat and doesn't accept people who are of the queer variety...
I’ve always wanted to do something that's never been done before or it's hard to do. So I came in revisiting and researching hip-hop and there's no tolerance for you being out, like you said, if you're queer... The whole black hip-hop community, you can't be queer because you're considered feminine.... but if you're going to be a gay rapper, you need to be dope. You also need to be able to blend in with the femininism and masculinity, which I think I possess... if you can come out still being yourself, still saying "yes I'm queer but I can rap my ass off and I can rap about things that the main stream can accept", I think you can make it as a rapper, because it's that time, but you have to want it and I'm saying you have to be able to be accepted to the people.
And how long have you been rapping?
I would really say like three or four months, honestly. I've always did poetry like since high school ... I feel like rap is an expression, like fashion, like photography... It's a way to express yourself without really speaking. I'm speaking because I'm rapping but you interpret what I'm saying for your own self. You hear my message, right? So why rap and how long I've been doing? Just really three months. After releasing my first single, now two singles [laughs], and my first music video. I thought I was going to be famous and now I’m like ‘Why am I not famous?’ but... it’s going to take more than that.
"I'm here to kill the game. I'm not coming friendly, I'm not trying to be friendly or trying to blend in with everybody"
So you’re from Chicago and you came to Atlanta for school?
Why Morehouse? I'm just going to put it out there... gay boy going to an all-boys school, it's like Supermarket Sweep. You ever seen that show? They give people the buggies and you get a minute and a half to grab everything you want.
Oh my God.
Is that how it is? Of course I know it’s a really good school.
Like to be honest with you I used to watch “Glee” when I was younger and there was the little gay boy who sung really high and he had a really cute boy from the other school. I was like “I really want to go to an all boys school in hopes of finding a boyfriend.” Did that happen? No. Honestly, I really wanted to go to an all boy black school because I really wanted to understand Blackness. When I say that it is because I went your predominately white high school and I knew that one of the best ways to understand what it means to be a black male in, not white America, I don’t want to say that but what it means to be a black male in America, Morehouse will teach you. And of course other HBCU’s can, but the fact that it was an all-boys school helped me, well pushed me, to want to go.
How are you perceived on campus? Do you wear the makeup and the lashes, all that stuff?
I used to and when I see the young freshman be pushing through with like wigs and heels, it's like “Yass girl” but I've been there. That's not really my brand anymore. Freshman “girls” are very expressive and I get it because when I look at them that's how people used to say about me like I was always thought I was the baddest bitch, like I always was kind of stuck up, but now of course I don't really do that.
It’s like RuPaul says when she came on a talk show and the host said “Why aren’t you dressed up?” and she said "girl you are not paying me". When I use makeup and I use fashion to get into character. I don't have time to walk around 9 to 5 to class, because it takes hard work... Of course, if I have a shoot or I’m on a panel or I'm going out yes but to go to work and class with my face beat or just put forth effort to create outfit, no. If you come see me on campus you wouldn’t even recognize me...
"Don't let society define you. define yourself."
Real incognito or as I like to say “incog-negro”
Oh I like that!
What's been the most challenging part of being a black gay male on Morehouse campus and as an artist? specifically just as an artist in the Atlanta Community and at Morehouse?
So I don’t really like to talk about this, but I created the “Morehouse Man” video. It kind of went viral and it kind of stands for a brand for Morehouse, but it's a different side of me so I feel like as an artist what's the most challenging thing, who to be? “What type of Charlie am I today?” and when I say that it is trying to find your brand in your pathway and sticking with it... because when you go to the “Morehouse Man” video, that's not me at all. There's no makeup, there's no over the top fashion, there's no femininity. It's all just what a Morehouse man looks like, black hair, lowcut, intellectual but masculine.
So when I say what's the most challenging thing, it's really honestly just finding out who I am and sticking with it and not being afraid to make others uncomfortable, because I want to be who I am. And who am I? That guy who, like you said, battles between masculine and feminine but not afraid to take risks and have double looks or make you feel uncomfortable just really being who he is. Not being who he is to fit into what setting he's in , but being the same person at school he’s the same, at work he’s the same, he's the same as an artist. That's the most challenging thing like—being myself all around everyday.
So I know I’ve said Gay, but there's an entire alphabet that describes us queer individuals L-G-B-T-Q-Q-I-A-A: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Androgynous, and Asexual. So which letter or letter(s) are you?
Well... if you're going by terms, I would say I'm gay. But if I was in an interview, like Prince would say or Michael Jackson woul say, I'm human. I'm battling between the arts because when you use the term gay let's be honest it has negative connotations to it. So why can't I say this is me? Like don't let society define you, define yourself.
Okay so would you say Prince and Michael Jackson are your role models even though they sang and you rap?
I don't really have a role model. There's nobody where I really go to and be like "yes"... but there are people that I admire, can I say? I admire Lady Gaga. Her fashion is sick, it's crazy it's erotic, it’s exotic, I can go on. I admire Beyoncé. I admire Nicki Minaj, Frank Ocean and Tyler the Creator, SZA and The Internet like there's a million people that I admire but there's no one role model that I have. Of course the greats, Michael Jackson and Prince. When you have a role model, it's because they done great with your similarities that you have with them and I don’t really see anyone that I can identify with out there.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
There’s a couple that I would choose, but one is to be invisible and go through walls. Think about it, there are so many things in the world to see and learn but you don’t have access to it. So if I was invisible I could sit in on a presidential discussion and hear them talk about the aliens invading or on a recording session with Beyoncé.
Follow Charlie on Instagram @CharlieXxile and at www.charliexile.com
LaRue Calliet, known as LaRue C., is an Atlanta based fashion and art photographer. His work focuses on capturing the energy and color personality within the human spirit.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.