New York rapper Cakes Da Killa is an MC who simultaneously embraces and defies hip-hop tradition. Cakes, who began rapping in high school, has a take-no-hostages spitfire flow and aggressive lyricism that will satisfy any fan of classic hip-hop. He maintains a work ethic and competitive spirit that defines the great race that is hip-hop. Even as he puts it, competition is his biggest motivator; he’s the kind of rapper who goes to shows, hears the beat, and then imagines how to put his own spin on it. His influences include New York legends like Lil Kim and Cam’ron. On that level, Cakes looks like your standard package rapper.
Now here’s where things get delightfully, delightfully interesting: Cakes Da Killa is gay in a genre that is notorious for its homophobia, and he’s damn proud of it. His music videos are explosions of raw sexuality and colour. His lyrics mix come-ons with vulgarity that’s so picturesque that it often crosses into the hysterical (“make my nigga take a course in rimming/eat my shit like a feast and don’t forget the trimmings”). In short, Cakes probably has more personality than every just-add-water standard-packaging rapper in the industry combined. Cakes, along with the likes of Angel Haze and Frank Ocean, has been hailed as an artist who is beginning to pull hip-hop out of its homophobic dark age, and his weaponized sexuality seems like the perfect soundtrack to this slow but steady cultural movement.
But on a different level, Cakes– real name Rashard Bradshaw– is someone who is slowly coming into his own, both as a rapper and as a person. When he was featured by Pitchfork, Bradshaw was in his early 20s, and by his own admission didn’t even know what Pitchfork was; to him, rapping wasn’t a career path, but an artistic outlet. And as Bradshaw has risen so quickly to fame, he’s had the same pitfalls that all young adults do–his latest EP, #IMF, revolves around themes of heartbreak and failed relationships. Bradshaw is an artist who wears his heart and his opinions on his sleeve, whether they be his sexuality or his emotional state; he’s not concerned with appearances so much as he is concerned with discovering who he really is.
As Bradshaw himself puts it, he’s beginning to come into his own in more ways than one. And as he prepares to tour the West Coast and release his first major album, the new Cakes Da Killa has his mind set to the music.
Hey Cakes! What’s happening right now, as we speak?
I’m looking in my friend’s refrigerator for something to drink, because I’m really thirsty because I just got off the train. [laughter] So I’m being a bum, basically.
I’m extremely guilty of that, no shame. You’re kicking off your tour in Vancouver in less than a week: how excited are you?
Pretty excited! I’ve never been to Vancouver before, but I love touring in Canada so I’m sure it’s gonna be just fine.
You’re touring with Zakmatic, who totally stole my name.
Totally, I actually thought that you were Zak when you called.
For those who might not know him: Who is Zakmatic?
I actually don’t know him super well, so to get an introduction I think you would need to call Zak to get that [laughter].
He’s Mykki Blanco’s DJ, I understand?
Yes, he’s one of them. Oh god, I’m sorry I’m so useless.
No worries, you’ve just gotten off the train man. A question about you now: #IMF dropped about a month ago. How do you think the reception has been so far?
I think it’s been pretty good. I just wanted to do something different from me, so. People seem to like it. I wasn’t really pressed about it– I just wanted to put out something sonically different and see if people liked it.
On the record, there’s a lot more house and bass influence. Where did that come from?
I can’t really take much credit for that– it’s mostly what the producers sent to me. I was just in a really like weird mood, with the narrative of me being heartbroken and very emotional and boy-crazy. I wanted something that sounded very ethereal…. K-Hole music, basically.
Around that theme of heartbreak; was it difficult to put something like that out?
It wasn’t difficult at all! It was actually very therapeutic to write it, and it was something that was very close to my heart. All of my music is really near to my heart, but that project especially because it was like me being not so “surface” with everything that I do. I just wanted to give something with a little bit more heart to it. But I can’t perform those songs live at all. That’s like, always so funny. I can’t do it.
The first ever press interview you did was with Pitchfork Magazine; was getting exposure that quickly a shock, at all?
