Paris Hilton + Hayley Kiyoko + Jake Borelli + Swati Mandella
A wise woman once said, “Boy on boy, girl on girl, like who the fuck you like, fuck the world.” That woman is CupcakKe, one of rap’s raunchiest stars and a huge LGBTQ advocate in an industry not always known for its acceptance of queerness. In the space of just three years, CupcakKe’s released four studio albums – including the brilliant, freshlypressed Eden – and dropped two massive anthems for the queer community; LGBT and Crayons. The former, a highlight at her live shows, was written as a way to pay back the fans who have been most loyal to her throughout her career.
“Don’t judge a lesbian ‘cause she don’t want you back, man, judge one of the gays, they drag you from Z to A, and shout out to the bis, you ain’t gotta pick a side,” she spits over a club-ready beat, while the music video is splashed with every colour of the rainbow, from drag queens making out with each other to femme boys twerking. It’s this commitment to equality that’s won her such a dedicated following, who she lovingly refers to as her Slurpers.
“When you realise you have a pretty big fanbase of LGBTQ people, then it’s like, ‘They support you, so why not show them you support them too?’,” she says. “Before I even had a career I had LGBTQ friends who I’d hang out with. They’re human. I look at them like a regular person, not, ‘Oh that’s somebody that’s part of the LGBTQ community’, it’s like, ‘Oh that’s another human being’. That’s just how I see it. Everyone likes who they like.”
Her social media savviness (she proudly proclaims she hasn’t gone a day away from Twitter since her career began) has captured the imagination of ‘stan Twitter’ in a way no other artist has done before her. A quick glance at any of CupcakKe’s posts brings up frenzied replies like “slay me queen” and “my wig decided to go on a world tour”. She embraced it on Keep Hoes Alive, which saw her shout out pop music forum ATRL and boast of having “stans all the way to Japan”. It’s hard to think of another artist so in touch with the current state of youth internet culture, and it’s key to her popularity. “I’ll just be like, ‘I’m brushing my teeth’, and they’ll be like, ‘Queen of toothpaste, toothbrushes are shook’,” she laughs. “Some people will tag me and be like, ‘I wanna eat CupcakKe’s asshole’. It’s funny. I know them like the back of my hand, and I love them.”
Just as legendary as her lyrics are her photo captions, which see her apply her inimitable sense of humour and unapologetic sexuality to the world around her. “If only I can find a dick as thick as this tree,” she writes on one post. “Blonde wig like Beyoncé since I just swallowed his destiny’s child,” she jokes on another. If it seems effortless, that’s because it is. “I’m an artist, so I’m great with words,” she says. “I like to look at the background of the photo and come up with fun things. It’s like if someone says, ‘Here’s a word, rap off it’, when you’re an artist it’s just easy. That’s why people are intrigued by my Twitter. It’s pure comedy. It’s brilliant.”
The CupcakKe we see on social media is just one of several personas the rapper has adopted. “I’m three stars in one,” she says. “Elizabeth is the shy side of me, she can write the poetry and make tears come down your eyes; CupcakKe makes you wanna come over and have sex; and then you’ve got Marilyn MonHOE, she’s the Twitter troll, she makes you feel like you can say whatever the fuck you want, and ain’t nobody gonna stop you.” It’s Elizabeth who speaks to us over the phone, and like many of the world’s most outrageous stars, when she’s away from the camera, she’s surprisingly reserved.
CupcakKe first began exploring her talent for wordplay as a church poet. When she was in her early teens, a fellow worshipper suested that she took a change in direction. “Someone in the church was basically like, ‘Why don’t you turn your poetry into rapping, you could make money off that’. So the next day I did it, and I ain’t ever turned back since,” she recalls. From there, CupcakKe lived on a diet of rap legends like Lil’ Kim, 50 Cent, Lil’ Wayne and Trina. Her first single Vagina, which came out shortly after she turned 18, couldn’t have been further from her church roots – in it, she compares her “pussy” to “Niagara Falls” and promises to “slurp that dick ’til it cum”. The day after it dropped, the music video went viral on WorldStarHipHop, and rocketed her to internet fame.
“I’ve been rapping since I was 14, so that transition was me wanting to do a sexual song for once. It’s just a part of growing up,” she explains. Vagina was quickly followed by other sex bops including Deepthroat, Doy Style and Best Dick Sucker. But not everyone was a fan. “You know, the hip-hop world is like, ‘I just wanna hear drill music and drill music only’, so they don’t understand the other side of my music, especially the sexual side of me. But everyone has that deep inside them, it just takes a matter of time to break it out, and the right person to break it out... and I’m that right person.”
Her sexually explicit music may have earned her viral success, but to pass CupcakKe off as a novelty act would be a dire injustice. A deep dive into her already-hefty back catalogue sees the rapper tackle a seemingly endless list of social justice issues including racism, police brutality, body positivity, and child abuse. Does she wish people would focus more on her political music? “Definitely.” But she’s at peace with the fact that she’ll always have critics. “Some people don’t like my music, and I respect that. Not everyone’s gotta like my music.”
