Don’t be fooled by the flowers and sweet face. “I spit that shit that make a homophobe a hypocrite,” raps Cakes Da Killa on a track from his second EP The Eulogy, a follow-up to his 2011 debut, Easy Bake Oven. The 22 year-old rapper spoke with BuzzFeed about his approach to making art and why he’s not looking to be the next “queer rap icon.”
What is it about rap, in particular, that allows you to open up onstage?
I think it’s the competitiveness of rap that allows me to open up because I do want to be respected as a lyricist foremost. It’s also that people were looking at me as an underdog. And not just because I’m a gay rapper. I was getting that from other gay rappers too. I like being the odd man out so I can meet the odds and then go above and beyond them.
This is a really interesting moment for hip-hop and LGBT rappers. From Azealia Banks to Zebra Katz to Big Freedia to Myyka Blanco and of course your music. Where do you see yourself in the midst of this moment?
To finally get to a point where hetereosexual rappers aren’t the only ones getting press is amazing. But as far as queerness — personally, I don’t consider myself to be queer or a queer artist. The umbrella term of “queer” isn’t really a part of my vocabulary. But, you know, if that’s how people want to label it, that’s fine — as long as they’re listening, I guess, I shouldn’t complain.
Did you always want to be a rapper?
Rap was never a place I wanted to be. Even today, I don’t really consider myself a rapper. I used to write poetry, act a lot, read a lot. I like to entertain people and I like to be a bitch so if you add all that up, you get a rapper. I don’t know. So, it’s not me being a rapper; it’s more so just me being onstage and being myself to a beat.
Do you view Cakes Da Killa as a persona or a character?
I don’t like to say “persona” because that makes it seem like I’m putting on a mask. But, I guess, it did start as a persona. When I was younger, a lot of people would look at me like I was a victim. From then on, I equipped myself with different things, you know. Being a bitch, being witty, being funny. That all became my armor. So, it’s not a persona so much as me knowing how to work a room and what I have to do to get want I want.
Who do you consider your rap influences?
If I had to have rap parents, Remy Martin would be my mother and Cam’ron would be my father. That’s the equation. Remy Martin gives me that whole “I don’t give a fuck, but I really don’t give a fuck” kind of stance on life. And it’s very much the aggressive of, you know, I don’t care if you’ve been in the game longer than me, I don’t care if you have better clothes than me… I’m going to be the baddest bitch I can be. I get all of that from Remy. And Cam’ron is about the same thing, especially about the industry.
Have you gotten to interact with a lot of other rappers personally as you’ve been coming up?
I don’t really mingle. I’m very introverted actually. I come across a lot of other performers when I’m doing shows at venues and through collaborations, but I’m not trying to get invited into the sorority. It’s not about that for me, per se.
Who are some of the poets that have influenced your work?
Richard Bruce Nugent. He was an out gay writer during the Harlem Renaissance and he’s someone more people need to know about. I feel like a lot of people in the LGBT community don’t know about their history. My legacy and lifestyle is a lot bigger than “Paris Is Burning” and a lot of people don’t know that. It’s sad that people who look like me don’t know about the history of people who look like us; It’s sad that people on the outside looking in judge me based on a documentary like “Paris Is Burning.” It blows my mind.
It’s interesting that you mention Richard Bruce Nugent. The video for “Goodie Goodies” seems to reference the imagery and style of Nugent as well as Marlon Riggs’ “Tongues Untied.”
Yeah, that was definitely one of the references. Another inspiration for the video was a Japanese film from 1969 called “Funeral Procession of Roses.” I like to have a lot of references in my work. I like to show that it’s not all just about blowjobs and rachetness. For me, making music is about making a moment and sharing something about myself. I let people interpret and digest it the way they want to.
Your first EP, Easy Bake Oven, was released in 2011 and your new EP, The Eulogy, came out this January. When you look at the two projects, what do you see in your evolution?
With the first project, the statement was to prove that I could rap. No one knew who I was. I wanted to separate myself from other LGBT artists but also from other artists in general. I wanted to be respected as a lyricist. So, on that EP, the sound is a lot more aggressive.
After I released it, I didn’t do a lot of recording; I did a lot more writing. So, the growth from the first project to the second project, is me saying “fuck the system; fuck what you expect of me; I need to establish myself as a creative person and entity.” So, it’s a lot more genuine.
Starting out you felt like you needed to prove yourself. What do you feel like you need to prove now?
Honestly, with this new project, and I’ve never told anyone this before but — I want to be on the XXL Freshman Cover. It’s a weird thing because I don’t really need to be on it. But to be on it would just be so great. That’s what I’m working toward.
And, out of curiosity, who is making music that you personally are really into right now?
Well, I’m into a rapper. His name is Cakes Da Killa. He’s really great. [laughs] His whole duality and the way he handles himself in interviews is great so I’m definitely looking out for him. I like a lot of rappers, but honestly, right now I’m not listening to a lot of rap because I’m focused on creating a sound that’s my own.