LSDXOXO: Battle Stance
“The process of creating music is very selfish,” says Raushaan Glasgow. In a Parisian hotel room he leans towards the Zoom camera, muscular, tattooed and handsomely feline. “I started making music when I was a kid,” he continues, “and the idea of being a performer at the time really scared me because of how introverted I am. I’ve always created music for myself, but once other people began to show their appreciation, it helped me to realise that I am important.”
Such demure humility seems surprising from the artist better known as LSDXOXO. This is mostly due to Glasgow’s strutting, smut-positive dance music persona, under which he’s produced a melange of queer, kinky dancefloor bangers, pop vocal mash-ups and DJ mixes, with titles like Spit or Swallow, Dedicated 2 Disrespect, Softcore and Sacanagem (a Portuguese term which connotes the freakiest type of sex acts). Glasgow is currently in a season of artistic growth, evolving his signature Baltimore-ballroom-techno-bitch-track sound outwards in new directions. A new EP, Delusions Of Grandeur (D.O.G.), is due for release in September, and incorporates faithful nods to vintage 2000s electroclash and spacious 90s drum ’n’ bass, already evidenced in the teaser tracks Double Tap and Devil’s Chariot. Next year, Glasgow will resume along the singer-songwriter trail he started mapping out in 2022 – there was the emo-electronic ballad Drain, and the sultry dembow pop number Freak – towards a debut album, slated for release in 2024. The LP promises to be an open-hearted celebration of songwriting structures, acoustic instrumentation and experimental pop production.
Several versions of Glasgow’s debut artist album have been in the works since 2017, but over the years each draft has transformed along with his production style. Back then, vocals in LSDXOXO tracks were usually either sampled from pop and R&B songs, or performed by his close associates from New York’s Black music underground, like the alternative R&B vocalist Rahel, and openly gay rappers Le1f and Cakes Da Killa (who is also Glasgow’s longtime best friend). After Glasgow picked up the mic himself in 2021 for Dedicated 2 Disrespect, unveiling a talent for rave vocals in the style of Green Velvet (except much, much more vulgar), the shape of his burgeoning debut LP began to shift. “I originally had other vocalists on a lot of the tracks,” he says, “but after I did some work on myself, it was like, ‘Sorry, we’re not doing that anymore.’ I gave most of those songs away to the artists, and started over.” Writing an album, it turned out, required an entirely new and emotional process. “Honestly, I had to start with myself, not with the music,” says Glasgow. “I’d never really put pen to paper to write a poem or a song because it’s something that I didn’t think I would ever have the competence to do. It took time to coach myself out of the closet: ‘Am I there yet? Do I have the confidence?’ It’s a very vulnerable space to operate from.”
Glasgow’s off-stage shyness seems doubly surprising because of the impressive chorus of believers who have co-signed for him since the early 2010s, when he first began uploading mixtapes to Tumblr and putting his DIY edits and productions on Soundcloud. Cakes had to coax Glasgow to move from Philadelphia, his hometown since the age of nine, to New York in 2014. “Cakes was like, ‘Why aren’t you here? You’re releasing music, it’s popular, and everybody is asking where you are. Why aren’t you reaping the benefits of your work?’” At that time, Glasgow was in the third year of a college degree, switching majors from visual arts to business. Seeing as he was already broke and struggling to pay tuition, though, he decided to drop out and accept the offer to sleep on his bestie’s sofa. Yet simply being in the Big Apple wasn’t enough to bring Glasgow out of his shell; Cakes would have to drag him out at night to connect with folks and be seen in the city. One meaningful encounter ended up being with the co-founder of 2010s cult underground fashion-music rave, GHE20G0TH1K. “I met Venus X one night at a punk show,” Glasgow says, “and she expressed to me how much she loved my music. It took me completely off guard that she knew who I was, because I had such appreciation for what her, [and GHE20G0TH1K resident artists] Total Freedom and Shayne Oliver were doing at the time. They reassured me that I don’t have to take myself so seriously, and Venus helped me build myself up as an artist, and flesh out my visual identity.”
