Written by Sieya Sims
We too often believe that radio play and making millions of dollars is the only way to be considered a successful musician, but for Cakes Da Killa, he’s already hit his own mark of success. His presence is powerful and and his aggressive music is rife with explicit content, savage lyrics, and impeccable delivery. He's integral to the LGBTQ hip-hop scene, and throughout it all he is unapologetically himself.
Cakes da Killa’s music is rife with explicit content, savage lyrics, and impeccable delivery. A rapper hailing from Teaneck, New Jersey, Cakes describes himself as “the most clinically insane cunt bitch up in the game”. Each of his songs is an aggressive lyrical roller coaster centered on sex, men, and money. Because of this, an unknowing person reading Cakes’ lyrics would think they were performed by Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Salt N Pepa, or Nicki Minaj. Be that as it may, Cakes da Killa is a gay male rapper that is central to the LGBTQ Hip-Hop scene in New York.
The first time I heard Cakes da Killa is when my best friend Amber sent me a link to download Cakes’ 2013 mixtape the Eulogy. I signed up to receive notifications from an app called Bandsintown whenever he had concerts near me. I lived in the New York area at the time, and it seemed like every other day I would receive a notification that Cakes was performing somewhere in the Tri-state area. Cakes was clearly hustling, and I wanted to know more about him. It turns out that he is only 24 years old and tours constantly, has released three mixtapes and two EPs, and has had a short film created about him called Cakes da Killa: NO HOMO, directed by Ja’Tovia Gary.
I listened to The Eulogy on repeat for months, impressed by Cakes’ delivery, lyricism, and boldness. It was the first time I’d heard an openly gay rapper speaking about openly gay topics in his music. In “Fuck Ya Boifriend” Cakes spits, “lay me on my side while you eat eat eat it up/pull it out, force it in/skeet skeet skeet it up/hands around my neck cause he really tryna beat it up/I was the one that taught ya nigga how to beat it up”. He doesn’t use innuendo; it’s just pure, raw, unadulterated sexual lyricism. Every day, our ears are laced with hypersexual hip-hop, but Cakes’ unapologetic approach is powerful because he is gay, male, and not ashamed to let the world know through his music. My friend Amber and I talked a little bit more about Cakes. She is queer, from New York, and one of his biggest fans.
Me: Do you think Cakes da Killa would ever have mainstream success?
Her: Only if he toned his shit down a lot. He is super vulgar to most people.
Me: Why do you think that is?
Her: Because of the way he talks about sex.
Cakes’ music didn’t faze me when I first heard it, but I agreed with Amber that it is too profane for some people. I tried letting some friends listen to his music and received mixed results. From some people I would get responses like “Oh shit!” (in a good way) and “Oh, shit.” (in a not-so-good way.) Unsurprisingly, I found that those most interested in his music were my more open-minded and liberal friends that lived in New York. My friends from my hometown in Virginia were not as accepting at first, and that may be because most of them identify as straight and are from more conservative backgrounds. No one that I talked to openly said it’s because his lyrics are homosexually focused. The negative responses may have been from a general aversion to vulgarity, but most of the hip-hop that is played on the radio is already quite vulgar. In all honesty, it could have just been because he’s gay. Either way, it was clear that Cakes da Killa’s music was polarizing.
In many people’s minds, when they think of the “greatest rappers alive,” they come up with hyper-masculine gangsters who consistently use homophobic lyrics and carelessly stout the word “faggot.” They think of Biggie, Tupac, and Eminem. I asked Amber to elaborate a bit more on her stance on Cakes’ vulgarity:
Me: Do you think people find him to be vulgar because he talks about homosexual sex or that it's just the same shocked reaction that people gave, like, 2 Live Crew?
Her: Yeah, duh, because it's gay— super gay. He says faggot a lot, in a way that straight people don’t understand. They don’t get the reclamation of words like dyke and fag and queer.
Unfortunately, none of the rappers that are active in the LGBTQ community are given the radio play and the respect that they deserve for their music. Our country still has a heavy underlying current of homophobia, and an unwavering idea for what hip-hop “should be like” – misogynistic men talking about women, cars, and money.
After my exposure to The Eulogy, I started gaining an outsider’s interest into the NYC queer rap scene. I was just a listener, but Amber regularly attended parties and concerts thrown by a group of queer artists and personalities like LE1F, Mykki Blanco, Zebra Katz, and more. She taught me that even though these artists were not getting airplay, they had a huge presence in New York, especially in the LGBTQ community. It seemed like she was always attending something new every weekend, and that masses of passionate people were showing up to these events.
