Saturday, January 6, 2018

Ephorize | CupcakKe



The career began not with a bang, but with a moan. Actually, multiple moans.

By her own wishes, Chicago native CupcakKe is known for being nasty – even nastier than should be expected for someone who boasts dirty rap tracks titled "Vagina" and "Deepthroat." She humped, fucked, and slurped her way to viral notoriety with those two tracks (and more) by the way of digital platforms just three years ago. And what separated her from other sex-positive overnight sensations was a constant stream of full-body works – a combination of commercial mixtapes and studio albums – that kept her at the top of social media feeds.

Unlike Khia or Riskay, she wasn't damned to the status of a one-trick novelty act; In fact, soon after the release of Queen Elizabitch last year, the public perception of CupcakKe began to shift. Charli XCX picked her up for features on both of her collaborative mixtapes; she hopped on stage with Charli at Lollapalooza and got the whole crowd to moan along with her; and household magazines legitimized her place in rap music. She began to make headlines for more than her provocative ways: her skills, her donations to homeless gay youth, and her uncovered beginnings as a church poet.

So why did CupcakKe take off and stay afloat? It's a development that couldn't have been predicted when she was best known only as the young woman who moaned and barked in breast-less tops and nipple pasties, but a personality can be found behind CupcakKe's sexual antics: interviews and Twitter interactions reveal her to be a good-humored, self-aware young woman. Perhaps more important in regard to her success, though, CupcakKe has bars. Her deep, aggressive voice rips into every verse it encounters, as she proves time and time again on her third studio album, Ephorize.

Like Queen Elizabitch before it, Ephorize sounds professional in production choices. Gone are the cut-and-paste, do-it-yourself beats of her earliest tracks; here to stay are party tracks like "Duck Duck Goose" and "Crayons" that could have been passed over to Britney Spears or Pitbull. (Man, one of those artists could make a great CupcakKe collaboration, and the other, such a terrible one. We all know which one is which.) She even takes to the most popular sound of the hour: The Latin-pop "Fullest" closes the album of 15 relentless tracks that, unlike a few others in her catalog, can withstand CupcakKe's vocal attacks.

Since her first commercial mixtapes Cum Cake and S.T.D. (Shelters to Deltas), her persona-identifying filthy tracks have dwindled in numbers. And in the lead-up to this album, sex was minimized a great deal in comparison to past work; minus the mention of blue balls in second single "Cartoons," genitalia and bodily fluids were pretty well subtracted from the equation. It's a strange thought until "Spoiled Milk Titties," "Post Pic," and "Duck Duck Goose" enter the picture to remind us that it wouldn't be a CupcakKe album without a dose of ridiculousness and mentions of masturbation, downstairs hair, and a, uh, self-described "sinkhole." (And they're all mindless party bangers, mind you.)

While she may never be able to stray far from her specialty of dirty rap, CupcakKe still entertains outside of her sex-centric tracks – even if she may think otherwise. On "Self Interview," she says, "Most people already skipped this song because it ain't about sex appealing," which could be the first time CupcakKe hasn't spoken the gospel. People are listening, and they're listening in larger numbers than most would expect – just over one million people a month on Spotify alone. And if she continues to sharpen her game with each album and retain even a fraction of the absurdity, as she's done here, they'll always keep coming back for more.

Ephorize is available now.

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Maira Gall