House of LaDosha
Interview Cameron Cook
Photography Leonard Greco
Adam Radakovich, a.k.a. Cunty Crawford LaDosha, isn’t wearing any pants. Instead, the six-foot-eleven (seven-foot-four in heels) rapper is sporting an XXXL T-shirt, a ponytail under his holographic NY Yankees fitted cap and thigh-high patent leather boots, which he bought on an emporium footwear website for strippers (they carry his size). Adam is one-half of Brooklyn, NY electronic crunk duo House of LaDosha. Elsewhere in their Bushwick apartment Antonio Blair – alias Dosha Devastation (and leader of the House of Ladosha) – is snugly fitted into his electric blue fleece onesie, posing for our photographer’s lens, silently channeling every diva that ever flicked her hair from the ’80s onward. This is House of LaDosha. This is real.
More than just a group, House of LaDosha is a collective, like all the legendary gay voguing houses that populated NYC in the ’80s and ’90s. You don’t have to be a musician, or even an artist, to join. By virtue of being accepted into the clan, you are a child of LaDosha for life. Although Antonio and Adam are the core of the group, there are countless members peppered amongst their circle of friends. They have a specific way of dressing (both Adam and Antonio graduated from Parsons School of Design in Manhattan with degrees in fashion), and even their own lexicon, but musically is where they really shine. ‘SUP realized this when we saw them perform for a small crowd at a club around the corner from this writer’s apartment last winter. LaDosha take their influences from female rappers such as Lil’ Kim, Trina and Khia, as well as Southern rap collectives like Three 6 Mafia and Crime Mob, in addition to a smattering of early ’90s house and club jams. Their live show is a high-octane sprint of a performance, Adam and Antonio blasting through their set in a flurry of heels and ponytails. They write songs on the fly on their laptop, prolific as they want to be, jotting down their lyrics in a jargon all their own. “Pussy”, for example, isn’t female genitalia but an attitude, what it means to own yourself completely and be fierce and original. In “Summer Baby” their wordplay is at its best: “Dosha got that heavy flow/You know they call me Tampax […] Lookin’ for that pot o’ gold/Nigga, taste the rainbow”. As well as being both genuinely amusing and totally serious, their songs also flawlessly illustrate an aesthetic they’ve obviously taken a lifetime to perfect.
We briefly considered including a glossary in this interview because LaDosha’s world is so self-referential it’s almost fictional (but illusional rather than delusional). Instead, we highly recommend as a companion piece to this article that you watch the monumentally influential 1990 documentary Paris is Burning by Jennie Livingston for more information on balls, legendary children, house mothers, Dorian Corey and gay subculture in general. If you’ve already seen the film (most likely again, and again, and again), then you and House of LaDosha are already on the same page.
For the uninitiated, what is a house and how do you go about creating one?
Antonio: For me, a house is just people that you chill with who are your friends. It’s when friends become family. We all moved here when we were in college, from Tennessee, Ohio, North Carolina. We all met up and formed the house. A house is just family.
Adam: People who you get along with really well. People you’re on the same level with who have the same way of thinking.
Antonio: And it’s creative. Everyone’s nourishing everyone else’s brain.
You guys make music, but are also very stylish and fashionable. Who and what inspire your sense of style?
Antonio: My gosh, so much. We study people. We both went to Parsons and graduated with fashion degrees.
Adam: Ain’t got no jobs though!
Antonio: (laughing) Yeah, no jobs.
We’re in a recession, y’all!
Antonio: Exactly. Fashion-wise, I live for the ’90s. I like, love Naomi Campbell.
Adam: She’s his mother. And Beyoncé’s his sister.
Antonio: I live for those two bitches (laughs). Grace Jones. I love Cleopatra Jones. I love
anything that’s like—
Antonio: (laughs) Like, I love Barbie. I just love being this six-foot-four woman with a big ponytail.
Adam: Wicked beauty. It’s all about wicked beauty!
Antonio: It’s all about being the only bitch that can wear it. ‘That bitch wore that shit.’ All of our friends got their own style.
Adam: I think for me, I’m obsessed with really strong women, with a much more androgynous look. Darker women as well. I’m obsessed with Siouxsie. Her looks always blow my mind. (To Antonio) I dunno, who else do I flip over?
Antonio: (pauses) Brigitte Nielsen.
(Laughing) I was just about to say that!
Adam: I don’t even try to be like her, it’s just that I’m so tall and used to have white-blond hair (laughs)! I would slick it back and people would be like: ‘You look like fucking Brigitte Nielsen!’
Antonio: But it was working!
Adam: No, it worked, and I loved her then. Now she’s like, this horrible mess. Actually no, I’m kind of obsessed with her now, too.
There was that awful Surreal Life /Strange Love /Flavor Flav period though.
Adam: But I’m obsessed with like, sloppy women too. Like, Carol Channing’s crazy to me, but I think she’s hilarious.
Antonio: And you love Joan Crawford.
Adam: (pointing to Joan Crawford print on his bedroom wall) Oh I mean, hello. That’s where I got my middle name from. So yeah, all those bad bitches. Crazy bitches.