From there, Glasgow’s profile has remained airborne and ascendant, undoubtedly aided by further notable associations. The list of stellar connections is a long one. The British indie (and OG UK rave) label XL signed his breakthrough club release Dedicated 2 Disrespect; curating a line-up for Brooklyn’s Bossa Nova Civic Club helped spark the inception of his own cross-continental club night, Floorgasm; he’s released collaborations with Eartheater, TYGAPAW and VTSS, and remixed Lady Gaga, PinkPantheress and Shygirl; he has production credits for five songs on Kelela’s acclaimed 2023 return, Raven; and this summer he was selected to be the opening DJ for two of Beyoncé’s German concerts on her Renaissance World Tour. The morning that we connect on Zoom is the day after yet another of Glasgow’s plum commissions: a collaboration with the choreographer Parris Goebel, for Nike’s debut at Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week.
“I’m really trying to deliver all the aspects of what it means to be LSDXOXO: sexy, regal, kind of comedic”
Despite being in the eye of a storm of activity – writing and producing, performing and promoting – Glasgow is clear about his need to remain separate from too much “chaos and energy”. It’s a balance that he has instinctively sought since he was a quiet high school kid with an interest in music making. He attended the Philadelphia High School for Performing Arts, which boasts Jazmine Sullivan and Boyz II Men as alumnus, and would spend his after-school hours frequenting local street sellers, picking up bootlegged Anne Rice novels and the latest Baltimore club mix CDs by DJ Technics and DJ Sega. “That’s how I first began listening to club music, because I wasn’t partying,” he says. After downloading production software to his family desktop computer, Glasgow taught himself how to create his own Baltimore club remixes – the popular sound at the time among his peers – of radio hits. He was so good at it that he eventually began taking orders from classmates for remixes of film and TV material. His DIY edits of Mortal Kombat and SpongeBob SquarePants theme songs became a part of the fabric of neighbourhood ‘dollar parties’, where tweens and teens would pay $1 each to hang out and dance to club tracks in someone’s chaperoned basement. “It was super cute,” he says, “coming together to dance and have fun without it being debaucherous.”
When Glasgow moved to Berlin five years ago, it was less of a calculated career move, and more about establishing a home base in a city that could nurture him as an artist, without threatening to eat his sensitive spirit alive – for that very reason, both NYC and London were out of consideration. “I needed a change of pace in order to understand myself and understand where I wanted to take my artistry,” he says. “Berlin was a pipe dream, but it felt a bit more welcoming, a place to just discover myself and maybe fail in the areas where I felt that I couldn’t fail in New York.” The conversation ends prematurely – interrupted by calls from a driver and knocking on the door from hotel staff, alerting Glasgow that pickup for his next destination has arrived.
The conversation resumes a few days later, face-to-face in Berlin; it’s a tiny window of opportunity before Glasgow flies out again the following day, to London and then Stockholm. Even in the most heavily shaded corner of Boxhagener Platz, in the city’s eastern district of Friedrichshain, the day is uncomfortably humid. Lunch hour workers, parents with toddlers, and slouching teenagers are all seated around a large concrete fountain, seeking relief in the mist of water carried by the occasional breeze. While seated on a nearby bench, Glasgow cheerfully agrees to describe his personal style in his own words. He offers up a set of contrasts to describe the LSDXOXO aesthetic (masculine/feminine, fashion/camp, avant garde/not too serious) and he’s quick to identify his primary style icons: “Dennis Rodman in the 90s, and Blade.” His outfit – dark, loose trousers, and a colourfully tie-dyed and printed tank top with fashionably distressed holes – looks achingly cool on him. “It’s my pyjamas!” he laughs. “Cakes gave me this shirt years ago when I was living on his couch, so this shirt will never leave me. It’s my security blanket.”
What is perhaps most communicative about his style are the accessories. He’s wearing Balenciaga Bouncer clogs that he just got in Paris, which have a protruding pattern in the style of an off-road tyre, and a high-tech shoulder bag from the Italian brand Innerraum, which is half shiny, slouchy fabric and half complex exoskeleton, with moulded plastic reinforcements and industrial-looking straps. Glasgow acknowledges that the combination of his accessories may create the sense of person who has pulled on their armour. “When I interact with people, sometimes they’re quite intimidated by me,” he says. “It’s because I put up this air of protection to keep myself balanced and grounded. Because anything could happen at any moment.”
When asked if he’d like to discuss a specific thing that happened, after he played as part of Berghain’s 48-hour Easter long weekend in April, Glasgow replies: “Honestly, I would love to.” A couple of days before his set, he received what he describes as a ‘disclaimer’ from the club. “They told me that another DJ played there recently using pop vocals, and that it didn’t get a good response,” Glasgow says. “I was like, ‘Well… what do you want me to do? Pop vocals are literally my thing.’” He recalls a specific moment in his set where he deliberated over creating a moment of pop provocation. “I was staring at the CDJ for a minute and a half, like, ‘should I..? …OK I’m gonna do it.’” The “it” was playing the chart-topping 90s Eurodance outfit Vengaboys. “The response that I got from the audience at the moment felt so completely different from the online response,” says Glasgow.
