Coincidentally, two of the hottest young and rising rappers pushing the envelope last month shared a similarity not just in their ideals but even in their names. Cakes da Killa, an openly gay rapper from New Jersey, and CupcakKe, a nineteen-year-old raunch-fest female MC from Chicago, are both turning the tables for what is considered “normal” in rap culture in their own individual ways.
For Cakes da Killa, it’s being a, if not the first, openly gay black male rapper in a culture where homosexuality was viewed as a weakness and homophobic lines dominated most insult raps, though that language has greatly died out since the controversy surrounding the Jay-Z vs. Nas feud and the greater acceptance, understanding, and legalization of gay marriage in the United States. For CupcakKe, it’s about breaking gender barriers, as a barely legal teenager raps as lewd as the nastiness of 2 Live Crew mixed with the sexual appetite of Lil Kim, who is also an inspiration for Cakes da Killa.
Both artists also explore themes of hedonism, which happens to be Killa’s aptly named debut, where bluntly stated lyrics of sex, self-indulgence and the pursuit of personal pleasure dominate nearly all of the subject matter over each record. “Being gay and being open about it is a very touchy subject,” Cakes told Spin, and it’s something he’s had to fight for since his first mixtape in 2011.
Just two years ago in fact he was on Hot 97 where radio host Ebro gave a quite ignorant response to Cakes’ music saying that he couldn’t relate to it since the rapper was gay. “I think it’s just masculinity and then not wanting to hear about [it],” responded Cakes in that same Spin interview, “because in the same breath, it’s like, I can’t listen to Jay Z because I can’t relate. I’ve never sold drugs before, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be impacted by a record about that type of lifestyle. To me, it’s not really necessarily about being able to relate to what I’m saying because I’m gay. But I feel like I maneuver it very well and I get my respect.” In fact, Cakes maneuvers more than just lyrics or identity, as Hedonism blends rap with uptemo club bangers like “Been Dat Did That” or “Up out My Face” that are some of the hardest songs I’ve hear this year.
CupcakKe is also someone who’s not afraid to speak their mind, but in a way very differently from Cakes Da Killa. Killa demands respect for being who he is, and that’s something CupcakKe requires as well, but for Cup it’s less about sexuality (because that’s right up in your face already), and more about being able to be as lewd and sexually forward as the male-dominated genre has traditionally been.
For CupcakKe’s it’s more about breaking gender barriers, and what better way to do so than by being so overtly over the top with it. But CupcakKe’s persona isn’t all pasties and deep-throating cucumbers all the time. On her newest mixtape Audacious, Cup also talks about police brutality on “Picking Cotton”, shouts out to her fanbase on “LGBT,” and even tells a story about a girl living with getting an abortion on “Birth Mark,” all themes discussed on more contemporary fellow Chicago records as well such as Telefone by Noname or HEAVN by Jamila Woods.
Music isn’t great because it’s relatable or easy listening background music. Music is great because it’s an art form that involves story telling in the form of a universal language. You don’t have to relate to Cakes da Killa’s story of being an openly gay rapper, which he prefers to more simply be “a rapper who also happens to be gay,” or CupcakKe’s story of being a young gender-rule-breaking sex-crazed hedonist. All you have to do is, as Cakes explained, learn and be open to being “impacted by a record about that type of lifestyle.” Neither rapper has broken out into a broader major hit debut just yet (unless you count Peaches on Killa’s “Fuck out My Face,” but they’ve opened the doors even further. Given that big break, I think they could make waves.