Well at first it really wasn’t a shock or anything, I was more so humbled. I didn’t even know what Pitchfork was, I kinda stumbled into making music just for fun. When I got included in that piece, other people had to tell me how big it was, because I had no idea. It’s always good to get good write ups, but I think people really just need to focus on the music. That’s the difference between Cakes then and Cakes now; I just want to talk about the music as opposed to the the sex-rage.
You started rapping at Englewood Academy in high school, and your first song was “Rapid Fire”. I love that one line “Eating these rappers like they’re hot pockets”, by the way.
[laughter] C’mon, I had to.
How do you think you and your music has changed since you started?
I’m coming to terms with actually being a rapper. Earlier on, it wasn’t really a career move for me, it was just something that I was doing and was talented at. Other people had to come to me and say “maybe you should be taking this more seriously.” I’ve definitely traveled more, and I’m not 20 anymore; I’m 24. So that changed. With everything in my life, I’m a lot more mature.
Aside from rapping, what were some other art forms you were involved in at Englewood?
Well you know I’m gay, so I was obviously a theatrehead. I was always acting. I was in the marching band, I liked drawing, all the creative things I could do, basically, besides play sports. That was my thing; I’m gonna do everything besides get dirty.
Fellow theatrehead here, mad respect. “Love Jones” is a track off of #IMF, and it’s also a romantic comedy by Theodore Witcher. Any connection there?
Yes, I was really inspired by Love Jones, I think one of my favourite movies of all time. I’m coming into myself as a young adult and dealing with relationships and that whole thing in my life, so that movie really means a lot to me.
What are some other favourite films of yours?
Taxi Driver is one of my favourites, with Robert DeNiro. I really like a lot of foreign films, and a lot of indie movies. Memento is a really good movie. I watch a lot of movies, but I’m not so much into the new releases. I can watch an old movie and be really into that, though. And I’m sick of the movie remake and of seeing the same old thing in theatres.
Tell me about it, it’s so gross.
Yes, like, I need new ideas please.
“The Hangover 4” coming soon, watch for it. A big question now; a lot of people think that socially and in hip-hop, we’re coming to a place where homosexuality is losing its taboo, and they point to yourself, Mykki Blanco, and Frank Ocean as examples of that. Do you agree?
No, I think the way that that would be true is if you could make money off of it. It will only be true if any of us get to the point where we are selling out Madison Square Garden; that will be the event that will have to happen, because if people can’t make money off of it, they’re not gonna care. It’s not even about homophobia a lot of the time– there are people who are gay in the industry. I’m just moreso thinking about money. It’s a big money thing; let’s see if this actually works for getting some revenue.
A few years ago in an interview, you said that you disliked the term queer and actually preferred the term cunt. Can I ask why?
To me, queer is really an academic word. It’s really white for me. It’s something thats not really prevalent in my community, per se. And I figure that I’m not gonna claim something that I don’t really relate to and have a better understanding of. I feel like there’s a “queer studies” and I’m just not that person, you know? I’m black, this is not in my vernacular.
We’ve talked about inspiration you get from relationships as well as movies; what else motivates you to rap?
Oh my gosh, I’m so competitive. I’m that person who can’t even go to a concert or a show, because if I hear a beat and someone rapping over it, I immediately want to put my spin on it. I like the competition of it all. I get a rush off that. Travelling definitely makes me want to write, as well as new experiences and meeting people. And alcohol. Alcohol is a big, big driving force.
A fun question now; a lot of rappers and musicians go through a lot of terrible names before they settle on one. What’s the worst name you’ve ever rapped under?
I’ve only ever performed under Cakes Da Killa– I’m kinda considering dropping “da killa” part, but I’m in love with my name all the time, to be honest.
My last question is; what’s next?
Well I’m gonna be working on my debut album which is gonna be the headache of the century, but I’m so excited to get in the studio with some producers and get that shit together! Before that, I’m gonna be working on a double teaser with Redbull that’s gonna be a little teaser– a little sample of the album. Then I’m gonna be touring and doing a lot more shows and getting a lot more sponsors, and you know, just being me!
Cakes Da Killa will be performing at Fortune Sound Club on March 13th, and you’d be a fool to miss it. You can buy tickets here. You can download his mixtape “Hunger Pangs” here. Or just check out his Soundcloud.