Glasgow makes it clear that Berghain expressed no issue with his set (“they didn’t give me any blowback whatsoever,” he says), but some self-appointed arbiters of techno aired their grievances via social media. “Regis and Rene Wise played epic sets,” griped one post on the r/Berghain_Community Subreddit. “What happened next,” they continue, referring to LSDXOXO’s slot, “can hardly be described in words. While it’s just my objective opinion, I’ve never seen such a violent change in vibe before.” “Absolutely disrespectful towards the passionate music lovers in the building,” complained another. “LSDXOXO is an industry plant,” wrote a third. Some dissenting members spoke about their concerns over the posts. “This feels like bully energy,” remarked one, “the racial and gender dynamics of the titles of some of these posts are really messed up.” Another pointed to the hypocrisy of the outrage: “Honestly, last year Courtesy played Vengaboys in Pano[rama Bar] and nobody got upset,” they wrote. After several days of criticism also being directed at him on Twitter, Glasgow tweeted: “Techno dweebs are bullying me because I played Nicki Minaj & Venga Boys in berghain so sorry you guys don’t like fun :(,” followed by, “Notice the only naysayers are white men…”
Glasgow admits that the criticism did sting at the time. “It hurts when it’s something that feels important to you, something you’ve worked towards for a long time,” he says. “I always take the piss with genre exploration and introducing vocals on top of techno. If I’d toned it down they’d say ‘you’re just trying to appease the Berghain crowd.’ Pop music isn’t my guilty pleasure, I really hold it in high regard.” What bothered him most about the social media backlash, though, was that a segment of the scene in which he operates attempted to push out the presence of voices that echo his own: Black, unapologetic and sexually empowered femmes. “So many of these comments said, ‘How dare you play Cardi B or Nicki Minaj?’ So, these artists’ voices shouldn’t exist in their spaces? Why? They’re not even trying to disguise being outwardly anti-Black. A large part of this is people not understanding what it means to be a Black person in these spaces. Performing in your own voice alongside your peers is important and should not be stifled. I’m doing my job as a Black queer man in these spaces.”
“When I interact with people, sometimes they’re quite intimidated by me. It’s because I put up this air of protection to keep myself balanced and grounded”
With his forthcoming releases, Glasgow seems to be settling into more of an ideal balance of peace and personal agency. Despite feeling gratitude for his time with XL, he wanted to explore untraditional record label structures, where he wouldn’t have to relinquish his rights to his music. He found it by striking a deal with the French music distributor, Because Music, to launch his own label, F.A.G. (Fantasy Audio Group), and Glasgow’s D.O.G. EP will be its official debut release. “Because [Music] really dug my concept and understood the importance of someone from my background getting started in their community, for themselves,” says Glasgow. “They heard the album and were super open to what I wanted to do with it. It provides me with confidence as an artist, especially as someone who creates everything on their own, by themself. Having their feedback and excitement is the support that I need. It feels like a team effort.”
Beyond D.O.G. and his album, Glasgow feels emboldened to inhabit the identity of a bonafide pop-dance artist, songwriter and producer. The most influential album for him of that genre is Madonna’s 1998 career-reviving opus, Ray of Light, which exceeded expectations by combining earth-mother-era Madonna with William Orbit’s accessible tech-trance arrangements. “I’m really trying to deliver all the aspects of what it means to be LSDXOXO: sexy, regal, kind of comedic,” he says. “I’m trying to be in my songwriting bag, and I want to deliver that through performance as well.”
As fat raindrops begin to break the day’s tense heat, and as we prepare to part ways and take cover, Glasgow revisits an earlier thought. “The process of making music is selfish, but the process of releasing music is selfless,” he says. “Once you release music, it’s no longer yours. It’s out there for someone else to use to pick them up when they’re down, or to marry to their own life experiences, and create a connection between you. The back and forth exchange that artists have with their audience is essentially a community, and that’s something that I’m excited to tap into. Because I always could use more family, you know?”
Delusions Of Grandeur (D.O.G.) is out 22 September via Fantasy Audio Group (F.A.G.)