Let’s go back to Beyoncé for a bit. Can we talk about the fake Good Morning America performance that Howard Stern aired? Weren’t you appalled?
Antonio: OH MY GOD! Yes!
Adam: Wait, what happened?
Antonio: It was hilarious! I was like, ‘You KNOW Beyoncé can sing!’
Adam: What did he say?
Antonio: He said Beyoncé couldn’t sing—
Adam: That’s a lie.
Antonio: So Howard Stern played this recording that was supposedly her singing on Good Morning America. She was singing “If I Were a Boy”, and it sounded so bad! She was like (imitates the howls of a wounded cat).
Adam: And it wasn’t her?
There’s no way! It was supposedly the soundboard recording or something.
Antonio: I’m sorry, that’s like saying it wasn’t really Michael Jackson dancing. Like, ‘Those aren’t his legs (laughs)’!
Adam: Okay, you say Rihanna can’t sing: truth. But Beyoncé?
Antonio: Beyoncé can sing her ass off!
I just had to mention that. You said ‘Beyoncé’ and I was like ‘Oh my God, oh my God.’ I was so upset!
Your sound is very DIY. What software do you use to make beats?
Antonio: Yeah, just GarageBand. I did one song on another program – the one I did with Nick Xedro – but all of our songs are on GarageBand.
Adam: Which I think is really cool. It’s the new way music is going. If you have access to a computer you can make anything.
Antonio: Yeah, I’ll be at the school computer lab just chillin’, ain’t got nothing to do—
Adam: Just like, using the bathroom (laughs).
Antonio: Yeah, and it’ll be just me making a song or making a beat!
It’s like in the late ’70s when punk started happening, and all you needed was three chords to start a band. Now all you need is a laptop and GarageBand. It’s kind of a double-edged sword though, because you get a lot of good shit, but you also get a lot of bad shit.
Adam: Yeah, but at the same time like, Erykah Badu does all of her stuff on GarageBand, right? I think one of the artists that really brought that sort of laptop field recording thing to the forefront was M.I.A. with her last album. Like how she supposedly scrapped all of those Timbaland recording sessions and was like, ‘I’m gonna take my laptop to Africa!’
Antonio: And like, recorded people drumming.
Adam: It’s more natural that way.
Antonio: That’s why I love M.I.A. She’s just like, ‘I have to get it out. People might not understand it but here it is anyway.’
One of the things I really like about your lyrics is that they’re very witty. I’ve actually found myself laughing during your songs, but in a good way. What inspires you to sit down and write?
Antonio: To me, all the lyrics are so real, just everyday thoughts in my head. Maybe I don’t talk to people that way, but I definitely think that way. I’ll just take a phrase from popular culture, from shit that’s going on, like about Britney Spears or something. But I think cosmic and I like to jumble it all up.
Adam: Antonio is probably the funniest person I know, so I feel a lot of it is just natural shit he says. In our clique, he’ll come up with a phrase and then everybody starts using it.
Antonio: Like when I first started saying ‘cunty.’ The first time I said ‘cunty’ my friend Julia was like (drops his jaw in shock).
Adam: She was so offended (laughs).
Antonio: ‘Did you just say ‘cunt’?’ ‘Yes I did, honey!’ Then everyone started saying it. Just shit like that.
Adam: Then we have these phrases. We have nicknames for boys, so we can talk about them.
Antonio: But they don’t know it. It’s kind of like Pig Latin, but our Pig Latin.
Adam: Like we call Latino boys ‘lingo.’ Antonio says lingo a lot, because he loves lingo (laughs).
Antonio: And ‘miho’ means Asian boys. It’s kind of fucked up (laughs). A lot of the terms are just code, like ‘cluck cluck.’
Adam: Talking about sex without being overtly sexual.
Antonio: Well, I say, ‘My head game is fierce, cluck cluck.’ You know? It’s all just comedy and fun.
It’s funny you should mention ‘cunty.’ I was just reading an article that said that young gay high school students are using the word ‘cunt’ more and more as an ameliorative term, and teachers and parents have no idea how to deal with it.
Antonio: It’s just a word, you know what I mean?
I know that it’s offensive to some people, but I think that if a girl can truly free herself from what it means and just be a fucking cunt—
Adam: All of our female friends say it—
Antonio: Yeah, all of our girlfriends are like, ‘That fucking cunt, blah blah blah.’ I was like. ‘You need to incorporate this word. It will make you feel so much better.’
Adam: We say it in different ways too. It’s all about the tone.
Antonio: Like, ‘Hey cunty!’
Adam: Or, ‘What a fucking cunt.’
Antonio: Or, ‘That bitch was cunt.’
Adam: It’s all about the context.
It’s not what you say but how you say it, as my mother used to say.
Antonio: I like that.
Back to basics: You guys are both heavy into fashion, how did you decide to start House of LaDosha as a music group?
Antonio: The whole thing about the musical aspect of House of LaDosha is that we were just hanging out and we sort of stamped ourselves as legendary children.
Normally you have to earn that title though, right? Not that you aren’t deserving.
