Cakes Da Killa x Nicopanda
Live at Baby's All Right
“This is not fashion week!” Cakes Da Killa puts sharp emphasis on “not,” batting his eyelashes before “parting the Red Sea” and diving into the standing crowd during Red Bull Sound Select’s concert this past Tuesday at Baby’s All Right. In collaboration with Afropunk, the New York rapper has curated a lineup inspired by how parties were all formatted for him growing up—broken into blocks and spanning a full range of genres until the early morning. Tonight, Cakes is opening for Big Freedia, the legendary “Queen of Bounce,” and performing in-between DJ sets by LSDXOXO, Byrell the Great and Qween Beat Records founder MikeQ.
There’s a rare, buzzing energy in the room echoed by the line outside Baby’s that stretches down the block and around the corner. Inside, we’re all packed wall-to-wall and dripping with sweat as Cakes spits old favorites and teases new material from his forthcoming full-length album, slated to drop this fall. “Do we have central AC?” begs Cakes, who first strut onto stage with our Nicopanda fall ’16 fur jacket slung across his shoulder before immediately dropping it in response to the scorching temperature. Regardless, he’s impressively unfazed, or at least doesn’t show it, rapping with confidence as he performs most of his set offstage from within the crowd.
"Truth Tella never lie to a nigga; I will point a bitch out; who the fuck coming realer nigga," Cakes raps on the fiery LSDXOXO-produced single, "Truth Tella"—one of his best-known cuts in a discography packed with standouts. Following his breakout Easy Bake Oven EP in 2014, Cakes dropped two mixtapes—The Eulogy and Hunger Pangs Vol. 1 and 2—most recently sharing #IMF, which is his most personal project to date.
After dressing Cakes in our fall '16 fur jacket and parka—two styles he made work despite Baby's being a total sauna—we caught up with the rapper to talk about his new album and "fucking up the balance."
You've been relatively quiet since dropping #IMF last February. What have you been working on?
My last release was about a boy that broke my heart, so I got my Adele moment out of my system. I've been away in Europe touring, so for this new album, I was writing in very different environments. I usually write when I’m at home in New York, but this time I was recording over there and collecting ideas. It’s finally done and it should be out in the fall.
Will any more emotional "Adele" moments appear on this album?
When I first started making the msuic, I was in my first relationship and then I was getting out of my relationship. So there are definitely break-up moments, but for me it’s sometimes good to write and reflect on a relationship. Like, let’s take it out of the club and talk about something a little bit more emotional.
Looking back on all the music you've released, how do you describe your sound?
Overall, my sound is very raw and in-your-face—no fucks given, basically. My main themes are always celebratory, self-love, fuck everybody else, do what you want to do. There's that side, but it’s also, 'Oh my God, this boy just broke my heart—I need to drink some red wine.' That’s my spectrum. Either I’m spiraling out of control or I’m spiraling in the club. I've made a lot of music because I’m more of an emotional worker. I’ll drop a project and not care if it gets an official premiere. I'm like, 'This shit needs to be out; someone will like it.' I'm always onto the next thing.
What was the process behind your track, "A Minute with Cakes," off Mykki Blanco's Gay Dog Food project?
Mykki literally locked me in a fucking studio and was just like, 'Talk on this beat.' I was like, 'Girl what?' Working with different people, they have different writing styles and Mykki’s very like, 'We’re going to make this organic.' Shoutout to the engineer that put that [song] together because I was just in there, running my fucking mouth on beat.
Do you consider "Truth Tella" to be one of your key tracks?
Me and LSDXOXO have a really good working relationship. We get each other because we’re both really banjee, nerdy-type people, so sonically I think I fit the most with him. He covers all the spectrums of my emotions. We could do something really dark and gloomy or something really clubby. He’s complex like that, which is why I really gravitate toward his sound. But my last EP will always be special to me because that’s my first step at doing a fully cohesive project with a full narrative all the way through.
Who have you worked with on this new album?
I like to keep my cabinet of collaborators secure because working with new people can be kind of daunting. But I worked with Noah Breakfast, who’s a producer out of philly. That was weird for me because I'm a part of the whole Myspace, Soundcloud generation, where you send me the beat, I write to it and we go to the studio and lay it down. With Noah it was like, 'We’re starting from scratch. Let’s make this beat. You’re going to give me advice and feedback.' We really took our time, when I'm used to just crunching tracks out.
With the world in such a tumultuous state, what do you think your role is as an artist?
As an artist, my responsibility is to stay true to what’s going on and be a mirror. I don't think music could shift an infrastructure like politics, but I think music can influence the people who then make that change. When I first came out with music, that was revolutionary. Everyone was like, 'Oh my god you’re talking about blowjobs,' but I was just being myself. Especially in certain contexts 'myself' is more radical, like when I’m opening for, say, Killer Mike.
Especially outside New York City, being yourself is much more radical.
I’ve been traveling my whole career going to other countries I never thought I’d be. Living in New York is definitely a privilege as far as the ability to be yourself. For the first time I was in Africa and had a layover in Morocco. Someone hit me up being like, 'Girl, be careful because it’s not as progressive there,' and I’m like, 'I don’t give a fuck, I be in the hood—I’m me.' But instantly I got off the train and it’s like me in this coochie cutter and shirt and everyone’s like, 'You don't belong here.' It’s not like anything too aggressive, but you can still feel I'm fucking up the balance.'
Fucking up the balance is important, though.
I see how my work impacts other people. It’s weird to get messages from people saying like, 'You inspired me to come out,' but I’m thankful that I can have an impact. God forbid I have a heat stroke on the J train, at least I impacted someone.