In an article on queer artists in hip-hop, “How Queer Rappers are Approaching Sex Differently,” writer Mathias Rosenzweig speaks about the role of queer rappers in the overall game of hip-hop:
The LGBTQ community, previously one of rap's most ruthlessly targeted groups, has taken both the reins and mic, aesthetically and lyrically expressing themselves within a genre whose opinion on anything outside of the male hetero-norm had been made offensively clear.
The tables are starting to turn when it comes to hip-hop, and the people who have been treated the worst by hip-hop society in the past are claiming it for themselves. Not only are they claiming it, but they are exceling at it, at least within their own circles. In The Eulogy Cakes has a short clip called “With Love, Octavia.” He doesn’t rap in it, it’s more like a spoken word, within it he says:
Our whole fucking world is being run by undercover fags talking about how straight they are. You’ve got celebrities that go around in their cars picking up transvestites, having sex with them, and then going on national TV making fun of them. Everything in life is like a boomerang. If you throw it, it eventually comes back. Don’t fuck with me.
In this piece Cakes is completely tearing apart the idea that hip-hop and society are as heteronormative as they pretend to be. He’s calling out everyone that brings down openly gay people, and makes the bold claim that many of the people who are doing so are probably just trying to overcompensate for the fact that they are secretly homosexual. Cakes is breaking the mold by publicly declaring this in a medium (rap) that was previously only owned by cisgender straight men. When Cakes says, “don’t fuck with me”, he is speaking directly to this same type of man that is currently running the rap game. It is an aggressive statement meant to disrupt the current workings of society, and it poses as a warning to anyone standing in his way. If you fuck with him, he will expose you.
More recently, openly homosexual individuals have been more accepted on the radio: the likes of Sam Smith and Frank Ocean are flooding our ears. Cazwell, an openly gay artist who has been around since the 2000s, has probably had the most commercial success. He was featured in a version of Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” and has had a few top 40 hits on the dance charts. There was also the 2012 release of “Same Love” by rapper Macklemore that was the first widely successful instance of a rapper being accepting rather than derogatory in his lyrics about homosexuality.
This is a bittersweet victory for the LGBTQ community, however. The positive side is that pop culture seemed to be generally accepting of the message behind the song. It also featured an openly lesbian artist, Mary Lambert. The negative side of “Same Love” is that it may have only been successful due to the fact that a straight man was the one to release the song. Even if he is an ally, Macklemore was at the front and received all of the glory instead of a member of the LGBTQ community. Clearly, hip-hop still has a long way to go when it comes to acceptance and praise of LGBTQ artists.
One of the underlying issues of hip-hop politics is whether it’s acceptable to be gay in hip-hop, let alone talk about it openly. There are a few female rappers whose sexuality has been speculated: Queen Latifah, Da Brat, more recently Dej Loaf, and a handful more. There are also a few relatively well-known female rappers that openly identify as being a part of the LGBTQ community – Azealia Banks and Angel Haze for example. Their identity may be gay or bisexual, but it’s not what they rap about. None of the openly gay rappers are as open or explicit in their lyrics about their sexuality as Cakes da Killa and the other rappers that fall into his New York LGBTQ hip-hop scene. Cakes is unapologetic. When asked about what it’s like to be gay in hip-hop, he says,
"I came out in the third grade. This is just me being me. People make it sound like it’s controversial and revolutionary, and that’s weird to me, because in hip-hop you have people glorifying negativity like killing people and not taking care of your kids— and that should be scandalous! That should be what we talk about. An openly gay rapper shouldn’t be breaking news."
In almost every interview from Cakes da Killa, he makes a point to say that he is not trying to be revolutionary. Because he is such a groundbreaking artist, people automatically assume he is a representation of a bigger group, and that his work should be meant to sway people. But Cakes makes it clear that he is not trying to be a role model or teach the youth anything – he is just being himself, his music is his diary. His “self” is a homosexual male that likes to be provocative. I asked Amber what society’s problem might be with Cakes, and she said:
Her: It's because he's a black gay man talking about how much he enjoys sex and how much he loves himself, while being super feminine
Me: So no, he’ll never be mainstream.
Her: I don’t think that Cakes is mainstream material I guess, but I also think he's a fucking genius. Mainstream success is obviously not always the goal. Not everyone gives a fuck about being invited to judge American Idol or sell out the Barclays Center.
We too often believe that radio play and making millions of dollars is the only way to be considered a successful musician, but in Cakes’ case he has already hit his own mark of success. He’s only 24 years old and tours constantly, has released three mixtapes and two EPs, and has had a short film created about him. He’s integral in the LGBTQ hip-hop scene, he is a better lyricist than most of the people that are played on the radio, and throughout it all he is unapologetically himself.
Cakes da Killa, if for some reason you are reading this and you want my advice, I would use your own words and tell you to continue to “spit that shit to make a homophobe a hypocrite.”