Rap is a tough game in which to stand out, but Cakes Da Killa – the New Jersey rapper whose three mixtapes and two EPs boast increasing levels of critical success – has never had any intention of cutting corners in the pursuit of doing so. As he approaches the release of his much-awaited first album, he insists on making one thing as clear as daylight: he’s a lyricist first, and – despite being one of a very small number of openly gay and gender- bending male rappers currently making records – a political voice second.
Beyond flower-crowns and perfect eye-makeup, Cakes has utmost faith in his rhymes. “There’s still the same recipes that makes me a standout lyricist,” he says of his new material. “The witty wordplay, aggressive delivery, in your face vulgarity – they are still a big part of my sound.” This is certainly word-for- word true of his latest track, ‘Talkin’ Greezy’, which he calls an “amazing reintroduction” to him as a lyricist.
And now more than ever it makes sense that Cakes prefers to speak about his music, because after five phenomenally critically successful mixtapes, constant collaboration with acts such as Peaches (whom he calls “amazing, and a blueprint”), and alongside fairly nonstop inclusion in the ever-growing dialogue around LGBT issues within hip hop, his first full-length album, Hedonism, is about to be released. He’s also just performed at the first-ever Afropunk festival to take place in London – an event he says “provides a safe space for people of colour to experience a certain level of free expression creatively through art, fashion, conversation and music unapologetically which isn’t always the case in society or even at most festivals.”
“The witty wordplay, aggressive delivery, in your face vulgarity – they are still a big part of my sound.”
But while Cakes is first-and-foremost a shock-heavy rapper who came from a background of writing poetry, the politics of the LGBT movement will continue to be part of his story as it develops, because subverting gender expectations and speaking openly about masculinity is a major part of his day-to-day life and persona; it features on the cover art for Hedonism, in fact. He says that being a name in the discourse, alongside other artists such as Frank Ocean, has felt “like a double edged sword.” “I appreciate the importance of visibility for the future artists coming up under me,” he says, “but in the same breath, my music shouldn’t be pigeonholed. Typically my sexuality takes over the meat of an interview and overshadows the skills I put into my music. I think it’s an important conversation I’m just sick of having.”
And nobody could deny that he’s justified in pushing his skills as a rapper. After a run of increasingly successful smaller releases, the album has serious hype around its release – and fans of the work should apparently be excited for what’s coming. “I do feel like I’m becoming more polished with age,” he continues. “[Hedonism] touches on relationships, groupies, career ups and down and my drive to keep scratching at that glass ceiling I’ve been dealing with for most of my career.”