Smooth Like Chae Buttuh
Chae “Chae Buttuh” Young is the self-proclaimed “20-something, DIY/underground princess” of Greensboro who has her eyes set on raising queer and femme voices in hip-hop.
“There definitely needs to be queer voices in hip-hop,” Young said. “Hip-hop has always been male-dominated and hyper masculine. There are some hip-hop artists out there that think that trans people or women shouldn’t be doing it at all. But there needs to be more femme voices in hip-hop.”
The Leo-sun, Aquarius-moon and Scorpio-rising Young is a femme rap artist who graduated from University of North Carolina Greensboro in 2012 with a degree in her first love, fashion merchandising. Young said that she describes her fashion sense as ghetto-fab.
“I like to mix a lot of high and lows, and I am really into soft and hard material, which is reflected in my music,” she said. “There are really hard beats and I have a soft-toned voice, I just have always loved that contrast.”
As independent, DIY/underground royalty, Young provides for herself and funds her music career by working at the Four Seasons Mall in Greensboro. She also describes herself as “the hood-rich Anna Nicole,” because she also gets help and support from her boyfriend of eight years.
Young has been taking her music seriously ever since she found herself at 12 years old writing songs in the bathrooms of middle, and then high school. Once Young graduated college, however, she started playing at house parties and after, she recorded some songs in the studio and put them on SoundCloud.
In 2014 and 2015, Young started touring to different places nationwide such as, New Orleans, New York City, and Baltimore to play shows. Throughout these shows, she has opened for and played alongside D.J., model and artist Juliana Huxtable and rap artist and activist Mykki Blanco. After performing with these two, Young said it generated a lot of buzz around Greensboro and its DIY/underground scene. In 2015, Chae Buttuh debuted and headlined with Macy Rodman at Bushwig, New York City’s annual festival of drag, queer performances, and music. But Young made it clear that she was not in the drag scene.
“I am not a drag rapper,” Young said. “This is real, this is me, I am not a drag queen.”
Young has performed on various stages across the United States from the Pinhook in Durham, North Carolina; to New Orleans, to New York City and Baltimore. However, Chae Buttuh started out in Greensboro performing for the University of North Carolina Greensboro’s literary magazine, The Coraddi’s release parties and various DIY venues in the house show realm such as Fantasy (where she opened for Mykki Blanco), Hellraiser House, TYP and most recently, SABINE.
During the SABINE show in early June, Young covered her own unique version of the song “No More” by her favorite band since sixth grade the rhythm and blues trio, 3LW. Young said after revisiting lyrics as an adult, she found that its context was really mature.
“I wanted to do a cover, but I just did not know what cover,” Young said. “I chose that song and I was listening to the words again, and I was like ‘Wow, this is really relatable to an adult, I do not know why this was targeted to little kids.’ I looked at the words differently and it was some real shit.”
Young has written, performed and produced seven mixtapes and EPs so far. Her newest mixtape is titled HoFi: A Collection of Glam Trap & Hoe Hymns released on Aug. 4. Young describes HoFi as her “sexy, Madonna-era.”
“I have always believed in myself but sometimes you can get down a little bit,” Young said. “But I call this my sexy, Madonna-era, I am really feeling sexy.”
Young said she has recently been recording at her friends’ home studio, which she said fits the aesthetic and theme of her Lo-Fi, DIY projects.
“In the studio, it gets really stuffy but at a home, I don’t have to worry about being crunched for time or money, I am just having fun,” Young said.
Young’s favorite song that she is working on at the moment is called “Yellow” and she said she is working on producing a music video for the song. She said the song is about self-love.
“It is about self-love and being able to do it by yourself,” Young said.
Her favorite lines of the song are:
I think I struck gold, so my favorite color is yellow
Anything that you can do, I can do better too, boo
All by myself
She said that these lines reflect her music and her endeavors as a queer and femme rap artist in Greensboro. She said that people in the underground scene usually have a team that helps them with things such as publicity and managing the artist. However, Young said it is all her, she does not have a team.
“It reflects me being independent with my music also,” Young said. “When I wrote that, I was also talking to some people in the scene that are big-time, and I am like, ‘anything that you can do, I can do better too, all by myself.’”
Martha Rose, a close friend of Young’s said that she and Young met when they worked at Tevanna together in 2014 and 2015. Rose said as they began working together, Young became one of her most favorite people in the world. Rose said Young is outspoken and sweet all at once and that is what makes her music and stage presence shine.
“She is completely unique in a way that is not forced or acted,” Rose said. “She is truly an individual. This individuality permeates her music, art and image in such a beautifully natural way.”
Nathan Grice is a friend of Young’s and was the photographer for some of her album covers including HoFi. Grice described her music as a performance and a force.
“It’s a side to Chae that gets let loose like a lion,” Grice said. “She comes in full force with a fervent display of charisma and musical enchantment. The music Chae makes is really the side to herself that doesn’t get displayed on the every day, and it’s something so enamoring.”
Former Greensboro artist Sam Martin said Young takes control of her audience and her lyrics put the audience at the forefront of her personal life experiences and views of the world.
“What I love about Chae Buttuh is the completely unfiltered honesty of her music and live shows,” Martin said. “When she takes the stage there is always this moment where the audience goes from casually talking to suddenly having all eyes on her. The backing tracks of her songs keep them moving and engaged until the moment she decides to send them back to their own reality.”
In the near future, Young hopes to be a legendary performer in the scene and enter her “final form” with herself. With the way things are going, Young said, she is very much on her way. She said she has shot two videos (using an “old school VHS camera” to add to her Lo-Fi aesthetic) with her friend Houston Clark this year and is looking forward to her visuals when it comes to accompanying her music. Young said she has a show coming up Aug. 25 in Durham and plans on doing a mini-tour on the west coast in September through October.
To listen to HoFi: A Collection of Glam Trap & Hoe Hymns and Chae Buttuh’s other music visit her bandcamp and her Soundcloud pages. HoFi is now available on Spotify and Apple music for subscribers as well.
Katie Murawski is the editor of YES! Weekly. She is from Mooresville, North Carolina and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in film studies from Appalachian State University in 2017.