Antonio: (laughing) No, we didn’t walk a ball! We just started making songs on GarageBand, just kiki songs, in the summer of ’07.
Adam: We lived with our friend Caitlin at the time.
Antonio: We just hung out all the time. We were always together, as House of LaDosha. We started making songs, and all of our friends would be on them. But then I got the computer to myself and made a few tracks and people were like, ‘Wow, that’s really good!’ (laughs). I was like, ‘Really? Thanks!’ It was all for fun, just something for me to do creatively because I wasn’t doing anything in fashion. I love music and once I figured out how to use GarageBand, it was pretty much from there. I made a Myspace, and people were into it.
Adam: We got 19,000 plays!
Antonio: I think that’s crazy.
Adam: It’s bizarre.
Antonio: The fact that the songs on Myspace have been played 19,000 times is crazy. I never thought that anyone would like it besides me and my friends. Or even just ‘get’ it. I just think of it as art and performance. I picture everything in my head like a movie. Like, walking through the club: what song would be epic right now? Or if I’m with my man, what song do I want to hear?
Adam: Tell him about where Dosha came from.
Antonio: Well Dosha, as in Dosha Devastation, came from this DVD I used to watch with my brother called Ghetto Brawls. It’s footage of all these crazy, hood-ass fights. Everyone just fights once, but there’s this one girl who’s in like, three fights. Three fights on the same DVD! Her name is Dosha. We were just like, ‘That bitch is so real!’
Adam: She got beat though!
Antonio: She got beat every single time. Real bad (laughs). But I loved Dosha. I started calling all of my friends Dosha, like ‘Oh hey, Dosha!’ But then I was like, ‘No, actually, I’m Dosha.’ (laughs). That’s how Dosha was created. Then my visual inspiration is just people I like to imitate: Lil’ Kim, Naomi Campbell—
Adam: Remy Ma.
Antonio: Pepper LaBeija, and all these people to create Dosha Devastation, so I can sing a song as her. “Total Domination” is about slipping into that mode. Like, ‘Who am I channeling today?’
One of the things I really want to see in your performance is Adam Cunty Crawford LaDosha doing more stuff. (To Adam) I know that you’ve recorded songs and written verses.
Adam: The thing is, I can’t do beats for shit and Dosha’s amazing with beats. He’ll do a song and he’ll just do it. I like to sit down and just write verses, more like limericks and stuff. I’ve written some stuff, and I’m getting on more songs. I just did a song with OMG Michelle, which was pretty fun. We did it in like a day.
Antonio: Some of the older tracks were all of us, but then I just started making the beats. Then people were like, ‘Do you want to perform?’ and I was like, ‘Um, okay.’ I always want everyone to be on the songs, but we never get around to sitting down and actually writing a verse for everyone.
I saw Adam do a full verse once at Europa, and it was so aggressive and awesome.
Antonio: Yeah, that was the song “Fishy”.
Adam: It’s so funny, the way that song came about. The background is that Ashanti, Paul Wall and Method Man song “Still On It”. Which like, (mimes puking) blergh, Ashanti, but it was hot. So I put a verse on it, and Antonio was in Nashville at the time so I emailed it to him and told him to put a verse on it. He did, and then we sent it to our friend Davis, and he mixed it and put more claps and sirens behind it. It was really fun. But yeah, you’ll be seeing more (laughs).
Tell me about your experiences with voguing and ball culture. I kind of don’t want to go to a ball, because it can’t possibly be as amazing as Paris is Burning.
Antonio: That’s how I feel too. To me, a ball is Paris is Burning, in my head. A ball at Escuelitas might not be for me (laughs). Like, I love to see it and I watch every voguing video on YouTube. I love that through the Internet, voguing can reach people. I just watched this video of people voguing in a club in Japan, but it’s weird because they don’t battle at the same time! I love seeing different people interpret vogue.
Adam: In terms of performing, watching voguing really puts us in the right frame of mind. It’s all about the show. Those girls have so much attitude, and they give it to you every time.
Antonio: To me, those bitches are the most amazing performers. To come and walk a ball, and to be as soft and cunt and fucking pussy as you wanna be? Oh my God! When I’m onstage I’m just like, ‘Soft and cunt.’ It’s all movement. Vogue is definitely part of the whole thing. Even in the beats, some of the chants in our songs are voguing chants. We flip them. When we say ‘Ain’t talkin’ ’bout tuna/Ain’t talkin’ ’bout fish/I’m talkin’ ’bout pussy,’ it’s from when they go ‘Ain’t talkin’ ’bout beer/Ain’t talkin’ ’bout wine/I’m talkin’ ’bout Champagne! Champagne, Champagne, Champagne!’ And Champagne Icon comes out voguing! It’s like, ‘Oh my God!’ I think voguing is beautiful. It should be more out there.
My all-time favorite voguing chant is in this one video I saw, where the MC was like, ‘I’m lovin’ it! I’m lovin’ it!’ as these two girls were battling. Then all of a sudden he starts going ‘Ba da ba ba baa! Ba da ba ba baa!’ Like the McDonald’s ‘I’m Loving It’ jingle.
Adam: (laughs) Things like that make life so much better.