By the time her debut album Audacious arrived in 2016, CupcakKe was receiving attention from major record labels interested in signing one of rap’s hottest new properties. But she turned them all down, choosing instead to remain a truly independent artist. “I’m good,” she explains. “I make a lot of money at the end of the day. Why would I make 25 cents when I can make a full dollar?” One meeting with Atlantic Records, home to chart-topping artists like Cardi B and Rita Ora, left a particularly sour taste in her mouth. In 2017, British grime artist Lady Leshurr revealed that she’d been offered $250,000 by Atlantic to diss Nicki Minaj, which she promptly turned down. It encouraged CupcakKe to open up about her own experiences with the label.
“I got that when I sat down with Atlantic Records. They didn’t specifically say it, but their words were, ‘We want you to compete’, and it just happened to be with Nicki Minaj,” she says, although she stresses that she doesn’t want people to take that experience out of context. “I didn’t turn them down just because of that, but I definitely turned them down because their deal was shitty. They told me to come in and record some music, and LGBT happened to be one of the songs I recorded, but I felt like they were more interested in, ‘We wanna get this dumb-ass person on our label so we can get some of her money’, rather than, ‘We wanna help her out’.
“I was there for a couple hours, and most of the time they were texting on their phones. It was just ignorant. All I’ll say is, the shit they offered me, I already had that in my bank account, so why would I need to take that? That’s why I didn’t sign the deal overall.” So what would it take for her to sign with a label? “At this point, probably 10 million,” she deadpans. “That’s not a joke. I’m dead serious. Literally. 10 million.”
Of course, being independent comes with strules, but CupcakKe takes them in her stride. “I do everything myself,” she proudly states. “The only downside is that it gets a little stressful. You don’t really have any free time, because you’re so busy working, but I’d rather be working nonstop with a fat bank account than be hanging out with friends and letting a manager or a record label screw me over, and I’m only seeing 25 cents out of a dollar.” She encourages other musicians to follow in her footsteps. “I think art should be independent. Everyone gets turned off from being independent because they think, ‘I’ve been rapping for two months and ain’t nobody notice me’. I was rapping for years before anybody noticed me. It takes time, this shit don’t happen overnight. But you can be the biest star without a label. Look at Chance The Rapper.” Despite the fun and carefree nature of her public persona, CupcakKe recently revealed to her followers via a series of tweets that she was “at a very low and depressed point” in her life and was battling with personal demons. It’s something she’s been dealing with for a while now. “It’s not just me. Everyone at some point in their lives is gonna deal with depression and anxiety,” she says, stressing the importance of talking about these issues. “That’s just my way of dealing with it. I like to let people know what’s going on with me.”
Thousands of fans – including rap legend Missy Elliott – offered words of comfort over social media, encouraging her to pull through. While many celebrities experience mental health issues because of the constant attention, CupcakKe says it keeps her going .“It definitely helps, because I say to myself, ‘You’ve gotta get your shit together and get out of this depressed place because you’ve got all these people looking up to you who want to see you do better’. When I’m down, they’re down, and when I’m happy, they’re happy. So that definitely helps.” It’s a mutual support network, as the fans share their own strules over social media and at the rapper’s shows. “They tell me stories about everything they’ve been through, and I listen with an open ear,” she says.
Earlier this year, CupcakKe held her first headline tour across the UK, with multiple stops including London, Manchester and Birmingham. The shows themselves were typically low-key affairs; picture a sea of fans (many still in their teens) moaning along in unison to the sound of fellatio pop bop CPR while their idol simulates masturbation on stage, and you’ve got the right
image. But despite selling out venues, and performing to thousands of adoring fans, CupcakKe admits her favourite part of visiting the UK was “getting on the plane and going back home”.
“I know that’s kind of harsh to say, and I mean that with no bad vibes,” she says. “In the UK, every city I went to, the crowds were amazing and their energy was like no other. Now, the bad part, which made me want to go back home, was that I did not feel welcome. I walked through a couple of airports, because I was on tour, and they looked at me crazy, like, ‘What are you doing here?’ It was ridiculous. And everywhere we went, we didn’t really see any black people. So I don’t know if it was racism, or if they were just curious. I understand we were the only black people around, but we’re human. You ain’t better than me, and I ain’t better than you. That’s how I look at everybody. But they did not welcome us at the airports, they did not welcome us walking around their stores. At all. Would I go back? Definitely, to see the fans. But to go to the stores and the airports, with how people treated us? Nah.”
Following her trip to the UK – and given that her second studio album was brilliantly named Queen Elizabitch – talk (naturally) turns to England’s own monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. “I don’t know if we would get along, because me and old people have nothing in common,” she laughs. “The only thing me and old people have in common is they have no teeth and that’s how I act when I’m sucking dick – like I got no teeth.”
With four studio albums, two mixtapes, and a world tour already under her belt at the age of 21, the future is rife with possibilities for CupcakKe. So where can she go next? “I don’t have an end goal, I’m just enjoying the music,” she says. “Even if all the fans leave me today, I love to write, I look at it as an outlet. I’m just enjoying myself, crafting new material every day and making it as great as it can be. I do wanna sell out arenas, I wanna get to stadiums, just like every other artist is trying to do, I wanna be a big deal. But like I said, if it doesn’t happen, I’m just enjoying the music.”
“Everyone has that sexual side deep inside them, it just takes a matter of time to break it out, and the right person to break it out… and I’m that right person. ”